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Sarasota's Selby Gardens Flourishes With Renovations

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is abloom with renovations and upgrades designed to modernize and heighten the aesthetic quality of the beloved Sarasota landmark.

The Great Room by the Bay, the organization's private event venue and meeting facility, received a "floor-to-ceiling'' cosmetic makeover this summer, thanks to financial assistance from Selby Board Trustee Sandy Rederer, as well as in-kind services provided by Fawley Bryant Architects, Tandem Construction and Milton Shenk LLC.

The 3,600-square-foot facility, which features 60-foot-high west-facing windows with stunning sunset views of Sarasota Bay, has been a popular destination for weddings, parties and other private events since its construction in the late 1980s, but Rederer and the Selby staff felt that the space was in need of a cosmetic upgrade.

"It was just really dated and really needed a face lift,'' says Sarah Colandro, Director of Interiors at Fawley Bryant. "We wanted to capitalize on the architecture already there, but to neutralize the space and take out the outdated aspects like the patterned carpet and the wood beams, doors and trim that showed the age of the building.''

Renovations to the Great Room began in July, 2013, and were completed in August. The design and construction team replaced the outdated patterned carpet with new high-performance flooring in a neutral shade of charcoal that is versatile enough to complement a variety of themed decor, while the walls and ceiling received a makeover including new light fixtures, ceiling tiles and fire sprinklers, as well as a fresh, white finish to brighten the room and accommodate any event style. Upgrades were also made to lighting and fixtures in the restroom area.

The most visually intriguing aspect of the $121,000 renovation project is the addition of floating, illuminated white fabric kites that are assembled in the ceiling alcove of the Great Room. The kites can be accented with colored spotlight lenses for drama and effect during themed weddings and parties.

"These improvements will help Selby Gardens remain competitive and successful in attracting prime wedding and event rental income,'' says Selby Gardens CEO Thomas Butcher. "The revenue from private functions provides much needed support for ongoing operations.''

In addition to the renovations in the Great Room, a second construction team took advantage of the Selby Botanical Gardens' slow summer season to work on the highly anticipated Ann Goldstein Children's Rainforest, which is scheduled to open in early November.

The Ann Goldstein Children's Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens will include an educational waterfall and forest pool where all ages can learn about aquatic ecosystems and rainforest plants, a canopy walk and rope bridge, an epiphyte canyon full of rocks and the unique plants that grow on them, a research station that features field botany techniques and gadgets, as well as an amphitheatre, classroom and special exhibition spaces in the Rainforest Village.

The project is funded by donations from community foundations, including the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and other private donors, including Sarasota Philanthropist Al Goldstein, who contributed the lead naming gift to initiate the project, following his wife's death in 2011.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Tandem Construction and Milton Shenk LLC collaborated on the design and construction of the educational rainforest garden. The $5 million project began construction on March 1, 2013 and is scheduled for completion this fall. The Children's Rainforest will open to the public on November 9, 2013.

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Sandy Rederer and Thomas Butcher, Selby Gardens; Sarah Colandro, Fawley Bryant

Construction Begins On Water Works Park, Extension Of Tampa Riverwalk

The east side of the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa is about to take on a whole new look and feel.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Casey Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group and community leaders will break ground Wednesday, Oct. 9, on a $7.4 million improvement project to extend the Tampa Riverwalk through Water Works Park, connecting downtown to the Tampa Heights neighborhood.

Angela Hendershot, architect with Rowe Architects, Inc. and part of the Biltmore Construction's design-build team for the park's renovation, expects the park to serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk. Park improvements are slated to include a play area, splash pad, dog run, performance pavilion, open lawn and multiple public boat docks.

Hendershot says park's design will be "a modern interpretation respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures.''

In addition to the park improvements, the Columbia Restaurant Group is in the process of transforming the nearby historic Water Works Building into a Native American-inspired restaurant and brewery.

Named after the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights -- what was Tampa's first source of drinking water -- Ulele will serve unique foods and sprits, featuring items indigenous to this area’s waters and farms.

"This is a city building that was sitting vacant and will be put back onto the tax rolls and have a productive use. It's going to put some people to work and add to the tax base,'' says Bob McDonough, manager of the Channel District and Downtown Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA). "Combining this with the nearby Water Works Park project will make for a great destination.''

Initial construction on Ulele began in fall 2012 and will be completed as part of the park improvements. Completion is slated for spring 2014.

"We're looking forward to the development of the property,'' McDonough says.

Of the $7.4 million budget for park improvements, $6.5 million in funding comes from Capital Improvements Tax (CIT). Additional dollars will come from a SFWMD grant and the site's designation as a brownfield. It's estimated that $2 million will be put into the Water Works building redevelopment project.

"Both projects will enhance the waterfront," says Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob McDonough, City of Tampa; Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects

New Port Richey's Hacienda Hotel Ripe For Restoration, Redevelopment

The historic Hacienda Hotel in New Port Richey awaits its future after the city gave it a recent makeover with the help of the local community.
 
In January 2013, City leaders identified the Hacienda as a community project and organized a cleanup of the 86-year-old hotel property. With the help of nearly 400 community volunteers working over two days, the City cleaned both the interior and exterior of the hotel.

"We had to turn people away due to the limit on the number of people allowed inside the building at one time,'' says City Clerk Doreen Summers. Following the elaborate cleanup, the City completed the black topping of parking and painting of the Hotel's exterior walls using city funds. Original pieces of the Hotel's fountain were restored with the help of donations from the Holiday Rotary Club.

The City of New Port Richey bought The Hacienda Hotel at the height of the real estate boom in 2003 with the intention of restoring the historic icon to its former glory. Since then the City has been looking for willing buyers who can convert it into a boutique hotel and help revitalize the City's Downtown.

Designed by Thomas Reed Martin, the Hacienda Hotel is influenced by the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The two-story building is symmetrical in design with pink stucco exterior walls, red-tiled roofs and arched windows with wrought-iron balconies. In the 1920s, the City of New Port Richey was known as the "Hollywood of the East'' and the Hacienda Hotel was a popular among many film stars like Thomas Meighan and Gloria Swanson of the silent era movies.

The Hacienda, remained a thriving hub of the local social scene until the late 1970s after which it was converted to an assisted-living facility. In 1996, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and in recent decades, fell into decline. It has been vacant since 2006.

Recently, with the hope of turning things around, the City hired the Pasco County Economic Development Council to evaluate proposals and develop marketing strategies for the Hotel.

"The business model is going to be the key deciding factor,'' says John Hagen, President of the Pasco County EDC. "Although the City is keen on owning the Hotel, it is also open to other ideas. Currently, there are three developers, who are interested in Hacienda.''
 
The City won't pick a general contractor until additional funds can be identified to conduct an architectural study that is required before commencing the restoration work. Readers interested in helping defray the costs can visit Citizinvestor, an online crowdfunding website that is collecting funds for the project.

The total cost of renovation can only be estimated after the study, which involves assessment of structural and environmental issues associated with restoration. Alternative uses such as banquet facilities, restaurant, retail, museum, or art gallery, Bed & Breakfast are being considered for the Hotel's reuse.

Located on Main Street and within close proximity to key urban elements such as the Sims Park and the Cotee River, the Hacienda Hotel holds great potential for attracting additional visitors to the City's downtown and triggering the redevelopment of Main Street.

Summers points to the City of Safety Harbor, where the restoration of one of its historic buildings into a hotel and spa, helped in revitalizing of the entire downtown.

"The renovation of the Hacienda Hotel is one of the key elements in the revitalization of New Port Richey downtown,'' Hagen agrees.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Doreen Summers, City of New Port Richey; John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

The cities of Gulfport and Madeira Beach in Pinellas County will soon realize significant improvements for recreational boating and their waterfronts following the award of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Boating Infrastructure Grant (BIG).
 
Both cities, on a project cost basis, received BIG Tier-1 fund totaling $380,750 and $822,066 respectively. The total amount awarded includes the BIG grant and a proportionate amount as non-federal funding.

Gavin Shire, a Public Affairs Specialist with USFWS in Arlington, VA, says the "Tier-1 is a smaller and a noncompetitive program awarded to each applying State, while, Tier-2 is a nationally competitive funding program meant for large-scale projects.''

Funded by the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, the BIG grant gets its revenue from excise taxes collected on fishing equipment, yachts and gasoline.

Gulfport is using the Grant to construct an ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act) floating dock made from composite decking and designed for eight boats.

"Construction is expected to start by January 2014,'' says Denis Frain, Gulfport's Director of Marina Operations. Any unspent funds from the grant will be returned to USFWS after July 2015. According to Frain, "The funded dock will be free of charge and open to the public for use.''

Madeira Beach plans to upgrade its waterfront facilities for vessels, with an increase in 14 slips and four moorings, and other amenities such as pump-out stations and a fuel dock.

Apart from investing in boating infrastructure facilities, both cities may use the funds for production and distribution of educational materials about the program and recreational boating.
 
By creating diverse recreational opportunities, new jobs and a multitude of small businesses, BIG grants can have a significant impact on the local economy.

The BIG grant is crucial to Gulfport, as "it will not only improve boating facilities, but also help the City in its Downtown revitalization efforts,'' says Frain.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Gavin Shire, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service; Denis Frain, City of Gulfport

Tempo Picks Up As Encore! Rises Near Downtown Tampa

Construction is expected to begin in January on the Tempo, an apartment building designed for families with children as well as singles, in the growing Encore! project between downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

The Tempo is a 203-unit building with multipurpose room, a swimming pool, a theater, a parking garage and commercial space on the ground floor.

It will follow the Ella, the TRIO and the Reed as the fourth building out of the ground in the music-themed project that pays tribute to Tampa's rich musical and performance history.

The Encore! planned community is a collaborative effort by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development to build mixed-use developments for mixed-income families, young professionals and seniors in an affordable urban environment. The 29-acre project will eventually include a school, outdoor recreation spaces, urban gardens, trees and sidewalks designed to encourage neighborliness and pride in community.

The Housing Authority also is looking at options for replacing North Boulevard Homes, a public housing complex on North Boulevard just west of downtown. The Authority is expected to seek federal funding through HUD to make it happen.

The investment in rebuilding and replacing the city's public housing complexes with mixed-use housing, retail and commercial is a multiyear commitment that aims to create urban neighborhoods that are more attractive, affordable and safer for moderate income households.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

Invision Tampa Discusses Community Feedback For West River Neighborhoods

The reintroduction of the street grid in the Tampa neighborhoods along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, intense development on Main Street and greater access to the river are among key recommendations emanating from the Invision Tampa process now underway.

A community briefing on July 18, 2013 shared feedback from surveys, research and workshops for the redevelopment of the West River area near downtown Tampa. Stakeholders gathered to hear the Invision Team report back initial ideas and strategies from the input given during the last design workshop in June.

The West River area includes the western bank of the Hillsborough River and its neighborhoods according to the Invision Tampa website. The briefing is a way to continue collaboration between the design team and community stakeholders.

"The process is like a funnel," says Brenda Dohring-Hicks of The Dohring Group who attended both the West River design workshop and the community briefing. "They gather all the ideas and then narrow them down to a concept with effective strategies."

"The event had a lot of people from the neighborhood, which showed how much they care about the future redevelopment," explains Dohring-Hicks. 

The West River area redevelopment "will have a positive impact on the historic neighborhood," says Dohring-Hicks.  “Its proximity to downtown and surrounding areas will make the project even more impactful.” 

Invision Team encourages community members to share feedback on its website and through social media.  You can view the InVision Tampa Plan online or at the AIA Tampa Bay Galleria at 200 North Ashley Suite 100, until August 1, 2013.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Brenda Dohring-Hicks, The Dohring Group

Crumb & Cork Jazzes Up Franklin Street After Dark

Clusters of ribbon cuttings have brought a bustling feel to downtown Tampa as new businesses open their doors. Downtown sidewalks and restaurants are rich with activity during the work day, but Crumb & Cork, a new wine and cheese bar soon to open, will spark activity from day to night. Owner Joshua Pollick and his partner Joseph Saine are adding authenticity to downtown by jazzing up the atmosphere on Franklin Street.

"We have seen the recent resurgence of life and activity in the downtown area," says Pollick.  "We see a bright future in downtown from our landmark address at 501 North Franklin." 

Pollick chose downtown because it is well-served by public transportation, has friendly Downtown Ambassadors, a business-friendly climate, and an administration that has its listening-ears on for ways to make downtown more livable, walkable and enjoyable. 

"The close proximity of beautiful parks, the Riverwalk and gorgeous new residential buildings have reshaped the way we see our city," explains Pollick.

Crumb & Cork seeks to build a unique experience with over 130 wine selections and live jazz music. The space is designed to be comfortable, a place to relax with friends. Sidewalk lounging will accompany the stylish indoor seating. Patrons will be able to enjoy Sunday brunch, workday lunch, happy hours and evenings out.  A graduate of the University of South Florida, Pollick says he's proud to bring a locally owned USF “Bull Business" to downtown.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Joshua Pollick, owner, Crumb & Cork

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Encore Rising: Downtown Tampa’s Mixed-Use Redevelopment Grows

Encore, the $425 million mixed-use redevelopment venture between the Tampa Housing Authority and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation, spans 12 city blocks of downtown Tampa, where Cass Street meets Nebraska Avenue.

The emerging neighborhood not only spans the physical distance between Ybor City and the Central Business District, it bridges generations of people while recognizing the city's rich musical history.

Four Encore residential buildings are in various stages of development. Ella, is already home to active, senior residents and nearly 100 percent occupied. Trio is designed for families with children, singles and couples. Preleasing for the mixed-income apartment homes will begin toward the end of the year. Reed, will break ground in mid-August and will be home to active seniors. Tempo, currently in design, will begin construction in early 2014 and families can choose from one, two, three or four bedroom mixed-income apartment homes.

Young professionals, families and active seniors alike will be moving into downtown Tampa’s Encore development. Of the combined 649 units, 305 are dedicated for active seniors.   

"We welcome our first residents, and look forward to having many others join them as this vibrant downtown neighborhood continues to take shape," says Senior VP Eileen Pope of Banc of America Community Development Corporation.  The project will continue over the next seven to nine years and when complete, more than 2,500 people will call Encore home.

From environmentally sustainable construction and public art to a new park and public middle school, Encore brings together Tampa's history with vibrant redevelopment, serves as a catalyst for economic investment and creates an enduring future through a multigenerational neighborhood.

Writier: Taryn Sabia
Source: Eileen Pope, Banc of America Community Development Corporation

Grants Encourage Street Scene In Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa's public realm has seen vast improvements over the past few years. New parks, restaurants, museums, well-planned events and Riverwalk improvements are generating activity in public spaces like never before.   

Now the Tampa Downtown Partnership is offering businesses grants up to $2,500 to help make the urban street scene even livelier.

The Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program supports enhancements to exterior, ground floor storefront properties.

"The purpose of the Tampa Downtown Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program is to create a more attractive pedestrian atmosphere, and commercially vibrant environment through street level storefront improvements and inviting sidewalk cafe settings," says Shaun Drinkard, Director of Placemaking for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. "The program began in March of this year and the applications are seeking improvements that are engaging and pedestrian oriented.''

Kurdi's Fresh Mediterranean Grill, located on the corner of Tampa Street and Polk Street at Skypoint, is one of the first storefront businesses to qualify for program funding. The restaurant, which offers a healthy and unique fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine used the reimbursable grant "to expand their available seating to the outside through cafe tables, and planters were used to create an inviting experience for their patrons and passersby," says Adam Fritz, an urban designer with Baker Barrios Architects and grant chair. Duckweed Urban Market, Taps and the CI Group have also been approved.  

The maximum amount a storefront improvement project can receive is 50 percent of the total project budget, up to $2,500. The grant may be used for design, labor, materials or permitting fees related to façade improvements, cafe furniture, landscaping, signage, lighting and more. 

"The greater the connection between the life of the street and the activity at the base [of buildings], the more inviting the street and hence the more memorable experience of the city," Fritz says.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Shaun Drinkard, Tampa Downtown Partnership; Adam Fritz, Baker Barrios Architects

Tampa Heights Riverfront Adds Restaurant, Park

The Tampa Heights neighborhood will soon be home to a much talked about new restaurant, Ulele and the city’s next special events destination, Waterworks Park. The historic Waterworks building and park will work together, integrate with the neighborhood and connect to the Riverwalk. 

The new Ulele Restaurant will emerge from the renovated city Water Works Building. The Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant, is expected to open Ulele in the winter of 2014. The name comes from the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights, and was once Tampa’s first source of drinking water. Ulule Spring is undergoing restoration as part of the Waterworks Park renovation.

The design of the park is "a modern interpretation that is respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures," explains Angela Hendershot, an architect with Rowe Architects, Inc.  Rowe Architects is part of the Design Build Team for the Waterworks Park renovation with Biltmore Construction

"The series of contemporary park structures have folded roof plains in which the geometry is a takeoff of the historic Waterworks Building roof pitch," describes Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

The park will include play space for children, a playground, interactive water features, pavilions, docks, a kayak launch and stage and "will serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk," says Hendershot.

Special markers will draw attention to Tampa historic features, such as the Scottish Chief, a Civil War era vessel that sank at the southern end of Waterworks Park, and the Clara Frye Garden.  Clara Frye was a nurse who opened the first, free African-American Hospital in Tampa on the site now occupied by Blake High School which will be in view from the garden and Riverwalk. 

"Importantly, both projects will enhace the waterfront and you will be able to access the park and Ulele from the water," says Rowe.

Waterworks Park and Ulele will bring an important sense of history to the city and will share it with the Tampa Heights adding to the neighborhood’s character, revitalization and economic vitality.   

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects

The Birchwood Blends Character Of Past With Future In Downtown St. Pete

Beach Drive in the city of St. Petersburg is host to a variety of activities from outdoor dining and storefront shopping to park-side walks with waterfront views. The Birchwood, formally the Grayl Hotel, is bringing new life to an historic building.  The recent renovation of the 1924 Lantern Lane Apartments into an 18-room boutique hotel adds to the authentic spirit of this evolving district. 

The Birchwood's Spanish Mission-style building, which houses the guest rooms, grand ball room, signature restaurant and rooftop lounge, is on the list of the National Registry of Historic Places. It is a blend of old and new.

"The interior design is an updated interpretation that reflects what was in the past, important to the historic era of the hotel," says Jim Santamour of Urban Studio Architects, the firm responsible for the interior renovation.

Birch and Vine, The Birchwood's signature restaurant, features farm-to-table fine dining that can be enjoyed indoors or seated at a sidewalk table. The design concept was motivated by the farm-to-table experience and, as Santamour says,, "inspired the finishes such as the raspberry color of the walls based on fresh radishes." 

The posh rooftop lounge offers a view of Tampa Bay and the downtown skyline.  "This vista from the roof impacts the atmosphere the most giving a bird's eye view of activity below," says Nicole Sayers also of Urban Studio Architects.     
The revitalization of The Birchwood will further the vitality of Beach Drive, fill the public space with local cuisine and help to maintain the historic character, sparking new energy for the district.  

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Jim Santamour and Nicole Sayers, Urban Studio Architects

Renovations Begin On Public Pool On Davis Islands

After nearly two years of public meetings and planning, construction has begun on renovations to Davis Islands' Roy Jenkins Pool.

The 94-year-old pool, located at 154 Columbia Dr., closed in 2008 when the pool failed to meet public health and safety guidelines, but is now slated to reopen within one year, donning a $2.5 million facelift.

The Davis Islands Civic Association authorized $500,000 to go toward renovations with the remainder coming from the City of Tampa.

“The renovation of this pool has been a community effort. We are making much-needed improvements so that the pool can be a safe and fun place for the entire Davis Islands community to enjoy,” says Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

In June 2011, information from a $50,000 Davis Islands Recreational Area and Roy Jenkins Pool Study was released, targeting areas of demand for the pool.

The study documented existing conditions and evaluated the requirements to meet Department of Health codes. Since, public meetings for Island residents have been held, gaining input and approval of funds; residents have agreed with the Davis Islands Civic Association to authorize funds to go toward the pool's improvement.

“Residents were given an opportunity to comment on study concepts and make recommendations so their voices could be heard before decisions for project improvements were made,” says Laurie Potier-Brown, project manager for the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department.

Pillar Construction Group will work on renovations and, once complete, the pool will include a new operating system, piping, shell, deck and façade; new restrooms are among some of the added features for visitors to enjoy.

Completion is expected by April 2014.

“Next summer, I expect there will be hundreds of kids learning to swim and playing with friends in Roy Jenkins Pool,” Buckhorn says.

Roy Jenkins Pool will be open seasonally throughout the summer.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn & Laurie Potier-Brown, City of Tampa

Trammell Crow Spreads Sustainable Development Worldwide

Trammell Crow Company started its focus on sustainable design and development in 2005. Since 2006, the company has completed over 20 million square feet of LEED certified projects, with more in the pipeline.

About 85 percent of the company’s projects are LEED certified, which are 30-40 percent more efficient than traditional buildings.

"The whole idea is to leverage knowledge. To see the best of what’s going on around the country and make sure that we are constantly building on top of the best of what we see done when we take on a new development," says Robert Abberger, Senior Managing Director and Chief Sustainability Officer for Trammell Crow Company.

One such concept is the use of potable water to fuel cooling systems so the condensed water generated can then be pumped back into the water and sewer system, creating a multiplier effect.

Abberger notes that the biggest energy user in the world is commercial buildings (even more so than cars or residences), creating huge implications for the impact on human health and the environment.

Projects in Tampa Bay include the Marriott Waterside in downtown Tampa, an intermodal facility at the Port of Ybor and Posner Commons on I-4.

A flagship project is Darden's global headquarters in Orlando. Since Trammell Crow Company developed the building, the company has taken sustainability to the next level, reducing potable water consumption by more than 1 billion gallons per year throughout its 1,700 restaurants.

Abberger says his job is particularly rewarding when clients share his passion and excitement for sustainability. "The things that we’re doing have a national impact, which is then carried to international activities. It’s pretty rewarding."

The company is one of 13 local businesses honored recently with The University of Tampa's Earth Charter Sustainable Business Awards. The awards were based on three criteria: people (employee and community wellbeing), planet (environmental health) and profit (economic viability).

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Abberger, Trammell Crow Company

HART MetroRapid North-South To Begin Services In Hillsborough

A new HART system aims to speed up connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.

HART's MetroRapid will begin operations on Tuesday, May 28th, improving travel along selected service corridors, increasing service reliability and speed of transit. HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia says the system will make transit use easier for Hillsborough County residents.

“Added features like ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board,” Mejia says. “Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly.”

In addition to ticket vending machines, some of the system's new features include fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown neighborhoods and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.

According to Mejia, several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned, showing that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity.

Construction began on the North-South MetroRapid project in August 2013, totaling approximately $31 million, while the traffic signal priority project is cost an estimated $2 million. HART reported that the project came in under budget by $5.7 million, which will be reallocated back into Hillsborough County for infrastructure needs, if desired.

Both projects were paid for by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years," Mejia says. "With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county."

Currently, HART is continuing to make progress and expand the MetroRapid services, including the the East-West project which will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART
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