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New hotel, World of Beer coming to Westshore in Tampa

The Westshore area of Tampa is getting a new hotel near Tampa International Airport to house visitors and tourists, says the McKibbon Hotel Group. Completion of the new Hampton Inn & Suites on Avion Park Drive is planned for late summer 2016.

The group, which manages several hotels in the Tampa Bay region, including the Hilton Garden Inn (Westshore), Homewood Suites by Hilton (Westshore) and TownePlace Suites by Marriott (Westshore), is especially pleased with the location.
“Avion Park, which is named after our Owner John McKibbon's father’s first motor lodge in Georgia, is situated in an ideal location for guests who are traveling for both business and leisure,” says Erik Rowen, McKibbon Hotel Group's VP of Development. “Between the easily accessible beaches and downtown entertainment, fine dining and two shopping malls, there is endless opportunity for all guests at any time of the year.”

Another factor in building the new hotel is its proximity to the Laser Spine Institute coming to Avion Park, which Rowen says will give patients and their families a place to stay as they receive services from the medical facility. Also, it will provide the institute a place to house meetings and conferences.  

The new Hampton Inn & Suites Westshore will be 110,250-square-feet with 177 guest rooms. It will also be within walking distance to the new World of Beer, which is also set to open next year.

The development means new job offerings when the Hampton Inn & Suites Westshore opens in late summer 2016.

“We expect approximately 50 jobs will be created as a result of the hotel opening,” Rowen says.
Hampton Inn & Suites Westshore will be situated at 5315 Avion Park Drive. Groundbreaking takes place June 29th. 

For Good: Home ownership program helps low-income families

The American dream of home ownership is becoming a reality for low-income families because a local nonprofit helps people help themselves become homeowners.
Florida Home Partnership, a program that has served Hillsborough and Pasco counties for the past 21 years, has assisted over 700 families, veterans and seniors in achieving their goal to become homeowners.
“There are a lot of people that are shut out of the chance at home ownership,” says Earl Pfeiffer, Executive Director for Florida Home Partnership. “Our program is not a handout, it is a hand up.”
Pfeiffer explains that the program, which has built communities in rural areas throughout Hillsborough and Pasco counties, helps those who otherwise would not have the chance to own a home.
“The first criteria an individual or family must meet, is that they be under 80-percent of the area median income,” he says. “In Hillsborough and Pasco counties, for a single person that income cannot exceed $33,050, and for a family of four it cannot exceed $47,200.
In addition to the income level, individuals and families must have good or repairable credit, a reliable source of income and be willing to work on their own home.
“This is a self-help program,” Pfeiffer says. “Families in the community work on the homes they will be living in, and are required to work a minimum of 600 hours on skilled tasks.”
The innovative program is funded by a variety of sources. Program funding comes from the Department of Agriculture, as well as both Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Funding for the homes, comes from Congress in the form of the Section 502 loan, as well as down payment assistance from the State of Florida.
“As a real estate agent myself, I see how the rates are going up, it can be very difficult to buy a house,” Pfeiffer says. “We all want to be a part of the American dream, and this program helps people achieve that dream.”

Bliss: Unique condo sets itself apart from others in St. Pete

Soon to be overlooking Beach Drive in St. Pete, a unique 18-story condo building is under construction, and will join a growing list of apartments and condominiums popping up in the city.

Bliss joins other developments including ONE St. Petersburg, The Salvador, Rowland Place, Beacon 430 and The Hermitage.

Unlike its counterparts, which are comprised of up to 250 residences, Bliss will have just 29 units. According to Dave Traynor, VP at Smith and Associates Real Estate, there is a great benefit to having a small number of residents.

“There will only be two condos per floor,” he says. “At any neighboring wall you actually have about 30-feet of separation in between the condos, which is the stairwell and the elevator, which is very unique in the design. You have the benefits of a single-family home, while also having the benefits of a condo.”

Traynor says the building contains 28 units of 2,140-square-feet each with 3-bedrooms, and one two-story penthouse that is approximately 3,700-square-feet.

In addition to the unique layout of the building, there is another feature of Bliss that sets it apart from other condos.

“Bliss is the first condominium in the Tampa Bay area to have a vehicular elevator, where an elevator will take your car to your parking space in the parking garage,” Traynor says.

The building also features a sky lounge with a viewing terrace, as well as a fitness center and pool on the ground level.

The average price of a condo unit in Bliss is just over $1 million, and currently there are still three residencies available. Construction is underway, and is expected to be completed by end of 2016.

Bliss' home address will be 330 Beach Drive in St. Petersburg.

Trail along Courtney Campbell Causeway opens for bicycling, walking, running

Driving along the Courtney Campbell Causeway taking in the waterfront views of Tampa Bay is one of the perks to living in the region. Now bicyclists, walkers and runners can enjoy that same breathtaking view while commuting or visiting on a new separate trail that runs parallel to the Causeway.

The $23 million project connects Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The trail is designed for non-motorized vehicles and transports, with the exception of motorized equipment for people with disabilities.

“The trail is approximately 12 miles,” says David Botello with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). “It starts in the vicinity of Rocky Point in Tampa and ends at Bayshore Boulevard in Clearwater.”

The trail was funded by a combination of state and federal funds, and was a priority project for both the city of Clearwater and the city of Tampa.

“The Courtney Campbell Causeway project was identified in the city of Tampa's greenways and trails master plan that was adopted in 2001, as a potential off-road trail connection providing a regional link in a larger trail system,” says Karla Price, Landscape Architect with the city of Tampa.

Parking is available on the Tampa side of the trail at Ben T. Davis Beach. On the Pinellas side, parking can be found at the Courtney Campbell Causeway beach, located on the south side of the causeway near Damascus Road in Clearwater.

According to Botello, the city of Clearwater will host a grand opening of the Pinellas side of the trail, on Monday, June 22nd. For more information on the event, visit the city of Clearwater's Facebook page.

Madison Street Park coming to Channel District

Channel District residents will soon have a new park in their downtown Tampa neighborhood, thanks to plans by the City of Tampa to develop new recreation spaces.

Madison Street Park, which is expected to undergo construction in 2016, will feature a dog park, event space, water features, a putting green and recreation courts for volleyball and pickleball. There will also be plenty of space to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

“Madison Street Park is a neighborhood park,” says Laurie Potier-Brown, of the city's parks and recreation department. “As a neighborhood park, its purpose is to provide recreational opportunities for the neighbors that are within a walkable distance.”

The park will be located next to the proposed Martin at Meridian site, between Grand Central at Kennedy and Bell Channelside. The developer of Martin at Meridian, Ken Stoltenberg of Mercury Advisors, donated a portion of the land he purchased for the property to the park.

“The Park provides the respite of a natural green space in an urban area,” Potier-Brown says. “The benefits of Madison Street Park will be improved health and well-being for the neighborhood.”

The city recently held three meetings to get community feedback on park designs, and specifics of what they want in their neighborhood park.

“We always prefer to begin design of a park with a blank slate, however, we want to gather the residents from the surrounding neighborhoods to listen to their ideas and desires,” she says. “After all, we want the park to meet the needs of the community.''

New luxury apartments coming to Westshore in Tampa

The growing Westshore area of Tampa will soon see a new 374-unit apartment complex near International Plaza.
Crescent Westshore will be at the corner of West Boy Scout Boulevard and Lois Avenue. The developer of the project, Crescent Communities, says the proximity to retail and business makes the development attractive.
“Westshore is Florida’s largest office community, but it’s also home to some of Tampa’s best restaurants, shopping destinations, hotels and residential neighborhoods,” says Jay Curran, Senior VP of Crescent’s multifamily group.  “The location of Crescent Westshore at a major intersection will help enhance the walkability of a growing area and provide community residents easy access to all the area has to offer.”
Crescent Westshore, which is expected to be a $45-million project, will span over 300,000-square-feet total, with each apartment unit averaging a little over 800-square-feet. Curran says the apartments will include studios, as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
“Residents will enjoy features such as quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, up-market lighting and premium cabinets,” he says. “Other amenities will include two resort-style, saltwater pools along with a state-of-the-art athletic center and contemporary two-story lounge with an outdoor patio overlooking the main pool deck.”
Rent is expected to range from $1,100 to $2,000 a month.
Curran says, in addition to the walkability of the area, the location is also convenient for other modes of transportation.
“Because the I-275 exit to Lois Avenue is located just one mile north, residents will also be able to quickly reach destinations such as downtown Tampa and Clearwater Beach,” he says.  “Also, quick access to Tampa International Airport provides residents convenience should their travel needs demand it.”

Crescent Communities is also the builder of Crescent Bayshore, luxury apartments near Tampa General Hospital and downtown.

The Heights undergoes major redevelopment, Armature Works gets 1st tenant

The Tampa Heights neighborhood is beginning to experience a rebirth as redevelopment takes place along the Hillsborough River, up North Franklin Street and across Palm Avenue.

At center stage is The Heights, 40-plus acres bordering the northern edge of downtown Tampa, including the Armature Works Building and its first new tenant.
SofworX, an “idea lab” led by U.S. Special Operation Forces from MacDill Air Force Base, moved in May into a 3,000-square-foot space inside the historic 68,000-square-feet Armature Works building. Plans call for the renovated structure to become home to local start-up companies, schools and inventors.
“SofWorX fits within our vision for the community as a beginning to develop more creative space,” says Chas Bruck, Principal of Tampa-based SoHo Capital LLC, which is leading the redevelopment project.
The entire Armature Works building will go through a restoration process, Bruck says, with the first phase being completed by January 2016, and the second phase a few months after. The project is a massive undertaking that will cost a minimum of $10 million in investments.
“The city’s Architectural Review Commission approval was key for us to begin work restoring the structure and bringing our vision to life,” he says.
In addition to the Armature Works building, Bruck has big plans for the rest of the neighborhood, including 317 new apartments, 23,000-square-feet of retail along Palm Avenue, 340,000-square-feet of office space and 240 hotel rooms, as well as making the area more pedestrian friendly.
“We have plans for master infrastructure improvements for the entire community, including the extension of the Riverwalk to Boulevard Bridge,” he says.
With The Heights project in its infancy stage right now, Bruck has plans to see his vision through, taking the dormant area into a thriving new hot spot with historic-themed independent restaurants, shops, offices and residential areas.

Old Seminole Heights attracts innovative restaurants, shops

More new creative shops and restaurants are moving into the Old Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.

“I can tell you a lot of young people are moving to this neighborhood,” says Debi Johnson, President of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association. “The younger population wants the breweries and restaurants to come in, and the establishments do because they know it is good for business.”

Some of the newer establishments to open in Old Seminole Heights over the last year or so include a pizza and burger joint called Hampton Station, an upscale twist on comfort food restaurant known as Fodder & Shine, The Bourgeois Pig and Red Star Rock Bar.

One of the most talked about lately restaurants coming to the neighborhood is Ichicoro, a Japanese noodle soup restaurant, otherwise known as Ramen Ya.

“We are Tampa Bay’s first Ramen Ya restaurant,” says Noel Cruz, owner of Ichicoro, which will be situated at 5229 North Florida Avenue.

While restaurants like Ichicoro are widely popular in other cities, including New York, where Cruz owns another Ramen Ya restaurant, Old Seminole Heights gets to boast that their neighborhood was chosen for the restaurant’s location, which opens in June.

Another innovative concept coming to the neighborhood is the Jug & Bottle Dept. located at 6201 N. Florida Ave. It's a specialty store that will feature coffees, teas, gourmet food items, fresh flowers and cigars, among other specialty items. What will set this store apart from the rest is its world class beer and wine, says co-Owner Veronica Danko, who owns The Independent Bar and Café.

“Over the years, my staff, friends and customers have all discussed the fact that the neighborhood needs a specialty retail store,” Danko says. “The Independent does not have a package license, so a couple of us decided to open the store ourselves, and use our knowledge and passion for beer and wine to make it work.  We are very excited about the project and cannot wait to get it open next month (June).”

Oldsmar builds professional BMX supercross facility

The new BMX Supercross Facility under construction in Oldsmar is not for the faint of heart. With its titled “Elite Ramp” nearly three stories high, this hair-raising track is sure to draw crowds when it opens.

“We expect the project to be completed by late July,” says Ahmad Erchid, President of Tampa Bay Construction and Engineering, Inc, whose team is working on the $2 million project.

The completion of the project is timed for hosting "Gator Nationals'' in October, the inaugural North American BMX Supercross series by USA BMX. Oldsmar is one of only four American cities selected to host the event October 16-17th.

Funding for the quarter-mile track and facility was obtained through a $1.2 million grant to the city of Oldsmar from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The rest of the funding for the project is coming from the city itself.

For those driving or walking by the track, located at 3120 Tampa Road, it is hard not to notice the gargantuan size of the ramps as construction moves along.

"This is completely unlike any other project we’ve done, but it’s been really exciting so far,” says Erchid.  “This is definitely one of the most engaging projects we have ever tackled, and it’s awesome to think that the national supercross tournament will be held in it in just a few months. We’re just as excited as the rest of Oldsmar to finish the track and look forward to serving our community with our best product.”

For more information on the supercross series you can visit the USA BMX website

South Tampa's Hyde Park Village attracts new shops, restaurants

Four retail vacancies at Hyde Park Village in South Tampa will soon be filled with new restaurants and shops designed to attract workers on lunch breaks and visitors leisurely strolling through on weekends.

“Hyde Park Village offers a unique sense of place for a variety of exclusive shopping, dining and entertainment for our patrons and retailers alike in a charming, family-friendly atmosphere,” says Gabby Soriano, who works on the development team for Hyde Park Village.

One of the restaurants opening soon will be Goody Goody on the corner of west Swann Avenue and South Dakota Avenue. The historic restaurant known for hamburgers topped with an infamous secret sauce, first opened in downtown Tampa in 1930 and then closed in 2006. Owner Richard Gonzmart plans to revive much of the popular old menu for the new Goody Goody to open later this year.

The other restaurant is Bartaco, which opened its first location in the Tampa Bay area on Snow Drive, across from the Village Green. With locations in New York, Connecticut and Georgia, the restaurant marries upscale Mexican street food with an open-air environment in an effort to recreate a rustic beach resort-like setting.

As for shopping, cooks will rejoice at the news that Sur La Table will be going into the former Restoration Hardware Store, next to Anthropologie. Sur La Table began in 1972 in Seattle, and today has more than 100 stores featuring culinary tools and products. This is the retailer’s first store in the Tampa Bay area and will open this fall.

Lastly, for those needing invitations or announcements, Paper Source will open its first location in Tampa this summer. The papery and gift retailer offers greeting cards, gift wrap, party supplies and personalized stationery and stamps.

Soriano attributes the success of the revitalization to the Hyde Park community and surrounding neighborhood.

Hyde Park Village is located in the heart of the community and supports local events, arts and other community happenings, which is a great drawl to retailers.”

Clearwater designs investment in U.S. 19 corridor to stimulate local economy

The City of Clearwater is adopting new zoning standards along U.S. 19  in an effort to make the Pinellas County transportation corridor more economically attractive for businesses and residents. The corridor runs seven miles from Belleair Road to the south to Curlew Road to the north, and includes a portion of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard to the east.
"The primary intent of the project is to support the transition of the U.S. 19 corridor from its historic status as an unlimited access major arterial, to something that is economically viable in the context of the limited access like a freeway environment,'' says Michael Delk, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Clearwater.
The project is being funded by federal stimulus funds in the amount of $350,000 from the Obama Administration and has been rolled out into three phases. 
"The first phase was the greenprint, which was set towards sustainability issues, one component of which, was trying to promote more transit,'' says Delk. "We followed that with the plan of the U.S. 19 corridor, and now we are in the third phase, which is the implementation phase.''
The purpose of the project is to get more people living along the corridor, increasing employment opportunities, and promoting a greater reliance on transit as an option along the corridor.
"Clearly I don't need to describe the brand that is Westshore,'' he says. "When someone hears the words 'Westshore,' they know where it is and what it is. It s a huge area and it's got its own brand, and I think in the longer term, U.S. 19 has the potential to be something of similar importance in terms of economic development.''

ONE St. Petersburg tops city's building boom

There is no denying downtown St. Petersburg is undergoing revitalization. There are new shops, new restaurants, new hotels, and soon lots more new homes for those wanting to live in the center of it all. As development booms in downtown, developers have moved in with construction crews ready to build anew on some of the city's most prime real estate.

Sometime in 2016, several new condos and apartment buildings are scheduled to complete construction: The Salvador, Beacon 430, Rowland Place and The Hermitage, just to name a few. One of the condo buildings set to open early next year that is unique from the rest is ONE St. Petersburg, located on First Street and First Avenue North. Unique because it combines real estate, hotel space and retail in one location.  

"The building encompasses a whole city block,'' says Dave Traynor, VP at Smith and Associates Real Estate. "This includes 253 luxury tower residencies and approximately 16,000-square-feet of retail. A separate building, but on the same block, will be a 174-room Hyatt Hotel.''

ONE St. Petersburg will be 41 stories and just over 450 feet high, giving residents a great view of downtown and the water. According to Traynor, the $280 million investment is slated to be the tallest building in downtown. While in the pre-construction phase at the moment, units have already been sold.

"We are in the process of selling units right now,'' says Traynor. "The Kolter Group will be handling the construction.''

The condo building, a contemporary design by internationally acclaimed SB Architects of San Francisco and Miami, will feature one-, two- and three-bedroom units, plus nine penthouses. Prices for the units start at $500,000 and go up to over $3 million. Amenities such as a fitness complex, resort-style pool, lounges and game room are expected to attract residents.

Residents will be able to walk outside for lots of choices in shopping and dining.

"There will also be a combination of spectacular restaurants with unique shops,'' he says. "We are very excited about this project.''   

Redevelopment plan for West Tampa looks to brighter future

In the heart of the historic West Tampa neighborhood, residents, business owners and community leaders congregated together on two separate nights in April to discuss the redevelopment plan the city has put forth.

Sitting in fold-out chairs facing a PowerPoint presentation in the MLK Community Center on Oregon Avenue, the city laid out its proposal for revitalizing the traditionally lower income, working class neighborhood. The new community redevelopment area (CRA) in west Tampa encompasses the west side of the Hillsborough River to Armenia Avenue on the west, up to Columbus Drive to the north and Kennedy Boulevard to the south.

While this part of Tampa has a rich history, city planners believe that updates need to be made. According to one study, 56 percent of the roads in the area are in need of improvement, 33 percent of roadways have a pavement condition index of "failed,'' more than 50 percent of housing units were constructed before 1959, and more than 60 percent of the area lacks sidewalks.

"I think the people that live here, and do business in west Tampa have waited a very long time to catch up with some of the other areas that have been redeveloped,'' says Jeanette Fenton, Urban Development Manager for the city of Tampa.

The CRA includes provisions for numerous tasks including new affordable housing, façade and building improvements, pedestrian access, road improvements, as well as beautification projects.

Those in attendance at meetings held on April 14th and 30th were able to give feedback and input to the city as to what they would like to see happen in their community as this process moves forward. It was explained by Fenton that the next step in the process includes her team putting together a strategic action plan for approval, including input from the community.

As for the cost of this project, that is undetermined at this time.

"We have not run the revenue projections yet,'' Fenton says. "That will be the next step once the plan is approved, then there will be an analysis of all the taxes of the property and what the revenue will be.''

The deadline for the Urban Development team to present its strategic action plan is July 1st.  

Seminole Heights tour of homes showcases renovations, historic preservation

Take a step back into yesteryear at this year’s Old Seminole Heights Home Tour on Sunday, April 12th. The event will showcase 10 homes, some of which are more than 90 years old.
This is the 17th year that the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association and Old Seminole Heights Preservation Consortium have presented the home tour, but according to one of the organizers of the event, this year will feature the unexpected.
“First you think that the charm of Seminole Heights is just about bungalows, but there is more,’’ says Bill Truett, home tour committee member. “Attendees will experience the charm of all these homes that integrate design elements that take you back in time to the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s, yet many have the up-to-date conveniences of today. You will even see how pennies, yes copper pennies, were used in a remodel of a home.’’

The experience is a self-guided tour; however, neighborhood association members will be on-hand to provide attendees with maps and tips on how to make the most of their day. The tour showcases many of the historic neighborhoods in Seminole Heights, and can be completed by car, tour bus or bike. The TPD Bike Patrol will also be available to help cyclists maneuver the streets.
In addition to experiencing a relaxing Sunday wandering in and out of beautiful houses, those who attend will be bettering the community.
“This year a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Community Stepping Stones (CSS) in Sulpher Springs,’’ Truett says. CSS is a non-profit learning center that offers an arts-integrated curriculum to inspire and educate at-risk teens and youth. The art work from CSS will also be displayed at the garden center and select homes.’’

The Old Seminole Heights Home Tour will be on Sunday, April 12th, from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $15 in advance and $20 day of the tour. For more information, or to buy tickets visit the Neighborhood Association website.

The Ella at ENCORE! Tampa earns Gold LEED certification

The Ella at ENCORE! Tampa has been awarded a prestigious LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. 

The apartment building, one of four newly built in the planned community designed to accommodate 2,500 residents on 40 acres between downtown Tampa and Ybor City, is already at full capacity. The neighborhood developers are working to build and attract retail and other amenities to further serve residents. 
The developers -- the Tampa Housing Authority along with the Bank of America CDC -- sponsored a celebration of the LEED certification in March attended by Ed Jennings, the highest ranking HUD official in the southeastern United States. 

“The LEED Gold Certification for Ella at ENCORE! means this building is a showcase example of sustainable design,’’ says VP and COO Leroy Moore, Sr. of the Tampa Bay Housing Authority. “LEED Gold certification requires efficiency in design at every level starting with building orientation to maximize solar exposure, a commitment to some of the most advanced energy efficient equipment from windows and doors, water conservation, waste recycling, heating and cooling, low emitting, volatile organic compounds in finishes such as carpeting and painting, just to name a few.’’

Robert Ledford of Baker Barrios, whose design team helped the building achieve the certification, says he is proud of the accomplishment and credits all of the people who were involved. 

“This is a great achievement for the team, however, there was a lot of effort on behalf our partnerships to achieve this,’’ he says. “It is a great win for all of us, and we look forward to the projects ahead.’’
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