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Grab your food and stay to play concept coming to Seminole Heights, Tampa

Shuffleboard, a game that traces its lineage to 15th century England, was once associated mostly with aged retirees pushing oversized hockey pucks on harshly lit courts in Pinellas County.

Bocce ball conjures up its own images, thanks to movies like “Moonstruck,” in which middle-aged and older men of Italian descent roll a hard ball down an alley somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens.

These two casual sports, though centuries-old, are enjoying a revival of sorts, so much so that three Tampa entrepreneurs think they can cash in on their appeal at a new walk-up food and beer stand in Southeast Seminole Heights.

Ferrell Alvarez, Ty Rodriguez and Chon Nguyen plan to revamp the old Nebraska Mini-Mart, a former drive-through, quick-service store on Nebraska Avenue, just north of Osborne Avenue. Alvarez said the restaurant will feature fast, casual food along with craft beers and wine.

“The concept is fast-casual food where you walk up to get the food,” says Alvarez, who is partners with Rodriguez at the Rooster & the Till restaurant down the road.

“It will be the same quality as Rooster & the Till: sourced locally, doing everything fresh,” Alvarez says. “It will be global street food with emphasis on a great beer and wine selection.”

But the partners want customers to grab their food and stay. That’s where the shuffleboard and bocce ball come in.

Alvarez envisions leagues playing tournaments on nights and weekends. The 1.5-acre property will also have room for covered dining and a dog park. Special events like a July 4 pig roast will give consumers more reason to hang out. 

“It’s going to be a multiuse beer garden on steroids,” he says.

The owners are keeping the old Mini-Mart name because of its connection to the history of the surrounding neighborhood. The building will retain its mid-century architecture but with a steel roll-down door facing south. The west wall will be covered with reclaimed wood.

Alvarez says he had his eye on the corner for some time as a great spot for casual, walk-up fare. He had a loose design in mind that he firmed up with help from Junto Design Studio.

“They took our vision and ran with it and made it much better than I envisioned,” he says.

Other local businesses involved in the project include the Pep Rally Inc. creative studio and Trimar Construction.

The partners got the necessary zoning approval from Tampa City Council in December. They are now working with the city on permitting. Residents of the closely-knit neighborhood are eagerly anticipating the opening.

“What an improvement for this blighted area!” wrote Stan Lasater, President of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association, in a neighborhood blog posting.

New apartments, shops coming to Skyway Marina District in St. Pete

The first new mixed-used retail and residential project for St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District will break ground in the next six to nine months.  

Phillips Development and Realty, a Tampa-based firm, closed on the $70 million proposed development this month. Plans call for the developer to build a 300-unit multi-family apartment complex, along with retail shops and restaurants.

"The Skyway Marina District is a stone's throw from Gulf beaches and downtown St. Pete -- two areas that so many love to experience,” says Donald Phillips, managing director of Phillips Development and Realty. “The project will allow people to live where they play and be able to afford it all."

The nine-acre site at 34th Street South and 30th Avenue South, is across the street from Ceridian, a global human resource management company. The land was previously owned by The Home Depot, but has sat vacant for a number of years.  Phillips purchased the land from The Home Depot for $4.2 million, according to company spokesperson Parker Homans.

More than 13,000-square-feet of retail and residential are proposed, along with 100,000-square-feet of climate controlled storage space. The company is currently in negations with several local and regional businesses, says Homans.

In a press release announcing the project, Phillips says the Skyway Marina District is “screaming for retail, luxury living and involvement from the St. Petersburg art scene.”  

In recognition of St. Petersburg’s vibrant collection of more than 30 urban mural arts, the company is planning to create its own mural, which will be located at the entry to the Skyway Marina District.

Also planned is an entertainment area with a lazy river, sand volleyball court and beach-style dining. The lazy river will be open to restaurant patrons and apartment residents and their guests. 

“We envision people dining outside and taking a spin on the river,” says Homans. “We want people to feel like they are on vacation when visiting the property.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman calls the Skyway Marina District, “the Southern Gateway to St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.”  

The city adopted a Skyway Marina District Plan in 2015, with the goal of adding affordable housing and retail to the site, which is considered to have prime redevelopment opportunity.  

Both the mayor and city council members have voiced strong support for the new Phillip’s mixed-use development, saying it “compliments the city’s vision” for the Skyway Marina District.

The city had already committed to $1.6 million for public improvements to the district for signage, landscaping, pedestrian lighting, banners and bus shelters. Now, in recognition of Phillip’s project as the first major new development in the area, the city is planning another $1 million in improvements to the site adjacent to the new complex, including a proposed extension of the Skyway Trail, a pedestrian and bike linear greenway trail that connects with Maximo Park and the Pinellas Trail.

This is the company’s first venture in St. Petersburg, although the firm has extensive residential and commercial projects in North Carolina and completed Visconti at International Plaza, an upscale apartment complex in Tampa’s Westshore District, several years ago. 

BTI Partners to build new walkable community near Westshore, Gandy in South Tampa

Fort Lauderdale-based development firm BTI Partners will soon unveil Westshore Marina District, a new walkable planned community off Westshore Boulevard south of Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa.

The community is designed to offer an eclectic mix of residential, retail and restaurants in a marina setting on 51 acres. 

“This area [of South Tampa] has historically been industrial, so we knew we couldn’t just throw in new properties there,” says BTI Executive VP of Development Beck Daniel. “We’re adding new roadways, landscaping, utilities, and other infrastructure to create this new community and provide a sense of place.” 

The community will also include public park space and a recreational path that will eventually connect with the Tampa Friendship Trail. 

The 14-acre marina basin will anchor the new development. 

“The community will have the largest marina basin in the Tampa area,” Daniel says. “It will help establish the development as a boating community.”

The development is designed to include 1,750 residential units, 156,250 square feet of retail area, 83,750 square feet of office space, 200 hotel rooms, 185 to 240 marina slips, and a 1.5-mile waterfront park for public recreational enjoyment. 

Luxuries such as a convenient marina are certain to appeal to many new residents in the community, which will boast 396 rentals and special amenities on an 8.5-acre site along a waterfront park. 

The waterfront luxury rentals will be developed by Related Group, a Miami real estate development firm known to many in the Tampa area for its waterfront residential project on the site of the former Tampa Tribune headquarters. Daniel says an unnamed “Top-10 national builder” is also coming onboard to construct the community. Pricing for the residential units is yet to be determined. 

Daniel expects brisk development efforts on the Westshore Marina District.

“You’ll be surprised how quickly this moves,” he says. “We don’t have 1,750 of the same residential units -- we’re mixing it up to have townhomes, condo towers, retail and restaurants, so there will be demand for what we’re building.”

BTI Partners closed on the land deal in early February 2017 and expects to begin construction on the marina community soon. 

“People will be able to drive into the community and see landscaping within eight months,” Daniel says. “Construction begins on luxury rental units in early to mid 2018.” A build-out date is not specified, but Daniels says the community will be constructed in phases and is expected to reach completion quickly. 

“We’re hoping the growth expands into the surrounding area,” Daniel says. “We want this to be the first thing people see as they drive into Tampa along the Gandy Bridge from Pinellas County.” 

Tampa is a prime community with a fantastic waterfront, he says, but currently lacks abundant waterfront access. 

“It’s surprising given how much water surrounds the Tampa area and yet there aren’t as many places to enjoy it as you might expect,” he remarks. Daniel says Westshore Marina District will help provide more opportunities for locals to live, shop and play near the area’s beautiful bay shoreline. 

“We like Tampa very much,” he says, referring to BTI’s recent emergence in the Tampa Bay area. “We’re here to stay.” 

Pop-up project focuses on North Marina street improvements in Clearwater

Just north of Clearwater’s downtown, the North Marina area has long boasted its own distinct identity separate from the nearby urban hub, says Lawrence Young, Jr., the city’s neighborhoods coordinator.

Clearwater Bay borders the area to the west, while the Pinellas Trail runs along its eastern edge. Cedar and Eldridge Streets serve as North Marina’s northern and southern anchors, respectively. The neighborhood also includes several city landmarks: the Seminole Boat Launch, the Francis Wilson Playhouse and North Ward Elementary School.

The North Marina area has so much potential that the city has eyed the neighborhood for improvements over the past several years. At the end of 2015, it finalized and approved a North Marina Master Plan, which covers about 64 acres, to rejuvenate the area.

So last summer, when the city’s Planning and Development Department launched a separate program, a new pop-up event series, targeting neighborhoods in need of streetscape upgrades, North Marina was an obvious first choice. “We’re able to test recommendations from that [master] plan,” Young says. 

Through temporary installations and enhancements made to existing streets within the North Marina neighborhood, Pop-up North Marina: A Community Streets Experiment offers city staff a way to study how to improve the overall experience for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers in the area before making permanent changes.

Implemented with the help of community residents, impermanent roadway enhancements made to North Marina streets include painted pavement and sidewalk art, sidewalk extensions, on-street parking, improved landscaping, and community benches. For instance, Young says, they temporarily reduced lanes on Ft. Harrison Avenue and dedicated the extra space to pedestrians.
Volunteers extended the sidewalk on that roadway and installed planters designed by children at the North Greenwood Recreation Center.

“The area already has an identity,” Young says. “They need something to activate and bring it all together to attract more businesses and residents to the area. This project could really bring it to life.”

Though the community gathered to celebrate the temporary changes at a Jan. 28 festival, the installation will remain in place for two months. This will give residents and city officials alike the chance to test them out. Some of these temporary enhancements could become permanent in the future, says Young.

This “unique” event is the first of its kind in Clearwater, he adds, and hopefully won’t be the last, given the success of the pop-up event so far. Though the city hasn’t named the next neighborhood to receive similar treatment, they’ll base their decision on comments received from residents throughout the city. Young encourages residents to reach out to him via email.

In the meantime, Young is excited about the possibilities in North Marina. The timing of the pop-up event is perfect, he adds, since the city held its first meeting to discuss the implementation of Phase One of the North Marina Master Plan Jan. 25. “We’re excited about everything and seeing it come to life,” Young says. “We can’t wait to activate this space.”

Coast Bike Share rolls out 20 new hubs with 200 rentable bicycles in downtown St. Pete

Hopping on two wheels for bike ride through the 'burg just became easier than ever: Coast Bike Share celebrated its official launch in St. Pete on Feb. 4 with a community ride, led by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, through the downtown streets and along the waterfront. 

Approximately 100 riders participated in the launch, including members of Shift St. Pete, the St. Pete Bike Co-op, and Hillsborough and Pinellas bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees. The launch party culminated in a "ride-through" style ribbon-cutting at the fourth annual Localtopia celebration.

"The city is so ready for it," says Eric Trull, Regional Director of Coast Bike Share and St. Petersburg resident.

"With the culture here -- between the arts community, the food, and the breweries -- the demographic here is all about the bikes. The biggest question we received during the launch was not 'What is the bike share?' but 'Why did it take so long to get one here?'" says Trull. 

The official Coast Bike Share launch brings a total of 20 new bike share stations with 200 new bicycles to downtown St. Pete this month. Coast Bike Share introduced a demo bike share system to St. Pete in November to coincide with the Cross-Bay Ferry launch -- celebrating a growing culture of diverse multimodal transportation options in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The November demo-release rolled out 100 bikes at 10 bicycle hubs around downtown St. Pete, offering a variety of bike rental rates: pay-as-you-go for $8 per hour, $15 for a monthly membership that includes 60 minutes of daily ride time, or $79 for an annual membership ($59 for students) with 60 minute of daily ride time. For a limited time, St. Pete residents can also sign up for the 'Founding Plan' -- a $99 annual membership that offers 90 minutes of daily ride time. Riders can reserve a bike on location by signing up online and using the bike hub keypad to enter their own unique pin code, or by using the Social Bicycles smartphone app.

The St. Pete bike fleet is the second Coast Bike Share program in the region. It joins the Tampa fleet, which launched in 2014 with 300 rentable bicycles at 30 hubs throughout downtown, the Channel District, Hyde Park, Davis Island, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Tampa Riverwalk and Ybor City.

Trull says that Coast Bike Share aims to improve access to downtown St. Pete and its surrounding districts by strategically placing bike share hubs throughout the region. Coast Bike Share St. Pete hubs are located in the Grand Central District, Old Northeast and the waterfront, the Edge District, the Innovation District, and the emerging Deuces Live District.

"We're trying to make sure we hit as many neighborhoods as we can to connect everybody to downtown," Trull says.

Coast Bike Share cycles are relatively lightweight three-speed cruisers -- weighing in at just under 40 lbs, and come equipped with a basket and a GPS-enabled lock that enables riders to rent-and-ride -- and conveniently drop bikes off at the nearest available bike share station. The bikes also calculate the distance traveled and calories burned by riders.

Trull says Coast Bike Share system was proud to reach its cumulative 300,000 mile mark during the St. Pete pilot -- with 4% of the program's total mileage clocked in St. Pete during the pilot period alone. 

In its first 90 days, Coast Bike Share reports that St. Pete pedalers biked over 12,000 miles in 4,400 trips -- meaning that those who chose to ride rather than drive burned a combined 480,000 calories and contributed to a 10,560 lb reduction in carbon waste. 

Learn more about cruising around Tampa and St. Petersburg on two wheels by visiting the Coast Bikes website

For Good: Duke Energy grant to boost services for South St. Pete families, students

A $1 million grant from the Duke Energy Foundation will allow the United Way Suncoast to expand an innovative program for families in the Campbell Park community and nearby neighborhoods in South St. Petersburg.

“We hope that our financial investment will continue to help address this community’s vital needs,” says Harry Sideris, president, Duke Energy Florida. 

The grant aligns with Duke Energy Foundation’s ongoing giving priorities, which include kindergarten to career educational and workforce development, environmental issues and social programs that positively impact communities.

Since 2011, United Way Suncoast has operated a neighborhood program at Campbell Park Elementary School that offers a variety of social services and support for parents and students. The program is focused primarily on education, including attendance and tardiness, as well as financial stability programs for the adults in the community. 

Last year, the agency took that program to the next level with the launch of a dedicated community resource center at Cross and Anvil Human Services Center, a nonprofit organization run by Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in partnership with the Pinellas County Urban League and other organizations.

The Cross and Anvil Human Services Center currently provides academic support services, such as GED assistance, FCAT and college preparation, mental health counseling, parental engagement programs and veterans services.

Duke Energy funding will allow the United Way Suncoast to add new services at the center that target workforce development, including job coaching, resume’ writing and similar skills training, as well as financial coaching, legal advice and other social support services. The goal is to help address variety of community needs, including empowering individuals and families to work toward long-term stability.

In addition to investing in the community through the grant, Duke Energy employees are contributing to the new social services program through the Duke Energy in Action corporate volunteer program. Employees recently participating in painting and landscaping the Cross and Anvil Human Services Center. 

“We live here, work here and are committed to our communities year-round,” says Sideris.

The United Way Suncoast serves Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota and Desoto counties and works with partner agencies to provide programs promoting literacy, workforce development and financial counseling, temporary emergency services during natural disasters and neighborhood community services.

“Duke Energy’s generosity and commitment to the Campbell Park neighborhood is as incredible as the tremendous potential that exists in the residents of this community,” says Suzanne McCormick, president and CEO of United Way Suncoast, in a statement announcing the new partnership. “We are excited for the opportunities this gift brings and proud to be working with so many wonderful business and nonprofit partners.” 

New Sulphur Springs Museum honors local history

Tampa history buffs will have a new place to explore when the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens on February 4. The new landmark, located at Mann-Wagnon Park in Sulphur Springs, will serve as a community hub for the re-emerging Central Tampa neighborhood. 

According to Norma Robinson, a co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, the grand opening of the new facility is slated for noon on the first Saturday of February. “We hope to have the ribbon cutting at 12,” she says. “We’ll have different activities throughout the day, including guided tours.” 

When the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens its doors, guests will find an array of things to see and do there. One of the headlining attractions is “Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy.” The permanent exhibit profiles the history of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood, which traces its roots back to the 1880s. The area flourished as a tourist destination in the early 20th century when developer Josiah Richardson oversaw the creation of a resort around the area’s springs, which were believed by many to have healing properties. The Sulphur Springs Arcade, the neighborhood’s iconic 214-foot-tall water tower, and Sulphur Springs Pool are just some of the historic landmarks honored at the museum. 

“Many students from the University of South Florida [http://www.usf.edu/ ](USF) did research,” Robinson says of the museum’s historical elements. Several images and other artifacts derive from the USF Tampa Library Special and Digital Collections and the Florida State Archive collection. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum also opens with “Water | Ways,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that will be open from February 4 through March 18, 2017. “We’re one of six cities in Florida chosen for the exhibit, which shows the different ways water affects our lives,” explains Robinson. “Water | Ways” explores the impact of water environmentally, culturally, and historically. 

The museum will also host Our Florida, Our History lecture series, which includes an array of slated speakers for February such as USF history professor Gary Mormino, Hillsborough Community College Dean of Associate of Arts Jim Wysong, and African American diaspora expert Anthony E. Dixon. The series continues into March with appearances by climate science author Dr. Mark R. Hafen and Florida culture author Craig Pittman. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is the culmination of many years of tireless effort by Norma Robinson and her husband, Joseph. When the couple moved from New York to Tampa in 1997, they chose Sulphur Springs as their new home. They have worked tirelessly for two decades to improve the community, which for years was known as one of Tampa’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Robinsons were honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as Community Heroes in 2015, when they received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation. Much of those funds were invested into building the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, which was a dream first envisioned more than a decade ago. 

Admission to the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is free, Robinson says, “but donations are strongly encouraged and welcomed!”

When and where 

What: Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center Grand Opening
When: February 4, 2017, noon to 4 p.m.
Things To Do: Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy history exhibit, Water | Ways Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, guided tours, food, drinks
Address: 1101 E. River Cove Street, Tampa, Florida 33604

Junior Achievement expands financial literacy training for teens

Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay has been teaching fifth graders about potential careers since 2005 through its JA BizTown program. Now, it’s making plans to expand its curriculum and teach eighth graders finances at a new facility slated to break ground in late February.
 
“JA Finance Park gives 8th grade students the rare opportunity to experience their personal financial futures firsthand,” says Richard George, President of JA Tampa Bay. “We’re going through permitting now. We’re hoping to be open probably in November [2017].”
 
While JA Biztown gives fifth graders a chance to work in a mock economy, JA Finance Park lets them explore personal finances. They’ll have to make spending choices based on their income and family needs. A Career Depot will help them understand the connection between careers, salaries, and the money they make.
 
“We’re exploring Tampa Bay opportunities, from trades to professional jobs, what it takes to get those positions and what it pays,” George says. “It’s going to be pretty innovative.”
 
The facility is officially named JA Finance Park presented by SunTrust Foundation, in recognition of SunTrust’s $1.7 million grant, which kicked off fundraising. The $4.6 miillion,18,000-square-foot building will be on Hillsborough County Public School property on North 22nd Street. JA still is attempting to raise $5 million to operate the facility for 10 years.
 
Construction is by EWI Construction, with architecture by FleischmanGarcia Architects, both of Tampa.
 
The ultimate goal of the park is to help students become leaders in their household and community, George says.
 
“JA Finance Park creates a real-life model which encourages students to focus on their life goals and complete their education,” he adds.
 
The new facility is expected to serve 180 students a day. Throughout the Tampa Bay region, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay reached 98,662 students last year.
 
“JA Biztown has done pretty well,” he adds. “It’s been operating in the black since Day One.”
 
JA is supported by businesses represented in its facilities, including Publix, MacDonald’s and Kane’s Furniture, as well as donors like Pam and Les Muma and the Bill Poe family.

A peak inside: Safety Harbor Art & Music Center opens in northern Pinellas County

The Safety Harbor home of artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is hard to miss.

Some know the brightly painted and tiled cottage surrounded by yard sculptures as Whimzeyland. Others affectionately refer to it as “the bowling ball house” because of the rows of decorated bowling balls that adorn the home’s yard. For many, it’s a local landmark, and listed on numerous “roadside attraction” websites.

The couple also used their home to bring the arts to their community in other ways, hosting house concerts and local artists. As this grew, Kiaralinda realized they’d eventually need a bigger venue. “When you have 170 people in your gazebo and in your front yard listening to music, it’s kind of time to move it somewhere else,” she says.

Now, after five years of planning, raising funds and construction, their new venue, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAM), has opened in the city’s downtown, at 706 Second St. N. The artistic hub for northern Pinellas County opened its doors over Thanksgiving weekend with a three-day celebration, SHAMsgiving. They followed this up with a 12 Days of Christmas holiday event. 

“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” Kiaralinda says. The new venue is a larger-scale version of their home. “There’s art everywhere.”

SHAMc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, became a possibility for the couple when they won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2011. Since the initial Pepsi grant, the project has been funded by a mix of donations, fundraisers and grants from the city. The plan was to create a center dedicated to all facets of the arts -- visual arts, music, literature, performing arts -- which is exactly what the venue is, Kiaralinda says. “We’re filling the calendar faster than we ever imagined we would, ever since we opened the doors,” she adds. 

Laura Kepner, founder of the Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, which now hosts its monthly open mics at SHAMc, says the local arts scene wouldn’t be what it is without Kiaralinda and Ramquist. 

“They support me with the open mic,” she says. “The really cool thing about [them] is if you want to do something with your art, whatever your art is, they’re probably going to cheer you on and say, how can we work together?”

The SHAM project transformed the Rigsby House, “a woodsy building” on the property when they purchased it, Kiaralinda says. “The old house was saved and resurrected. We did what we could to keep that alive.”

The original home is now called the ARTery, a space for workshops and to showcase local artwork. They also built a new two-story building called the ODDitorium, where the larger performances and events will take place.

Now, the folks behind SHAMc are planning their annual Safety Harbor SongFest, which is set for April 1 at Waterfront Park. The two-day music festival, which will feature artists including Magic Giant, Rising Appalachia, Charlie Mars and Joe Craven this year, will serve as a fundraiser for the new arts center.

Kiaralinda says SHAMc has a deep volunteer base of about 300 or so. “It’s been a really, really good ride, and we’ve had a lot of support,” she says, despite delays in funding and construction.

Though she and Ramquist have long been a staple of the Safety Harbor arts scene, she’s amazed by the response she’s received since SHAMc opened. “It’s crazy how many people walk through here and want to do things,” she says.

Join Hillsborough MPO in Vision Zero Community Workshop on January 31

Tampa Bay area bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates will hit the streets for a field review of Hillsborough Avenue during the second of four Vision Zero Workshops, taking place on Jan. 31 from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. at the Town 'N Country Regional Library, 7606 Paula Drive.

Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to join the MPO, Hillsborough County Sheriff's office staff, and students and seniors from the neighboring middle school and senior center on a walking audit of Hillsborough Avenue and Hanley Road, where they will observe traveler behavior and road design to determine whether pedestrian access and safety are taken into account at nearby destinations, and what improvements might be made.  

Following the field review, the Vision Zero committee will break into four Action Track teams to begin developing each group's action plans for 2017. The Vision Zero Action tracks are as follows: 
  • Paint Saves Lives: low-cost, high-impact engineering strategies for safer streets
  • One Message, Many Voices: public education and awareness strategies
  • Consistent and Fair: community-oriented law enforcement
  • The Future Will Not Be Like the Past: context-sensitive design for walkable communities
Currently, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region ranks seventh in the nation for pedestrian fatalities, with 821 pedestrians killed over a 10-year period through 2014, according to the biennial Dangerous by Design report released by Smart Growth America on Jan. 10. Though still listed in the top ten most dangerous places, the Tampa region did make a shift away from its 2nd place position, which was reflected in the previous report in 2014. 

By the end of 2017, the Vision Zero Action Plan aims to outline steps that will move Hillsborough County to its goal of zero traffic deaths. 

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend all Vision Zero workshops, and to join Vision Zero Action Tracks to brainstorm solutions for safer streets. 

Can't make it to the Jan. 31 workshop? Get involved any time by adding your voice to the Vision Zero Interactive Map of Hillsborough County and sharing site-specific traffic concerns with the MPO. Scroll down the Vision Zero Action Plan page to find the map, select "Pinpoint Safety Concerns" and click "Points" to place your comments and safety concerns on the map. 

Want to learn more about the Hillsborough MPO's revolutionary Vision Zero initiative and to get connected for future upcoming workshops and events? Follow the new Vision Zero Hillsborough Facebook page.

Read more stories about Vision Zero in 83 Degrees.

St. Petersburg’s Station House undergoes next phase in urban development

Station House, downtown St. Petersburg’s unique co-working space, restaurant and event venue, is undergoing the next phase in development with plans to update the main facility and expand the concept to an additional location, says Founder and Proprietor Steve Gianfilippo.

“It’s part of a planned phased-in upgrade,” says Gianfilippo. “I like to let our customers give us feedback about where we can make improvements. We’ve been listening and now we’re ready to move forward. It’s an evolving process.”

Station House opened in 2014 after extension renovations to its historic 100-year-old location that once housed a fire station, then hotel and train station. The five-story venue now includes a first-floor restaurant and bar; communal and co-working space for lease anywhere from a day to long-term; small private office suites; event meeting rooms and a rooftop garden. Memberships at various levels are offered.

Construction begins this month (January 2017) on a number of planned upgrades to the venue. First on the list is a shaded pergola and landscaping for the rooftop garden.

“We needed to provide some protection from the elements and a little shade to make it more comfortable, especially in the summer,” says Gianfilippo. The rooftop space can accommodate private parties, community events and fitness activities like the popular yoga classes that are held there.

The restaurant and co-working spaces, as well as the building’s front entrance, will also be enhanced.

While the restaurant will remain in the same location, the entry will move to the front of the building to make it more visible and to improve traffic flow, as well as giving it a higher profile, Gianfilippo says. The restaurant’s interior will have an overhaul in concept, layout and design.  

“It’s all part of a plan to raise the profile of the restaurant, improve entry to the building and create better synergy between the various elements we offer at Station House,” says Gianfilippo. “It’s preliminary right now, but some of the plans under consideration include extensive landscaping and a mural at the front entrance with some sort of 3D mapping experience.”

The popular communal co-working space, which features a striking black-and-white tile floor, high-top tables and meeting rooms set up as living rooms, will also have a few added “fun” elements like a ping pong table and virtual gaming.

Station House will also be expanding into the Central Arts District. Last August, Gianfilippo purchased another historic property -- the Green-Richman Arcade, located at 689 Central Avenue. The 1920-era building is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Station House members will be able to use the new venue, which is currently being branded as the Station House Arcade.  Gianfilippo says he expects renovations on the arcade to be complete by the end of January.  

The historic façade of the building will remain but a renovation of the interior is planned with offices, common areas, conference rooms, and possibly an interior garden. The property, which is near the Morean Arts Center, Chihuly Collection and Central Avenue boutiques and galleries, will reflect the eclectic creative arts culture in that part of downtown, says Gianfilippo.  

“This is a growing area and we got in just in the nick of time,” he says. “It’s a cool, hip area that is quickly developing.”

Construction on the restaurant at the main facility is projected to be completed by spring or summer of 2017.

UNION72 opens in Wesley Chapel, plans second location a month later

Just four weeks after opening their barbecue restaurant, UNION72 in Wesley Chapel, owners Jeff Martin and Bharat Chhabria are already planning their second location.
 
"We are fortunate and blessed in that our business is already exceeding our expectations," Chhabria says. "We thank our loyal customers for that. We've had customers travel up to see us from as far south as Sarasota, so the thought of a second location came up rather quickly."
 
Martin, who also founded The Brass Tap, and Chhabria, a fellow restauranteur, opened UNION72 in mid-November at The Shops at Wiregrass in a 2,000-square-foot space located at 2000 Piazza Avenue, Suite 150. It's between Cantina Laredo and The Brass Tap.
 
The idea behind the restaurant is to create "an elevated barbecue experience," combining traditional barbecue techniques with modern culinary innovations. The menu emphasizes unique ingredients and fusions.
 
"The response has been extremely encouraging, and we have been very well received," Chhabria says. "A quick look at our Facebook reviews and Yelp reviews will show that 5-star reviews are the most common. Great feedback on both the food quality and service levels. Couldn't ask for more."
 
Yelp reviewer Sarah D., for example, says customers who try the restaurant won't be disappointed.
 
"If there is one thing that is hard to find in Tampa, it's great barbecue," she writes. "This new spot in wiregrass mall is just what the area needed. I love their long table with the site of their open kitchen. I think it's always great to see the staff of restaurants interact in the kitchen. While there we ordered the chopped brisket and pork and it was delish!!"
 
Prior to opening, Chhabria says the owners used social media -- Facebook and Instagram  -- to spread awareness of the restaurant. Now, word of mouth seems to be the strongest marketing tool.
 
"We've even spoken to customers at dinner that said they are here because their friends came in earlier in the day for lunch and loved the place. The same day," Chhabria says.
 
Although Chhabria says the pair can't disclose the exact locations they're looking at for their second restaurant because of ongoing negotiations, he explains that they've narrowed their sites to a couple of places in the greater Tampa Bay area.
 
" … we can say that these locations are based in strong communities like Wesley Chapel, which will allow us to participate as a local neighbor," he says, adding they'd like to be up and running with the second restaurant in 4-6 months and that it will be similar to the first location.
 
"We have something here that works, and our customers love it," he says. "We would like to keep our operating model the same -- high quality but different/innovative barbecue with superlative standards of service. We may learn a couple of things in the next few months that we can incorporate in the next location, but largely speaking, why fix something that's not broken?"

Florida DOT, Tampa celebrate new streetscape through Ybor City

Twenty-four years ago on Dec. 9, Richard Gonzmart was mourning the loss of his father. This year, though, that memory was likely softened with a happier one.

State and city officials came together in Ybor City that day to celebrate the completion of the 21st and 22nd Streets Urban Corridor Modification Project, as well as the banning of truck traffic on both streets.
 
"This is a dream that my father had back in the 80s," said Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the celebration. "He envisioned the day there would be no trucks, and this would be the gateway, the entrance, to this historic, beautiful area."
 
When Interstate-4 was built in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets became the main routes to the Port of Tampa. As the port grew, truck traffic in Ybor City increased. So, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Tampa collaborated to find solutions to the problem.
 
The first step was to build the Interstate-4/Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Connector to provide a safer, more-efficient route for truck traffic between the Port of Tampa and I-4. The $426 million connector has exclusive truck lanes for direct access to the port. 
 
The second part, which took nearly two years to complete and was celebrated Dec. 9, was the reconstruction of 21st and 22nd streets. It provides pedestrian and bike connectivity on 21st and 22nd streets between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Other major features include wider and scored sidewalks, on-street parking, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, outdoor street furniture, landscaping, iconic five-globe lampposts, a new water main, and repairs to the stormwater and sewer system. The city paid $2.5 million toward the total cost of $9.5 million.
 
During the Dec. 9 ceremony, an official sign honoring the partnership between FDOT and the City of Tampa, and announcing "no through truck traffic," was unveiled.
 
"With the completion of this project, trucks are now restricted from traveling through this section, which will allow this area to grow again," Paul Steinman, secretary of FDOT's District 7, said during the ceremony. "This project is an outstanding example of when the federal government, state and local governments work together with our community to find a balance between the growth of the state of Florida and our economy, and how we make our communities a better place to work, live and play."
 
Gonzmart said the day was a milestone because it represented a rebirth of Ybor City, and the beginning of the realization of his father's vision.
 
"You're going to see expansion to the east, to the south, to the north, creating job opportunities; for those that live and those that visit here, a place to call home once again like it was back in the early 1900s," he said during the celebration. "Our family has been so excited that we have five projects that will be announced over the next three months, all within 200 yards of what is the Columbia Restaurant because we know, we realize, the commitment the state of Florida, the City of Tampa have made, is going to make Ybor City and make Tampa a better place because of it."

Ava plans second restaurant location at The Heights Public Market

Joshua Hernandez, executive chef at Ava, is about to get a lot busier.
 
In early 2017, Ava will open its second location at The Heights Public Market, which is being developed by Tampa-based SoHo Capital. The market will be located inside the redeveloped Armature Works building, a 70,000-square-foot structure that once served as a storage and maintenance facility for Tampa’s streetcars.
 
Among the group of Ava investors behind the expansion are Michael Stewart, who runs the successful restaurants 717 in Tampa and The Lure in St. Petersburg, and Joe Maddon, manager of the world champion Chicago Cubs.
 
"We're super excited," Hernandez says. "When I found out that Chas (Bruck, a principle of the development company) and the folks at Soho Capital were interested in being a part, I was really pumped. I think it's a great opportunity to expand our business."
 
The menu at the new 440-square-foot Ava location will be a bit different from the original restaurant, which has been open for two years in South Tampa.
 
"The focus is going to be on pizza," Hernandez explains. "So, we'll have some of the favorites from Ava, and then there's going to be some pizzas that are only going to be available at The Heights location."
 
There will also be paninis that are exclusive to The Heights Public Market, as well as salads.
 
Hernandez says customers trying out the new restaurant for the first time should definitely order one of the new pizzas, although he's still working out the details of the pies that will be available and jokes that he's keeping people "in suspense for now."
 
"There might be pesto involved," he quips, "I'm not sure."
 
The ovens at both locations are made by Acunto, which Hernandez says is the most respected oven producer in Naples, Italy. But the oven at The Heights will have a 140-centimeter floor, which is 10 centimeters larger than the oven floor at the original location and can accommodate more pizzas.
 
"I'm excited to make an offering to people who might not have been to Ava before," Hernandez says. "And I'm also hoping that having some exclusivity at The Heights will bring some of our loyal customers out to the market."
 
Hernandez says the new Ava location and The Heights Public Market are important for the Tampa Bay community.
 
"I think the whole, sort of, rejuvenation with the Riverwalk is really exciting just kind of watching that part of town liven up," he explains. "Between Ulele and the new coffee shop is over there -- The Foundation -- and the brewery (Hidden Springs Ale Works), it's kind of cool watching the neighborhood and community get going."

"I think it's very important not to rest on your laurels," he adds. "Ava's doing very well in SoHo. From our perspective, that's all the more reason to test the waters in another area."
 
And if Ava's second location proves to be a success, there could be future locations in the works.
 
"We are going to take it one step at a time," Hernandez says. "The talk is there if it goes well, if it's a model that's feasible, we definitely have our heads in that game."
 
"From my end, I'm kind of using it as a pilot to see how the pizzeria concept goes."
 
Other partners that have been announced at The Heights Public Market include: Ichicoro Ramen, a mod casual authentic Ramen restaurant, serving soulful, delicious food and beverages; Union by Commune + Co, a local coffee company that has a fleet of trikes sharing the company’s flagship iced coffee product, Pressure Brew, at area events; Tailored Twig, a floral boutique that specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces for distinctive events; Chocolate Pi, a bakery focusing on pastries and cakes made in the European tradition with American creativity; Fine and Dandy, a cocktail emporium focusing on package sales, craft cocktail kits and classes; and Steelbach Ranch, a boutique butcher with charcuterie and artisan cheeses.
 
Two other restaurants will be located at The Heights Public Market, including Steelbach, a modern eatery that uses the best meats from the in-house butcher in the market, and Atlantic Beer & Oyster, an outdoor eatery that will showcase a rotation of East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip, its signature grouper sandwich, and local breweries.

The market will also feature an interactive kitchen, called Show + Tell, that will host educational cooking classes, corporate team-building activities and pop-up dinners in collaboration with market tenants. 

The market has space for three more tenants and plans to announce them soon.

Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center now open in Tampa

On Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory was inaugurated at 522 N. Howard Ave. in Tampa.
 
Exactly 75 years later, the building was re-opened as the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center with more than 100,000 square feet of community space.
 
"My heart is racing," says Jack Ross, Executive Director, on Wednesday, Dec. 7, the eve of the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony.
 
For him, the state-of-the-art facility represents "five years of intense collaboration with some of the best creative, intellectual and professional people," he's ever worked with. It's named for Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who pledged $4 million to the project. The Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott put in more than $7 million. Hillsborough County contributed $1.3 million. The entire project cost a total of $30 million.
 
Over the last three-quarters of a century, the property has served as a camp site of the Rough Riders (the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment raised in 1898 for the Spanish-American War); the site of an Elvis Presley performance; speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy; and one of the original venues for professional wrestling, Ross says.
 
"But even more than that, you also have the Tampa history," he adds. "You have thousands of people who attended graduations, weddings, cotillions, convention meetings. So, we as an organization have the privilege of not only restoring a landmark property, but we had the opportunity to repurpose the facility and relaunch it into a new bright future."
 
The building is divided into a member section on the west side and a non-member section on the east side.
 
The member side houses a more than 50,000-square-foot fitness and aquatic center, known as the Diane and Leon Mezrah Family Aquatic Center. There's a multisport gymnasium and indoor track, yoga, spin, Pilates, and Group Ex classes. Anyone can become a member, and fees range from $49-$159, Ross says.
 
The non-member section houses the Roberta M. Golding Center for the Visual Arts, a premier fine arts center operated by the City of Tampa in conjunction with the Tampa Museum of Art in partnership with the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners. There's also a large event space, a social service center operated by Tampa Jewish Family Services, and the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator.
 
The accelerator is a landing pad for Israeli high-tech companies who want to launch in the United States, Ross explains. It assists these companies by aligning them with corporate strategic partners and getting their products ready for the U.S. market.
 
Anyone can use the event space for meetings, weddings, banquets and other occasions.
 
"Flexibility and versatility was the mantra in developing the whole building," Ross says.
 
Furthermore, a pre-school will be added to the property, although details of this second phase of the project are still in the works.
 
Ross says the importance of the center is three-fold. It revived and repurposed a historic landmark; it will have injected $30 million into the local community and hundreds of jobs by the time both phases are complete; and it’s a gathering spot for all faiths, creeds and religions.
 
"We are building community at a time when our country seems divided," he explains. "This is the great communal gathering spot. This is a place to come to gather and grow."
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