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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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New Frank Lloyd Wright House Stands Out At Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College has made architectural history once again with the completion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House. Designed by Wright in 1941, the plans for the Usonian House where locked away — until now. 
 
This construction marks the first time this particular design of a Wright home has even been built. 
 
The 1,700-square-foot Usonian House is expected to become the centerpiece of Florida Southern College’s Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center — the first stop for tens of thousands of visitors who come to Lakeland annually to see the Wright-designed campus and buildings.
 
Built by Rodda Construction, Inc. of Lakeland and with M. Jeffrey Baker of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects of Albany, NY acting as supervising architect, the project showcases many of Wright’s signature architectural features, including a large open fireplace, cantilever construction, colored cast-glass blocks, floor-to-ceiling windows, minimal storage space and a floor plan that encouraged family togetherness.
 
“The Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, with the Usonian House as its centerpiece, represents the college’s ongoing commitment to preserving and celebrating its unique architectural legacy,” says Florida Southern Director of Marketing & Communications Kathleen Farley. “With the addition of the Usonian House and the new educational resources the Sharp Center brings, we expect that our tourism numbers will rise significantly, bringing more visitors not only to our campus, but also to downtown Lakeland and other attractions in Polk County.”
 
Currently, the Florida Southern College campus welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually and boasts the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. 
 
The West Campus of Florida Southern College represents the most fully articulated vision of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, including the largest water feature, the only theater-in-the-round and the only planetarium ever designed by Wright. These attractions receive upwards of 100,000 visitors per year.
 
“Any fan of architecture or student of American history should make the trip to see this absolutely stunning and unique collection. I feel privileged that I get to walk among these structures every day,” Farley says. “Wright’s attention-to-design on a grand scale right down to the tiniest of details is simply mind-blowing. No aspect of these structures occurred by happenstance — every detail was carefully thought out to achieve a particular outcome and particular experience for each viewer.”
 
Usonian was Wright’s acronym for United States of North America, implying an aesthetic stemming from the blend of cultures and environments unique to the country. Wright initially conceived several Usonian-style homes to serve as faculty housing for the campus, however, none were built. This particular design has never been constructed before.
 
Funded by a number of private donations, the project received a $1 million contribution from Polk County and a donation of $500,000 from the City of Lakeland.
 
Woodwork for the project was performed by Thomas Sharrett of Demoss Cabinetry of Lakeland and cast glass fabrication by Ron Bearer, Jr. of R4 Glass Studio in Cocoa. Cast glass installation was performed by Ken Berman of Lakeland’s The Glass Onion and textile blocks were created by Ken Uracius of Stone and Lime Inc, of Brookfield, MA.
 
Source: Kathleen Farley, Florida Southern College

New Clearwater Apartments Target Homeless Veterans

Providing a place of healing and sanctuary for military veterans experiencing the aftereffects of war, Tampa Bay's Homeless Emergency Project recently celebrated the opening of a new housing development, HEP West Apartment Community.

As one of the largest providers of housing services for veterans in the area, HEP opened its new 3-acre, 32-apartment community with a focus on getting both male and female veterans "all the way home.'' HEP's target population includes 20- and 30-somethings returning back to the states from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to provide homeless and very low income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and the support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life,'' says HEP Director of Marketing Ashley Chango. "Our goal is to help people help themselves.''

Klar & Klar of Clearwater acted as architect on the project and Bradley Construction of Clearwater as general contractor. Funding for HEP West was made possible through a combination of government and private foundation grants, as well as private and corporate donors.

Rated four stars by Charity Navigator, the organization is located on an 8-acre campus in Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood and currently serves about 400 men, women and children on a daily basis.

In 2012, the local organization served 1,689 people, including 660 veterans, 63 families and 143 children, according to Chango.

"Our vision is to be the last shelter any individual, family or veteran ever has to enter,'' she says. "With an 87 percent success rate of HEP residents obtaining independent housing the community upon discharge of our program, we're well on our way.''

And the new West Community will aid HEP in making strides towards its goal.

Located in the heart of Clearwater, the community features 32 brand new 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment homes. Fully furnished, each unit includes a private bedroom, bath, central HVAC, storage and kitchen with new appliances.

The landscaped grounds encourage residents to relax, socialize and exercise in a tranquil, park-like setting featuring a 2,300-square-foot club house. A 24-hour security team will be featured on-site, as well as case managers and five full-time addiction and mental health counselors funded by a federal grant.

HEP also provides round-trip transportation to St. Pete's Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

"We're the only service agency of its kind,'' Chango says. "Our program is truly one-of-a-kind, and HEP West is just a part of the homeless population that we serve. We won't consider out work to be done until we can end homelessness for good.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Chango, Homeless Emergency Project

Urban Land Institute Visit Examines Pasco County's Growth

Pasco County should redouble efforts to encourage development along north-south U.S. Highway 19 in West Pasco and abandon the idea of building an elevated tollway along the east-west State Road 54/56 corridor, according to preliminary recommendations by a panel of urban experts visiting under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute. 

ULI experts were in Pasco from Oct 7 to Oct 11. The panel was invited by the County to help evaluate its planning efforts since 2008, ULI's last visit.

Much of the ULI panel's visit to Pasco, the county immediately north of more urban Pinellas (Clearwater-St. Pete) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties was dedicated to private interviews and discussions with the local community, business leaders, county staff and other stakeholders.

The ULI Panel acknowledged that the County has made significant strides since 2008 with the adoption of the Market Areas, Urban Services Areas, the County's Strategic Plan and other improvements. Although the ULI Panel applauded the County's recent planning efforts, it also cautioned Pasco County on several aspects of development.

"Pasco County has approved over 300,000 units for construction, adequate to meet the supply for next 75 years,'' says ULI Panelist Dan Conway. Because approved growth far exceeds market demand, the County should guide new development into designated Urban Service Areas on highways 19 and 54.

Redevelopment efforts along the U.S. 19 corridor should focus on creating Business Improvement Districts, providing redevelopment incentives and seek public-private partnerships to establish a "Corridor Lifestyle'' characterized by high-density mixed-use development within walkable distances from transit stops.

Panelist April Anderson Lamoureux recommends growing the health care sector and small business expansion. The County also should "embrace Eco-Tourism as one of its key development opportunity,'' adds Anderson-Lamoureux.

The ULI Panel recommended against plans to build an elevated tollway on the State Roads 54/56 corridor, connecting U.S. 19 to East Pasco.

"All around the Country there are at least 12 efforts to take down elevated highway structures since the community said they don't want them,'' says Pat Hawley, one of the ULI Panelists, referring to notable projects in cities that are turning highways into vibrant parks.

"You might have the potential to build the tollway but it would in fact impede the County's efforts of creating place making,'' concludes Hawley.

ULI Panelist Dan Slone suggested the County look at the "Highways to Boulevards'' initiative by the Congress for New Urbanism.
 
Lastly, the Panel asked Pasco County to embrace its diversity and cautioned against applying the same design standards throughout the county. The Panel is expected to give a full report within the next 90 days.
 
"ULI's recommendations validate our efforts to make Pasco a premier county,'' says John Hagen, President of Pasco Economic Development Council.
"The Panel may have just pointed us to the true North. I think we need to re-examine the elevated tollway.''

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Urban Land Institute, is a nonprofit global education and research institute, which provides Advisory Services to communities for solving planning and policy issues.

The panel included economic development, real estate and urban planning experts, both from public and private sectors. On the final day of their visit, panel members presented their initial findings and recommendations at the West Pasco Government Center to a large gathering of nearly 100 people.
   
Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

Urbanism On Tap Opens Mic For Talk About Citybuilding

Tampa's Urban Charrette  and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay Chapter will host Urbanism on Tap at New World Brewery in Ybor City on November 12 starting at 5:30 pm. This open mic format event is designed to generate constructive conversations about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

The event is the second in a three-part series, entitled "How Do You Get There?'' It will focus on understanding some critical questions such as: How does one get to places which they like in Tampa? What determines our choices in getting around the city that we like so much? How do we as residents and citizens of Tampa envision its future with respect to access and mobility? Seeking answers to some of these key questions will help us understand the transportation issues and challenges that we face in our daily lives.

Overall, the intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa, a more livable City.

Urbanism on Tap is an event focused on generating a dialogue within the community led by the Urban Charette and CNU Tampa Bay. Moderators and attendees can share their stories related to the topic of the day. Every event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend and share their views.

Following the event, everyone is encouraged to continue the conversation online through the Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page or website.

Venue: New World Brewery, Ybor City, 1313 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605
Date and Time: Nov. 12th from 5:30 p.m to 7 p.m
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry and Ashly Anderson, CNU Tampa Bay

USFSM Ushers In Scientific Renaissance With Mote Partnership, New Science Labs, Biology Major

The STEM curriculum is a rapidly evolving organism at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. On Oct. 17, USFSM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new science labs at Mote Marine Laboratories and announced that a new undergraduate major will be offered in biology at the university starting next fall.

Willis A. Smith Construction oversaw the development of a biology lab, chemistry lab and student teaching area in a pre-existing 4,600-square-foot research facility on the Mote Marine campus. Designed by Fawley-Bryant Architects, each lab includes 26 student stations that are served by laboratory gas and fume snorkels. An additional laboratory prep area serving both the biology and chemistry labs houses high-tech research tools including autoclaves, incubators, sub-zero freezers and student safety stations.

The $1.5 million project was funded by private donors, foundations and grants that covered the cost of construction as well as the purchase of lab equipment. Construction took place between the months of March and August, 2013, when the labs welcomed its first batch of undergraduate students.

Dr. Jane Rose,  Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USFSM, says that students will not only receive valuable hands-on access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, but they will also benefit from one-on-one face-time with world-class researchers and teaching scientists who partner with the university from 22 diverse research programs at Mote Marine.

"While the partnership was developed as a way for the university just to get into the sciences, it has enabled us to do so in very a special way, and to make a contribution to the whole state repertoire of science programs. Most importantly, it's a chance to really serve our students from the Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte County region,'' says Rose.

The new state-of-the-art laboratories at Mote Marine and B.S. Biology program for undergraduate students are integral elements in USFSM’s transition into a full four-year institution of higher learning, which began in August when the university welcomed its first class of incoming freshmen.

The biology program is in its pilot year at the university. The degree program does not officially launch until Fall 2014, but current students can declare a biology major and begin to pursue pre-requisite coursework in the biology field at any time. A small group of students began attending classes in the labs when the Fall 2013 semester commenced in August.

"Florida offers many undergraduate biology degrees, but none of them will be quite like ours. In most major universities, the research faculty generally delivers the lecture section to auditoriums filled with hundreds of students, but it's graduate students who are teaching the labs. Undergrad students don't get to know the real research faculty well until they've advanced in their degree or until they're graduate students, which comes down to a class size issue. Our classes will be intentionally small so that students have close working relationships with the research faculty as early as their freshman year,'' Rose says.

"Whether it's a Mote Marine researcher or our faculty leading the students, they will not only be delivering the lecture portion of the courses, but they will also be in the labs working with those students, which will make the labs much more significant. Many people would argue that where scientists really learn is in the lab components of their courses,'' Rose adds.

Rose says that prior to the introduction of the B.S. in biology program, there was no biology degree available for public university students in the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte region.

"These students will be be at an advantage because they have had so much meaningful lab experience right from the beginning of their college careers. They will be competitive in entry level lab jobs in medical field and in industrial research and development with their undergraduate degrees, but more importantly, most careers in the sciences do involved graduate study. Students working in our research labs will be well-prepared for that,'' Rose says.

"Now, not only can you stay here to get a biology degree, but you can stay here to get a biology degree to be envied.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jane Rose, USFSM

New Saunders Library To Be Built In Tampa In 2014

The old Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library near Ybor City will be torn down starting in December to make way for a new library at the same location. Plans call for the new library to be built in 2014 and open in 2015.

Construction on the $4.5 million, 25,000-square-foot library is expected to begin in January and will replace the nearly 45-year-old building currently located at 1505 N. Nebraska Ave. The new library construction continues the City's effort to invest in and improve neighborhoods just north of downtown Tampa.

"This will be marvelous for the community with Encore across the street with direct access to the library,'' says City Councilman Frank Reddick. "It's a project that many people have worked on for a lot of years.''

The existing library was built in the late 1960s and named for civil rights leader Robert W. Saunders Sr. Once known as The Scrub, the area was settled in the early 1900s by freed slaves after the Civil War.

The new two-story library will preserve the legacy of its namesake with a bust of Saunders in the existing library's reading area, and an African-American Research Library will become the central archive for historic documents and artifacts from notable local African American leaders and organizations. The Research Library will chronicle the history of the area and, according to Sells, will house numerous special collections.

"We're highlighting a lot of African-American history in Tampa,'' says Chief Library Renelda Sells.

Additionally, the new library will feature a bookstore, a recording room, a children's section and a 350-seat multipurpose room slated to include a portable stage for plays, concerts and banquets.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School students are expected to take advantage of these new spaces during school hours; a walkway currently connects the school building with the existing 7,300-square-foot, single-story library.

The current Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library will close on Sunday, December 1st, with new construction expected to see completion by anticipated by early 2015.

"We have been waiting a long time for this,'' says Fred Hearns, President of the Robert W. Saunders Foundation.

During construction, library patrons are encouraged to take advantage of the John F. Germany Public Library at 900 N. Ashley Dr., the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library at 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the Seminole Heights Public Library at 4711 N. Central Ave.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Frank Reddick and Renelda Sells, City of Tampa; Fred Hearns, Robert W. Saunders Foundation

WalMart Announces New Store in South St. Petersburg

Walmart plans to open a new store in the recently vacated Sweetbay grocery at the Tangerine Plaza in the Midtown neighborhood of St. Petersburg in early 2014.
 
St. Petersburg city officials and Urban Development Solutions say Walmart will be occupying the existing 39,000-square-foot store as a neighborhood market store.

Introduced in 1998, Walmart's Neighborhood Market format is one-quarter of the size of a typical Walmart Supercenter. With a floor area of about 40,000 square feet,  market stores are smaller and cater to a limited catchment area such as a neighborhood or a group of neighborhoods.

"Since Sweetbay left, the surrounding neighborhood did not have any full service grocery store within walking distance, making it extremely inconvenient for its residents,'' says Beth Herendeen, City of St. Petersburg Communications Director.

Located at 22nd St. S. and 18th Ave. S., the proposed Midtown store will attract customers from adjoining residential areas. According to Herendeen, the store will roughly serve a population of 14,750 to 35,600 within a three- to five-minute drive-time distance.

The store's small size and its location will enable residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to walk to get their groceries.

The concept of Neighborhood Market Stores was introduced by Walmart in response to changes in urban demographics and economic priorities. A small-scale store fits well in urban neighborhoods and is more convenient in heavily populated areas. Walmart Supercenters with large parking lots fit better in suburbs. A smaller store is designed to enable customers to park easily and enjoy less crowded aisles and quicker checkouts.

Since Sweetbay closed at Tangerine Plaza, the city who had earlier assembled the land at $3.1 million and started looking for potential partners, including Walmart. "Since the City is a financial stakeholder in the land, the City took an active role in bringing in Walmart,'' says Herendeen.

The neighborhood store at the Tangerine Plaza will have a full grocery, including produce and a pharmacy. It will employ 95 associates, for whom a temporary hiring center has been opened at the store. Interested applicants can also apply online.

"With Walmart's neighborhood market store, the residents will once again have access to fresh food and pharmacy, which is critical for maintaining a healthy community,'' says Herendeen.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Beth Herendeen, Communications Director, City of St.Petersburg

Sarasota's Selby Gardens Flourishes With Renovations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construction Begins On Water Works Park, Extension Of Tampa Riverwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Your City? Participate In Local Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Urbanists from all over the Tampa Bay region are invited to participate in a Tactical Urbanism Movement workshop on Wednesday, October 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Beck Group, 220 West 7th Avenue, in Tampa.

Tactical Urbanism is a rapidly growing international movement of small-scale, temporary, low-cost, high-reward actions that lead to an immediate improvement in a community's public life, often followed by long-term urban interventions. Guerilla Gardening, Pavement-to-Parks or Reclaiming a Parking Space are some of the examples of Tactical Urbanism that are currently being applied by citizens in many U.S. cities.
 
The local Tactical Urbanism Workshop is coordinated by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Congress for New Urbanism-Tampa Bay. Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer and an advocate for livable cities, will lead the workshop.

"It will be exciting to be a part of this urban place-making movement that is currently sweeping our country's major cities,'' says Lauren Matzke, a Clearwater City Planner and the workshop's main coordinator.

As a part of the workshop, participants will get hands-on experience in planning and intervening on an actual site in Downtown Tampa. Apart from promising a fun planning experience, the workshop also intends to train the participants on how to plan, fund and carry out these projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

The event is expected to draw a variety of participants such as engaged citizens, stakeholders, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, local leaders, government officials and other advocates who are passionate about their city and urban experiences. You can RSVP here.

Tactical Urbanism was named as one of the top trends in 2012 by the urban planning website Planetizen. Implementation of this movement in the Tampa Bay region is expected to inspire innovative planning ideas, urban interventions and collaborations.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Lauren Matzke, City of Clearwater

Synergy Health Moves From North Tampa To Downtown

A leading provider of specialist services, the British firm Synergy plans to relocate from its current 45,000-square-foot corporate American headquarters at 12425 Race Track Road in Tampa to downtown Tampa's iconic SunTrust building.

"This move to downtown Tampa is part of our plan to become more involved in the Tampa Bay community,'' says Group CEO and founder of Synergy Health Dr. Richard Steeves. "The new location also makes business easier and more convenient for our international colleagues with increased proximity to Tampa International Airport.''

The relocation is set to include 100 existing employees while creating approximately 40 new jobs within the next year in Hillsborough County.

"We're working to create an active, vibrant downtown that serves as a hub of innovation and commerce,'' says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "Synergy Health's decision to become part of our downtown community is more proof that our efforts are paying off. I look forward to welcoming the company and its employees to downtown Tampa.''

While no financial incentives were involved in the company's decision to relocate, the move will help Synergy become more active in promoting innovation in the life sciences industry, including the MediFuture initiative launched by the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. earlier this year.

"Earlier this year, we welcomed Synergy Health to Hillsborough County and celebrated the arrival of another significant industry partner,'' says Chairman of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners Ken Hagan. "Their commitment is a key step in creating a critical mass in Tampa Bay's life sciences industry.''

Plans to sell the existing Synergy Health facility, previously occupied by SRI Surgical, are underway; the property is assessed at $3.5 million. Representation will be provided by Cassidy Turley of Tampa.

The U.K.-based Synergy Health provides sterilization services to hospitals in Europe, Asia and across America for surgical instruments, reusable operating room textiles and sterilization services for medical devices. In 2012, the company acquired SRI Surgical, and in April 2013, announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters for the Americas from San Diego to Tampa Bay. Synergy Health currently employs 5,600 individuals worldwide.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Richard Steeves, Synergy Health; Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Channel District Gains New Apartments, Downtown Tampa

Miami's Related Group is celebrating the grand opening of Pierhouse Apartments, an artsy enclave with an industrial flair, in the Channel District of downtown Tampa.

"We chose the area because we're excited by the job growth of the Tampa area, as well as the up-and-coming artsy edginess of the Channel District,'' says Arturo Pena, Pierhouse project manager and VP of Related Development. "Pierhouse brings more residents to an area that is growing more and more popular as it reaches critical mass. We are proud to play a part in this.''

With four, four-story wood frame buildings, the project includes 365 apartments, an expansive pool/sun deck area with a bar and poolside grilling areas, two-story gym, therapy room, event meeting/dining room, catered kitchen and dining room, double-height club lounge, gated parking garage and an urban art park located directly in the middle of the development.

Featuring five large, heavily landscaped courtyards, the park showcases specially commissioned sculptures for the development. Keeping in line with Related’s commitment to the arts and promoting green spaces, Pena expects the park to be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of urban living.

"Residents and visitors will be able to both admire the views and artwork within the park or simply go for a stroll through it,'' he says. "We are confident Pierhouse will be a signature project in the area and look forward to becoming an active part of the neighborhood.''

The project also expects to add nearly 4,800 square feet of retail. Plans for amenities that can both benefit residents and the neighborhood are in the works, including a sandwich shop, coffee house and/or wine bar.

"We want Pierhouse to continue to build on the transformation of the Channel District -- from its working marina, nautical past to a cool, artsy 24-hour district offering residents a place to live, work and play,'' Pena says.

Designed by MSA Architects, construction began on the new 4-story Pierhouse Apartments in December 2012. Leasing began in April, with the interior and common areas designed by world-renowned interior designers RTKL. Walker and Company acted as general contractor. The project worked with a more than $550 million budget. It is among 11 multifamily projects in Florida announced by Related.

Writer: Alexis Chamberlain
Source: Arturo Pena, Pierhouse Apartments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invision Tampa Invites Input For Nebraska Avenue

The Invision Tampa team is ready to present a draft Nebraska Corridor Master Plan to the public.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the team invites the public to join in a discussion about the planning results responding to community feedback from previous one-on-one meetings, group workshops, neighborhood meetings, surveys and research, as well as to consider preliminary concepts, ideas and strategies suggested by stakeholders. The meeting will be held at the Children's Board in Ybor City, at 1002 E. Palm Ave.

“Connectivity between urban areas has always been a part of the Mayor’s goals and this project ties in nicely,” says City of Tampa Economic Opportunity Administrator Bob McDonough. “Until now, there had never been a comprehensive study of this area that looked at connectivity between major projects, design guidelines, amenities, funding strategies, zoning, land use and growth strategies. This plan will take a holistic approach of all of the various disciplines and future requirements and tie them together in one study.”

Ultimately, the InVision Tampa project is designed  to create a better downtown Tampa: a walkable, bikeable community with a public transit system and increased population in the downtown urban core; a city with strong, safe neighborhoods, more parks and connections to a riverfront with clean waterways.

“It is a very exciting time in Tampa!” McDonough says. “I was a student at the University of Tampa in the early 70s and have witnessed the growth and change in our downtown during the last 30 -- almost 40 -- years. The changes in the last five years have been the most dramatic that I have seen and I can't wait to see the next five.”

Invision Tampa is working toward creating a new master plan for downtown Tampa, the Nebraska Transit Corridor, Hillsborough Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods. Spanning from downtown Tampa to Ybor City on the east, Armenia Avenue on the west and north along Nebraska and Hillsborough Avenues, the area under study includes the University of Tampa (UT), North Hyde Park, West Tampa, Tampa Heights, Ybor City, V.M. Ybor, downtown Tampa and the Channel District.

"InVision Tampa is going to create a blueprint for downtown Tampa for the next 25 years. We are literally studying how people live in Tampa today and how they will tomorrow,'' says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "InVision is looking at how we can improve Tampa's urban core through community participation and proposed ordinance changes.''

The Invision Tampa project is funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob McDonough and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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