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Construction Progresses On Pinellas Side Of Courtney Campbell Trail

The Courtney Campbell Causeway is known more for the vehicular traffic that zooms overland between Tampa and Clearwater's beaches. But pedestrians and bicylists can expect in the near future to make that entire trek on a parallel Courtney Campbell Trail, and along the way enjoy breathtaking views of Old Tampa Bay.

The trail on the Hillsborough County side of the bay is complete along with Tampa's new Cypress Point Park playground and a 45-foot high bridge at the county line between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The next phase involves the trail's tie-in to Pinellas and Clearwater.

Completion of the project by Pepper Contracting is more than a year away, according to Florida Department of Transportation officials. Trail and road widening are under way. In addition the causeway will be repaved and a small pedestrian bridge built. Test piles for the bridge are installed.

When finished, the trail will allow pedestrian and bicycle access from Veteran's Expressway in Tampa to Bayshore Boulevard on the eastern edge of Clearwater. Bayshore leads to Safety Harbor and more trails. It also will connect with additional recreational trails on both sides of the Bay. 

The approximately 9.5 mile causeway trail is a project championed by the Westshore Alliance, which last year unveiled a Public Realm Master Plan to make the Westshore neighborhoods of Tampa more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Trails, wider sidewalks and narrower traffic lanes are among the recommendations.

"We're excited about the trail. It will be one of the premier trails in the entire United States," says Ron Rotella, executive director of the Westshore Alliance, which represents the interests of the Westshore Business District.

The district is Florida's largest office community with more than 4,000 businesses and 93,000 employees.

The Westshore area is booming with new shops, restaurants and offices. But residents of established neighborhoods, such as Carver City and Lincoln Gardens, soon will have new neighbors moving into more than 1,700 apartments either under construction or ready for leasing. "We're turning into a neighborhood as well," Rotella says.

Many of the new apartments front Boy Scout Boulevard which is slated for resurfacing later this year. Plans also are to widen sidewalks and enhance existing cross walks.

The alliance is contributing about $113,000 to help with pedestrian improvements and make it easier to walk to International Plaza as well as shops and restaurants on Westshore Boulevard. In the 2014-2015 Hillsborough County budget, Rotella anticipates about $1.3 million for a Westshore Boulevard redesign.

And he also is looking ahead to another trail segment from Dale Mabry Highway at Interstate 275 to Hesperides Street with a tie-in to Cypress Point Park and then onto Clearwater via the Courtney Campbell Trail.

 "Being able to access a beautiful waterway, that is a great advantage for the business district," Rotella says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ron Rotella, Westshore Alliance

HCC's SouthShore Campus Adds Science And Technology Building

Enrollment at Hillsborough Community College SouthShore Campus has far exceeded expectations since opening day in 2008 in Ruskin.

More than 6,500 students attend classes on a campus built on a 100-year-old tomato field donated by the Dickman family. That is a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

More than a year and a half ago, 15 portable classrooms were set up to handle the overflow. That is about to change. School officials are breaking ground at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on a two-story, 36,424-square-foot Science and Technology Building at 551 24th St. in Ruskin.

"It has been truly amazing," says HCC SouthShore's President Allen Witt. “The new building will allow for the space to move out of portables and continue growth.”

The college is looking to hire for part-time and advisory positions. Interviews are planned to hire four faculty members. "We're in a hiring mode,'' Witt says.

Construction is scheduled for completion in May 2015. The new science and technology center will have nine laboratories, five prep labs, two computer classrooms, six traditional classrooms, four offices and a dean's suite.

Student enrollment, at least for now, is not expected to slow. Currently, SouthShore's enrollment is about 10 percent of approximately 46,000 students who attend HCC's five campuses and three centers throughout the county.

Witt can look out of his office window to understand the reason.

"I can see the top of Amazon.com's (building) just above the trees," he says. Also nearby new houses are under construction.

Amazon is expected to hire about 1,000 people in the next few months. The rising rooftops also will bring more families to the southeastern end of the county. "Things are happening here so very fast," Witt says. "We're all going to be catching up with infrastructure related to the new needs."

SouthShore plans to hold onto to all but about one-third of its portables as back-up plan if they are still needed in future years.

But the opening of the science and technology building means SouthShore is taking the next step in its academic growth plan.

“We pride ourselves as a STEM campus serving our local community with outstanding educational resources," Witt says. "This new science building will help us serve our students well into the future with the best technology and classroom space.”

Existing buildings at SouthShore are LEED-certified as eco-friendly and green. This new building also will meet the national certification standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

Construction on the approximately $9.8 million project includes architects Reynolds Smith and Hills, civil engineer Stantec,  consultants with Volt Air and construction manager Cutler Associates.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Allen Witt, HCC Southshore

Urbanism On Tap 3.2: 'The Social Side of Development' An Open Mic Night About Downtown Tampa

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of Downtown Tampa on May 13, 2014 starting at 5:30 p.m. 

Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

Every event is open to the public. Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance the ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event is the second in a three-part series, entitled “Tampa: The New Building Boom.” This second event, “The Social Side of Development,” will focus on the social aspects of development happening around Downtown Tampa. How will this development affect residents? Is there anything missing? What ways can people provide input on these issues? The organizers welcome comments and ideas on how new development may influence the lives of residents and on how residents can work to influence new development. 

The event organizers encourage people to share their opinions on these topics by visiting Urbanism on Tap’s online Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online, following the event. 

Venue: Pour House at Grand Central at Kennedy, Channel District, Tampa (1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33602); 
Date and Time: May 13, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

NoHo Flats Showcases Apartments At Open House

NoHo Flats is changing the north of Kennedy Boulevard landscape in Tampa, adding upscale apartments to North Hyde Park, a neighborhood nestled between Kennedy and Interstate 275. It is one of the emerging neighborhoods that are expanding the boundaries of Tampa's urban core to include the western side of the Hillsborough River.

On Thursday, May 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. the public is invited to an open house that will showcase the 311-apartment complex at 401 N. Rome Ave. Mayor Bob Buckhorn will kick off the event with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Live music and refreshments also are planned.

"It's exciting to see the area transition," says NoHo Flats Property Manager Laura Delahaye. "We want to showcase it for everyone."

NoHo Flats is about 60 percent leased. The complex offers a range of amenities, including hardwood floors and island kitchens in the apartments, a swimming pool with outdoor grill area, fountain courtyard with fire pits, fitness center, a "linear" park that is open to tenants and the public, sidewalks and benches. Some apartments have garages.

"It's one of the fastest projects that I've ever managed," Delahaye says.

The complex developed by Pollack Shores Real Estate Group is expected to appeal especially to young professionals who want to enjoy Tampa's growing number of restaurants, bars and shops in downtown, along Kennedy, and also on Howard and Armenia avenues..

The boulevard is the sight of major expansion projects by the University of Tampa including a new residence hall and lacrosse field. Tampa General Hospital plans to build a rehabilitation hospital and medical offices on Kennedy on the site of the former Ferman automobile dealership, just south of NoHo Flats.

The Oxford Exchange, Ducky's Sports Lounge and Primrose School of South Tampa are among a growing number of businesses on Kennedy.  

NoHo Flats is pushing back against the perception that "north of Kennedy" isn't the cool place to be. "You can see that is changing," Delahaye says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Laura Delahaye, NoHo Flats

New Hotels Open In St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach

Two new hotels are planning grand openings -- Staybridge Suites in downtown St. Petersburg and The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach.

Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, The Hotel Zamora  is bringing Spanish-Mediterranean charm to Gulf Boulevard along with a new dining destination -- the Castile Restaurant. Tatro Construction is nearing completion of what is the first hotel built in St. Pete Beach in more than two decades.

A June opening is planned for the hotel and the restaurant which will have a roof top lounge. The hotel is named for one of the oldest regions in Spain; the restaurant for a town in Zamora.

The upscale boutique hotel is the vision of developers and partners Henry Suarez and Kiran Patel. Once mired in bankruptcy, they salvaged what was initially a condominium project and won approval last year for the hotel from St. Pete Beach City Commission.

"It will bring a new vibe. It's very modern in design. It's South Beach trendy but in  St. Pete Beach," says Tom Robertson, general manager for The Hotel Zamora.

Interior design is by Miami-based Cuba-Fernandez Design, Inc.; the hotel's architecture is by Tampa-based Design Styles Architecture.

While the real estate market collapse initially shut down the project, The Hotel Zamora, at 3701 Gulf Blvd., now is a sign that an economic recovery is gaining traction.

"The nice thing about seeing new construction is that developers can feel confident about moving forward with their own projects," says Andy Dohmen, president of Design Styles. "It's when you see nothing going up that you get nervous."

Castile Restaurant  will offer a seafood-based menu from fresh, local sources. There also will be steaks, tapas-style dishes, soups and salads under the direction of Ted Dorsey, former executive chef at Tampa's Boca Kitchen & Food Market.

The hotel sits on more than an acre of beach front property with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other side. There are 72 rooms total but guests can chose to combine adjoining rooms or stay in two-bedroom suites. Some "junior suites" have a separate living room with a sofa sleeper.

Most rooms offer water views with eight having full beach views on the Gulf side. There is a marina with boat slips. A fresh-water pool is half outside, half under the shade of the hotel's flooring. In Florida's hot climate it's  "the best of both worlds", Robertson says.

In downtown St. Petersburg, developer Anthony Menna of Menna Development & Management built Staybridge Suites on what was once an overflow parking lot for Tampa Bay Rays' baseball games.

The extended-stay hotel opened earlier this year but plans to celebrate its grand opening May 1.

Located at 940 Fifth Ave., just off Interstate 175, Staybridge is nestled amid the medical district adjacent to All Children's Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center. But it also is within easy access of  shopping and dining on Beach Drive, baseball at Tropicana Field, the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg (USFSP) campus and art exhibits at the Dali and St. Petersburg Fine Arts museums.

Guests  enjoy suites with large kitchenettes, a heated pool, fitness center and a sun deck with a fire pit and BBQ grill. There is more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space for  conventions, business meetings or special events.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Andy Dohmen, Design Styles; Tom Robertson, The Hotel Zamora

Centra Care Health Clinic To Open On Dale Mabry In Tampa

Florida Hospital, the flagship of the not-for-profit Adventist Health System, will  open its third Centra Care clinic in Tampa Bay in June. 

Hembree Construction is nearing completion of an approximately 5,000-square-foot urgent care center located at 301 N. Dale Mabry, just north of Kennedy Boulevard. The site is a former gas station and convenience store. Urgent Care Developers of Tampa LLC purchased the property in January for about $1.3 million, according to Hillsborough County records.

Other locations for Centra Care are Wesley Chapel and the Brandon/Riverview area. But South Tampa, which has had a burst of new apartments, shops and restaurants, is another expansion area for the Orlando-based hospital chain.

"We're very retail focused. We want our facilities in an area where there is high visibility. The growth in development in South Tampa makes (this location) attractive," says Jake McKelvy, director of regional operations and business development. "We try to put our care centers close enough for follow-up care."

In this case Florida Hospital has a campus about five miles further north on Dale Mabry in the Carrollwood neighborhood. McKelvy says plans are under way to open a fourth Centra Care facility in Carrollwood.

Two more sites also are being considered in the Tampa area.

The Dale Mabry facility will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments also can be made online

There will be a staff of about 12 people including board-certified physicians who can treat common ailments such as colds, allergies, sore throats and influenza. But the clinic also will have an on-site laboratory and X-ray equipment. Physicians will be able to treat sprains, broken bones and other fractures. Physicals, vaccinations, worker's compensation injuries and illnesses, and employer required drug screening also will be available. And the website offers "what's going around" health alerts.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake McKelvy, Florida Hospital

University Of Tampa Residence Hall Meets Gold Standard

University of Tampa's newest residence hall is solid gold as an eco-friendly, green building.

The U.S. Green Building Council recently issued a LEED Gold certification for West Kennedy Hall, which opened in August 2013. It is the university's third certification from the council, which is recognized nationally as the standard setter for environmentally sound construction practices.

The university's Science Annex is also a LEED Gold certified building, and the Dickey Health and Wellness Center is LEED Silver.

West Kennedy Hall is an 11-story residence hall on Kennedy Boulevard that houses more than 520 students.

"I believe West Kennedy successfully both reflects the latest in University campus amenities and achieves innovative ways to conserve natural resources and lessen the impact on the environment," says UT President Ronald Vaughn.

The university wants buildings that are comfortable and user-friendly for people, says Taylor Ralph, president of REAL Building Consultants, which works with UT on its LEED certification.  

"But efficiency also is part of it," Ralph says. "That means that by not wasting money on energy costs the university can spend it in other areas. There is no sense in wasting energy. It makes fiscal sense."

The design, construction and operations of West Kennedy Hall includes the following green efficiencies:
  • Solar panels on the roof to heat water used by students
  • Low-flow shower heads and toilets that reduce water use by 38 percent, or more than 2.3 million gallons per year
  • Improved energy efficiency with a chilled water system, low-energy lighting and maximized natural daylight in rooms
  • Improved indoor air quality with environmentally-friendly paints, adhesives, sealants and other construction materials
  • Recycling of more than 78 percent of construction waste 
  • Recycling of rainwater stored in a storm water vault for irrigation of a portion of the campus
  • Landscaping with Florida-native and drought-tolerant plants
  • Green cleaning program to maintain the building with healthy cleaning practices and products
  • Reducing reliance on automobiles because the residence hall is within walking distance of bus stops, parks, the Tampa Riverwalk and restaurants
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ron Vaughn, University of Tampa

Tampa's East Hillsborough Avenue Attracts Investors, New Shops

East Hillsborough Avenue is attracting new investments -- a women's clothing shop and an as-yet-unannounced regional chain store. 
 
For Ron Harjani, owner of GQ Fashions at 3010 E. Hillsborough, the previous announcement that a Walmart Super Center will open a few blocks away next year is good news. It spurred him to build a 10,000-square-foot building next to GQ to house Fashion Essence, a family-operated women's clothing store. He also will have additional space available for lease.
 
Walmart, however, wasn't a major factor for another development plan.
 
ROI, a commercial property brokerage firm, is working with Florida Design Consultants and JVB Architect on developing a 25,000-square-foot building at the corner of Hillsborough and 32nd Street, next to Harjani's new building.
 
 ROI broker Eric Odum says a regional chain store, in the fashion and beauty market, will be the anchor tenant and occupy about 15,000 square feet.  Another 10,000 square feet is available for leasing.
 
Planning for the project began before Walmart's announced arrival, Odum says. But he says, "The visibility of our location is going to be phenomenal."
 
Design plans are undergoing revisions, Odum says, but construction is expected to begin this summer and take about six months. Funding for the project is from Platinum Bank.
 
Harjani expects to open Fashion Essence within the next month. His contractor is Final Touch Wall Systems with offices in Land O' Lakes and Valrico.
 
The location on Hillsborough is a prime spot, says Harjani. He also is encouraged by the redevelopment he sees in Tampa overall in recent years.
 
Walmart Super Center is scheduled to open, possibly as early as mid-2015, on East Hillsborough on about 12 acres stretching almost from 15th Street, next to VetCare Harris Animal Hospital, to 19th Street, across from McDonald's restaurant. The site was formerly home to Abraham Chevrolet automobile dealership but has been vacant for many years.
 
"Walmart is coming,"  Harjani says. "Hillsborough Avenue is parallel to Interstate 4 and a major thoroughfare going east to west. I personally think it's got a lot of potential."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Eric Odum, ROI; Ron Harjani, GQ Fashions

Tampa Opens New Fire Station On Waters Avenue

Tampa firefighters had a nickname for the Sulphur Springs fire station #11 - the house of pain.
 
"It's because their (emergency) runs were so many," says Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward.
 
This one station fielded then and now about 10 percent of all of Tampa's annual fire emergencies, reaching as many as 8,000 a year. It generally serves the neighborhoods of Sulphur Springs, Forest Hills and Lowry Park.
 
Today Fire Station #11 is as busy as ever but firefighters are working and sleeping in a much larger, state-of-the-art building. More than a dozen retired firefighters joined with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Council Chairman Charlie Miranda and City Councilman Harry Cohen to officially welcome residents to an open house of their new fire station.
 
"In no uncertain terms this is the kind of station...the type of place that is worthy of the efforts (firefighters) put forth for us," Buckhorn says. "The house of pain just got a little better."
 
The approximately 8,700 square-foot building, at 1500 Waters Ave., replaces the small, aging station that for decades was tucked away on Fairbanks Street inside the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Firefighters had to maneuver huge fire trucks down narrow residential streets and around tight corners to reach the intersection of Florida and Waters avenues.
    
The City of Tampa built the station soon after its annexation of Sulphur Springs in 1954. And, it was very much a neighborhood station. Retired firefighter Jim Galbraith, 69, says a close watch was kept of residents especially the elderly. "They'd call us in the morning," he says. "If we didn't get a call, we'd call them."
 
At a cost of $1.6 million, the new station has a modern design with a three-bay garage flanked by work and sleeping quarters and giving quick access to Waters. It was built by Pillar Construction.
 
The new station will allow the city to provide a more aggressive response time for this community, Forward says.
 
Funding is from community investment tax dollars. The station is eco-friendly and has efficiency lighting, solar-powered outside lighting and hot water heating, recycled materials and Florida-friendly landscaping. 
 
The city built Fire Station #22 in New Tampa with a similar design. A third fire station, #19, is expected to open in  August in Port Tampa
 
Source: Tom Forward, Tampa Fire Department
Writer: Kathy Steele
 
 

Eco-friendly Communities Get New Design Guidelines

New urbanism is adding a new tool to its design palette for developing communities that are walkable, sustainable and eco-friendly.
 
For nearly 20 years the U.S. Green Building Council has issued certifications to show that building construction has met independent standards for environmental responsibility. But after testing a pilot program, a new certification is being offered, known as LEED ND, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Neighborhood Development.
 
This takes a more holistic approach to community development. 
 
On Wednesday, April 9, from noon to 1:30 p.m. the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and the Congress for the New Urbanism Tampa Bay will host a luncheon meeting where urban designers Erin Chantry and Vinod Kadu will discuss the new rating system. The event is at The Charter House, 7616 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway.
 
Pasco County developer Frank Starkey also is guest speaker and will talk about his experiences with LEED in developing the new urban community of Longleaf as well as his views on what the new ratings mean for future development. 
 
The cost is $25 for organization members and $35 for non-members.
 
"(The new system) obviously takes into account not just buildings but the streets and overall development," says Taylor Ralph, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and president of REAL Building Consultants.
 
Storm water, energy efficiencies, sidewalks and recyling efforts are among the factors that will be reviewed in looking at the total project, Ralph says.
 
The Encore development, north of downtown, is expected to be one of the first master-planned communities in Florida to qualify for the new LEED certification.
 
Encore is a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building, opened in 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multi-family apartment building, is opening in May. The Reed, a 158-unit senior apartment building, is slated to open in 2015 along with The Tempo, a 203-unit multi-family apartment building. Retail, a grocery store and a hotel also are anticipated for Encore.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Taylor Ralph, REAL Building Consultants

Historic Bungalow Turns Into Welcome Center, Safe House For LGBT Community

A historical bungalow will soon be home to the LGBT Welcome Center and Coffeehouse, a gathering place for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and visitors to the Tampa Bay region.
 
An opening date is scheduled for June 27-29, the weekend of the St. Pete Pride Street Festival and Promenade, one of the country's largest gay pride events. However, funds are needed to complete on-going renovations.
 
At 7 p.m. April 11, The Studio @620 will host "Queery", a live music and art show to benefit the welcome center. The show will feature musical performances by Mark Castle, Young Egypt, Laser Collins + Lars Warn and artwork by Mia Culbertson, Emily Miller and Priscilla 3000. A $5 donation will be collected at the door. The Studio is located at 620 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.
 
Creating a welcome center at 2227 Central Ave. is a long-time goal of the nonprofit Metro Wellness and Community Centers, which for more than 20 years has provided the Tampa Bay community with a range of HIV services, wellness and social programs. The organization has locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey.
 
"(The welcome center) will connect tourists and residents to our services and offer new space for a hangout and to hold meetings, to have classes, meet with friends and for dates," says Adam Jahr, Metro's program manager. "One of our goals is to be a safe space for at-risk and troubled youth."

Nearly half of the LGBT youth are bullied, says Jahr, adding that data also shows that about 40 percent of homeless youth are from the LGBT community.
 
The welcome center also will offer travel resources for visitors, such as special deals for dining and entertainment, and general information on arts, cultural events, ticket locations and "things to do" in the Tampa Bay area.
 
The bungalow was donated to the nonprofit and relocated a short distance from the historical Kenwood neighborhood to the Grand Central district. It sits next door to Metro's thrift store on Central Avenue.
 
In a "Name a Room" campaign, approximately $140,000 is being sought to renovate bungalow rooms including the living and dining rooms, kitchen and reading room. If you are interested in naming a room, contact Larry Biddle at 813-417-1225.
 
There also are opportunities to donate for items such as coffee mugs or t-shirts, and commemorative tiles to be installed in the bungalow's fireplace.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Adam Jahr, Metro Wellness and Community Centers

Chihuly Collection Opens New Store In St. Pete

Visitors to the Chihuly Collection art gallery in downtown St. Petersburg can expect a new Chihuly experience when they step into the gallery's expanded retail store.
 
A grand opening is planned from 4-6 p.m. April 4 at the gallery at 400 Beach Drive. The following day visitors can tour Seattle Artist Dale Chihuly's permanent collection of glass-blown creations for the discounted price of $1.
 
The Chihuly Collection, owned by the Morean Arts Center, opened nearly four years ago. It is the first installation of Chihuly's internationally acclaimed glass sculptures in a building specifically designed for that purpose by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso of Tampa.
 
The approximately 2,500-square-foot retail store increases the space for merchandise from the Chihuly Workshop, including 2014 studio edition glasswork, limited edition prints, books, DVDs, notecards and assorted Chihuly-brand gifts. The shop will have a separate entrance off Beach Drive.
 
Among the studio editions for sale are Marigold Persian, Sahara Basket Set, Maya Blue Persian and Zinnia Macchia.
 
There also is a new emphasis on showcasing Florida artists of all mediums in the reconfigured and redesigned retail shop. The inventory will include more jewelry, artisanal soaps and pottery. And, about 1,000 square feet of former retail space now is a rotating art gallery that will feature glass artwork from artists around the country.
 
"We're trying to have more products of Florida artists along with the elements of Chihuly," says Andy Schlauch, the Chihuly Collection's executive director.
 
Cypress, black steel and concrete floors are among the architectural features of the interior design by Rob Bowen Design. The special touches are meant to mimic Chihuly's famous boathouse in Seattle, says Schlauch.
 
Biltmore Construction completed the work over several weeks. Concrete floors are by Scofield.
 
"It's a new open floor plan," says Schlauch. "I especially love the dark charchoal concrete floors. The feel will be something very different from what people experience on Beach Drive."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Andy Schlauch, Chihuly Collection

Le Meridien Hotel Plans June 1 Opening In Downtown Tampa

Get ready for Tampa's newest luxury hotel. The renovated and historical Classic Federal Courthouse on Florida Avenue is almost ready for its debut as Le  Meridien.
 
Opening date for the upscale, 130-room hotel is June 1, with a grand opening planned for later that month. It is one of 11 Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts planned in the next 12 months by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
 
Le Meridien Tampa brings an artsy vibe to what the city plans as an "art promenade" on Zack Street between Florida and Ashley Drive. Guests at Le Meridien will receive a free pass to the Tampa Museum of Arts. A wall on the main floor, near Bizou Brasserie and Longitude Bar, will be a gallery of the best from local artists.
 
"Le Meridiens around the world emphasize art," says Gary Prosterman, CEO of Development Services Group in Memphis. "It has a tremendous amount of architectural features that are really appealing. It's obviously a different experience from just your typical business class hotel or certainly different from a select service hotel."
 
The "cultural heritage traveler" and the creative segment of travelers, regardless of profession, will appreciate the environment and amenities at Le Meridien, Prosterman says.
 
The 109-year-old neo-classical building is on the National Register of Historic Places but for years sat vacant. In 2012 the city, with Tampa City Council approval, agreed to a long-term lease. DSG was selected as developers for the project. Kobi Karp of Miami did the conceptual design: The Beck Group is design builder, serving as architect and construction manager; and Ferrell Redevelopment of Tampa consulted on the building's historic preservation.
 
Two courtrooms have been transformed. One is now the Bizou at the top of a grand staircase leading to the main floor. A fourth floor courtroom is the hotel's ballroom.
 
Marble and terrazzo features, floor-to-ceiling windows and extra wide corridors recall the grandeur of the historical courthouse.  Guests can enjoy modern conveniences of business and fitness centers, an outdoor lawn area for dining, the restaurant, bakery, coffee house and bar, and a garden.
 
Room rates will vary with peak season prices ranging from about $180 to $280; in off-peak season rooms will be about $150 to $220.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Prosterman

Trader Joe's Opens In South Tampa

For Tampa's hard core fans of Trader Joe's, the treks to Sarasota are over. At 8 a.m. Friday, Trader Joe's brings its quirky brand of grocery shopping to South Tampa.
 
With some fanfare, but not too much, Trader Joe's takes over the former Shapes fitness center at 3808 Swann Ave., west of Dale Mabry Highway.
 
"We cut the cord of a giant lei," says Trader Joe's spokeswoman Rachel Broderick.
 
And, the shopping begins.
 
Store manager Aimee Pawelek and Regional VP Kent Smathers will be on hand for the lei-cutting.
 
Expect to get a flower necklace handed to you from Trader Joe's sales crew. They'll stand out from the crowd in loud Hawaiian shirts. A day of festive celebration is planned with food demonstrations, live music, a balloon artist and more.
 
Copies of Trader Joe's irreverent newsletter, "Fearless Flyer" will soon arrive in area resident mailboxes.
 
The much-anticipated opening day is bally-hooed on Facebook pages, blogs and media outlets. It was the source of rumor and speculation nearly a year ago when Shapes closed its gym in July.

Trader Joe's doesn't release figures on job hires, but Broderick says 70 percent of the jobs were filled with local residents.
 
Cap Dale Mabry LLC, a Greenville, S.C. development company and affiliate of Centennial American Properties, bought the site in August 2013 for about $2.7 million, according to Hillsborough County records. Barry Byrd Architecture of Knoxville, Tenn. did the design.
 
The decor mixes cedar-covered walls with Hawaiian tiki-style features. Colorful murals throughout the store honor Tampa Bay history including Plant Hall, Hillsborough River State Park, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach.
 
The former gym was expanded slightly to about 12,300 square feet. Trees were added to the landscaping to buffer the adjacent parking lot from nearby homes. Centennial American Properties also got variances to install three Trader Joe's signs.
 
The California-based grocery store that morphed into Trader Joe's was founded in the late 1950s. It adopted the Trader Joe's name in 1967.
 
Shoppers are attracted to the off-beat, eclectic and ever-changing products that fill Trader Joe's shelves. As many as 3,000 items bear Trader Joe's brand name including Trader Joe's salsas, fried rice and marinara sauces. As many as a dozen new items are added to shelves weekly.
 
Ruggedly Adventurous Cowboy Bark, Tandoori Naan, Collier's Welsh Cheddar Cheese, Kenya AA Coffee and Palak Paneer are among products listed on the company website. But there is also Trader Joe's Raw Pignolias (pine nuts), Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Burgers and Chocolate Chip Scone Mix. And the now-Three-Buck Chuck Wine (pay more if you like) is ready for a party.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Rachel Broderick, Trader Joe's

Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

From the outside, the Old Hyde Park Art Center on Swann Avenue looks as if it were a typical older South Tampa home. But the approximately 115-year-old wood structure is possibly the oldest building still in use in Tampa.
 
With an $18,000 makeover, the art gallery building soon will more closely resemble the historical structure it is. Restoration work by Timeline Contracting will reconfigure the front stoop and add columns and a canopy to the entry way. The exterior will be painted in three colors similar to the light, mid-tone and dark colors of the original structure, giving the building more eye-catching appeal.
 
"It's pretty unique," says Kathy Durdin, president of Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., which owns and operates the art center. "Before the turn of the century, there were these generic (wood frame) buildings all over the place, but they were lost because there was no purpose for them."
 
The saving grace for this building is that the city and school district kept finding public uses for it, and even different locations.
 
In 1899 the two-room wood building served as a temporary school until a red-brick replacement for the Hyde Park Grammar School was built at 502 South Boulevard. The original grammar school was at Platt Street and Magnolia Avenue.
 
Tampa was still a pioneer town emerging alongside the Hillsborough River, dotted with orange groves and dairy cattle. In 1914 the temporary school became the grammar school's lunch room, where parents served the first hot lunches to Tampa students. A year later the school was renamed the John B. Gorrie Elementary School.
 
Nearly eight years later the school lunch room had a new purpose as the Hyde Park Branch Library, again a first for a public school. In 1936 the building was moved to its current location, 705 Swann Ave. For the next three decades it was the Tampa Public Library, Hyde Park Branch.
 
When the library closed in 1969, the Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., began leasing the property as an art gallery eventually buying it 10 years later. The nonprofit group promotes art awareness through exhibits, workshops and seminars.
 
The funds to renovate the art center come from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Program which promotes historic preservation, heritage tourism and job creation.
 
Work on the entry way will be completed in March. Additional restoration is planned for the front doors, which still have city seals embedded in the lockplates.
 
"We've got to believe at the turn of the century these lockplates were all over Tampa," says Durdin. "The doors are pretty special."

The art center is open to the public and is free of charge. The next exhibit, "Landscapes and Seascapes,'' will run from today until March 21. For more information, call Durdin at 813-220-5800 or email her at this link.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kathy Durdin, Old Hyde Park Art Center
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