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Symposium Aids New, Existing Small Businesses In East Tampa

Wondering how to build a marketing plan that will grow your business? Or just want to  know the nuts and bolts of how to start a new business?
 
The all-day Tampa Bay Small Business Symposium will gather experts in business, marketing, finance and government who will share advice and offer encouragement. The free event will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at the NFL Yet Center at Jackson Heights at 3310 E. Lake Ave.
 
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be guest speaker with a message on "Creating New Opportunities for Small Business."
 
There will be panel discussions, break-out sesssions and  a networking luncheon with guest speaker Charles Long of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Symposium topics include marketing, finance, networking, technology and social media. 
 
"We want to help the person who is new to business or has a business and wants to know how to expand, how to get into computers or hire more people," says Essie Sims, event moderator and chairman of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership. "How do you get from the garage to brick and mortar?"
 
The partnership is a volunteer advisory group that works with Tampa city officials on redevelopment strategies for the East Tampa area. It is one of several event sponsors and participants including the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County, Central Florida Community Planning & Development, SmallBusiness Symposium.com, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, Tampa Bay Economic Development Corporation,  Suncoast Credit Union, Sam's Club and Blue Lynx Marketing.
 
This is the second annual business symposium. Last year's event drew about 200 people, says Carrol Josephs-Marshall, symposium organizer and partnership board member.
 
The focus this year is on break-out sessions to allow more one-on-one discussions between business owners and panel experts.
 
People ready to start a business will be able to get information on the programs, tools, strategies and support organizations that can help turn an idea into a reality. New businesses or established businesses can find out how to move to the next level with advice on marketing, finances and technology.
 
"We're hoping to help small businesses sustain themselves, to give them the tools they need to succeed," says Josephs-Marshall.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Essie Sims and Carrol Josephs-Marshall, East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership

Le Meridien Hotel Plans June 1 Opening In Downtown Tampa

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

Jet City Espresso Opens In Seminole Heights In Tampa

Drop by Jet City Espresso in Seminole Heights and you may find yourself in the midst of a jam session. Guitars, ukulele and banjo, within easy reach of a comfy couch, are invitations for the musically inclined to start strumming and singing. A tuner and pick are on the mantelpiece.
 
They aren't just a decorative whim.
 
"We don't mind if you pick them up and play them," says Jet City General Manager Veronica Lee.
 
Within the past month this Seattle-style coffee house has settled into a 1920s bungalow at 5803 N. Florida Ave. The house is the former location for Jai Dee Yoga and Wellness Studio which moved to its new location at 5610 N. Nebraska Ave.
 
Owner Jessica Glover did little to change the warm, earthy decor of the bungalow's interior beyond adding a kitchen and preparation area. "The inside was just so gorgeously done," Glover says. "We didn't have to change that."
 
Glover opened her first Jet City Espresso nearly three years ago in her Hyde Park home on South Edison Avenue. The Seminole Heights' coffee house is an expansion into a revitalized neighborhood that Glover has had her eye on for quite some time.
 
"We like the uniqueness here, the community of people," Glover says. "We love to see it turning around and focusing on the positive. I'm super happy with this here."
 
A grand opening in Seminole Heights is in the planning stages within the next weeks. And, Lee says open mic nights will follow with Irish and folk music among the genres that will be played.
 
An alcohol beverage license to sell beer and wine is pending and extended hours are anticipated. For now the coffee shop is open for breakfast and lunch.
 
Glover bakes daily, offering an assortment of scones, breads, bagels, quiches and cakes. The menu also has fresh salads and sandwiches. Gluten-free and paleo options are available.
 
Freshly ground and brewed lattes and coffees are poured, including Jet City's signature "Cafe Borgia," a honey, orange infused latte with nutmeg and orange zest.
 
Glover favors local produce and fresh foods and recyclable/compostable products.
 
Some of her menu items go back 18 years to when she first opened a Jet City Espresso in Tampa in the mid-1990s. "It was the first Seattle-style coffee in Tampa," says Glover, a Seattle native. "I was light years ahead of the game. It was so new to Tampa."
 
She closed her shop after five years and opened a restaurant in Colorado. In 2008 Glover returned to Tampa and revived Jet City Espresso, a concept that is in tune with its time.
 
"I love it," says Glover.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jessica Glover

Cry Baby Cafe Arrives On Harbour Island By Downtown Tampa

Cry Baby Cafe is a new arrival to Harbour Island and one that owner Andrew Bonnemort wasn't expecting. But he had a ready name at hand when a spot suddenly opened up across from his long-time restaurant Café Dufrain.
 
The name is one his mother had long wanted to use for a restaurant. She even had a logo concept inspired by the family's ranching history that Fourthdoor Creative Group sketched out for her son's cafe, at 710 Harbour Post Drive.
 
The roadway ends a few yards away at Garrison Channel with views across the water of Tampa's skyline and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
 
"It worked out perfectly that (Cry Baby  Cafe) is right across the street," says Cathy Bellatin, who is in charge of events and marketing for Bonnemort's restaurants.
 
Cafe Dufrain, at 707 Harbour Post Drive, began more than 10 years ago as a deli-coffee shop but soon expanded into dinner hours with beer and wine.
 
Cry Baby is a gourmet sandwich and coffee shop where breads, croissants, quiches and baguettes are baked on-site daily. No preservatives, fillers or artificial flavors are used.
 
Breakfast items include goat cheese souffle and steel cut oatmeal with dried fruit. For lunch there is a variety of sandwiches including a "Roscoe" with hand-carved smoked brisket, red onion, cry baby relish and grain mustard served on a French roll. Premium vegetarian-fed meats are supplied by North Country Smokehouse, a New Hampshire-based business that has been family-owned for more than a 100 years.
 
Organic coffee is made for Cry Baby Cafe by Sweetwater Organic Coffee Roasters in Gainesville, Fl., and meets fair trade standards.
 
"We try to locally source whenever possible," says Bellatin.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Cathy Bellatin, Cry Baby Cafe

Trader Joe's Opens In South Tampa

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

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

Walmart Opens Neighborhood Market in Largo

A new Walmart Neighborhood Market is delivering groceries, pharmacy services and more than 90 jobs to the Largo community.
 
Walmart representatives and community leaders attended the recent grand opening of the store, located at 9020 Ulmerton Road, off Starkey Road. At the ceremony $6,000 in grants were given to Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast, Largo Middle School and Teen Tyne Productions.
 
The store will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It offers a full supply of groceries including organic and natural foods. There also will be prepared foods for sale, fresh breads and baked goods and a self-serve deli with items such as pork loin ribs and rotisserie chicken.
 
Up to 95 full- and part-time jobs are provided at the new store. It is the second neighborhood market to open in Largo in Pinellas County. Walmart is a national chain known for its discounted general merchandise and super centers. The company opened its first neighborhood market in 1998 and now has 300 nationwide.
 
Store manager Shane Dellus began his Walmart employment as an overnight stocker.
 
"We are excited to bring new jobs to the Largo community and to help residents save money so they can live better," said Dellus. 
 
In addition to jobs and shopping convenience, Walmart representatives say the market helps promote the company's efforts to fight hunger by providing neighborhoods with local shopping options.
 
"One of our goals is to locate stores in food deserts," says Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz.
 
The U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies "food deserts" as low-income communities that have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods. The Ulmerton Road store is within proximity of a neighborhood identified by the USDA as a food desert. 
 
Walmart plans to have as many as 300 stores in food deserts by 2016. Wertz says to date Walmart has almost 100 such stores open.
 
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation has pledged up to $2 billion to fight hunger through 2015. Walmart stores in Florida donated 26.8 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2013, or the equivalent of 22.3 million meals. In the same year, Florida received more than $53.6 million in donated aid from Walmart.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Shane Dellus and Bill Wertz, Walmart

The Busy Buddy Moves Into Dade City's SMARTstart Incubator

The Busy Buddy is moving from home base to office space as it joins other fledgling businesses at the SMARTstart incubator site in the Dade City Business Center.
 
Owner and President Kellye Dash, 39, started her business support services company as a part-time venture operated from her home while working full-time as an Information Technology (IT) manager for another company.
 
In 2012 she took The Busy Buddy full-time and in January moved into the business center at 15000 Citrus Country Drive in Dade City in northeast Pasco County. 
 
"I always knew I wanted to have my own business," says Dash, a 2007 graduate of the University of South Florida. "This is my opportunity to strike out on my own."
 
She currently works with two sub-contractors to help businesses on a range of issues, including social media, email marketing, web research, database cleanups, event and meeting coordination, and special projects
.
One of her clients is Tampa engineering firm, Heidt Design, which has worked on residential development projects including Fishhawk Ranch.
 
"I'm looking to grow," says Dash. She plans to add staff as her business expands both locally and nationally.
 
SMARTstart is managed by the Pasco Economic Development Council, Inc. It is the first venture of its kind in the county, providing networking opportunities and technical support to small businesses. While some startup companies are located at the business center, others are located off-site.
 
"We're all trying to grow and collaborate and share in the challenges we have and help each other," says Dash.
 
She grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tampa nearly a decade ago. She lives in Wesley Chapel with her three daughters.
 
In the future, Dash is planning to offer an internship at her company. She especially wants to be a mentor to girls and women. "You can do whatever you want to do," she says.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kellye Dash, The Busy Buddy

Buildings Alive Tour Showcases Ybor City History

Hop aboard a Jolley Trolley and get an insider's look at Ybor City's most historic buildings.
 
For the third year, the Ybor City Museum Society is sponsoring the Buildings Alive Ybor City Architecture Hop. From 5-10 p.m. on March 6, trolleys will shuttle people along a route that showcases nine of Ybor's oldest buildings, including the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory, the Don Vicente Inn and The Cuban Club. There will be a scavenger hunt with prizes and from 8-10 p.m. an after party with live entertainment, food and beverages at the Ybor City Museum State Park garden.
 
Trolley guides will provide a few clues for the scavenger hunt as well as facts and legends about Ybor City. Hosts will be available at each building to talk about its history and current use.
 
When the society held its first architecture hop, it was planned as a one-time event. But the tour proved a great hit. The mix of buildings changes year to year. Bright House is the event's signature corporate sponsor. A $6,900 grant from the Ybor City Development Corporation helps fund the hop. Support also is provided by the American Institute of Architects, Tampa Bay Chapter.
 
"It's become a real community event," says Chantal Hevia, president of the museum society. "You can come each year and still see something different or new."
 
One of the stops is at Design Styles Architecture on Columbus Drive. Nearly two years ago the firm relocated from Clearwater and spent about $300,000 restoring the approximately 74-year-old, two-story building. It once was a neighborhood grocery store that sold food and produce to Ybor's cigar workers.
  
"It's a perfect example (from Ybor's history) of people having retail downstairs and living upstairs," says Hevia.
 
Other stops will be at the Ybor City Museum Society, Carne Chophouse, Florida Business Interiors, USAmeriBank, and TMD Windows and Doors.
 
The hop starts at one of two registration and check-in points: Stantec, located at 2205 N. 20th St., with free parkng for 120 cars; and Centro Ybor, located at 1536 E. Seventh Ave, with parking one block away at Centro Ybor Garage.
 
Advance tickets must be purchased by Feb. 28 and are $35 or $25 for museum members. Tickets on the day of the event are $45 or $25 with a valid student identification.
 
For information call the museum at 813-247-1434 or visit its website
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Chantal Hevia, Ybor City Museum Society

Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

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

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

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

For 25 years the dream has been to build a new Temple to serve Tampa Bay's growing Hindu community. It is a pledge that Physician Pawan Rattan, made to his father many years ago.
 
Last weekend a prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony brought the dream to reality. Within the next 12 to 18 months, a 10,600-square-foot Temple will be built at 311 E. Palm Ave., within one-mile of downtown Tampa.
 
"It's a very significant event for us," says Rattan, who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sanatan Mandir. "It celebrates our culture, our heritage. It brings us together. At the same time it promotes mutual respect for others."
 
Unlike many Hindu temples that are ornate and built in marble, this Temple building will reflect the historical character of Tampa Heights as well as traditional Hindu temple architecture. The facade is of red brick. The roof will be topped with five sikharas, or rising towers.
 
Wisdom Structural, Inc., Roosevelt Stephens Drafting Service and Ferlita Engineering are working on the approximately $1.5 million project. Several hundred construction-related jobs will be created. 
 
"My hope is that this also triggers an uplifting of the area," says Physician and Philantropist Kiran Patel.
 
For more than two decades, a 4,000-square-foot building at the Palm Avenue site has served as the Hindu Temple, Sanatan Mandir. It was once the educational building for the Jewish congregaton of Rodeph Sholom, which relocated to South Tampa. According to Hillsborough County records, the Jewish congregation sold the Palm Avenue property to Rattan in 1988. It later was transferred by deed to Hindu Samaj, Inc.
 
Once the new Hindu temple opens, the building will become a community hall.
 
The Rodeph Sholom temple building, at 309 Palm Ave., was torn down years ago. Plans are to install a marble art piece at the new Hindu Temple to honor the Jewish heritage at the site.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Physicians Pawan Rattan and Kiran Patel, Sanatan Mandir

Building Boom: An Open Mic Night About Urban Tampa

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 starting at 5:30 pm.

Led by Urban Charrette and CNU Tampa Bay, Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversation within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

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

The March event is the first in a new three-part series, entitled "Tampa: The New Building Boom.'' The first event, "New Buildings, New City?'' will focus on new developments, and how they are changing Tampa's urban landscape. What do you love? What is missing? The organizers welcome ideas on the challenges facing Tampa, and the influence new developments will have on the growth of the city in coming years.

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

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

Memphis Chefs Go Sunny Side Up in Tampa

Sunny Side Up is a new beginning for Marci and Chuck Goldstein after more than 30 years of building a successful catering business in Memphis.
 
They are serving breakfast and lunch in a tiny restaurant around the corner from the Tampa Theatre at 305 Polk St. The spot for Sunny Side Up is a tight fit at about 400 square feet, but small is what the Goldsteins want -- at least for now.
 
"We wanted something so different... and to put it in a spot where no one else thinks it could work and make it a success," says Chuck Goldstein.
 
The cubby hole most recently was a success for owners of Duckweed Urban Market who relocated to a larger space on Tampa Street.
 
Menu items are made from scratch with fresh, local produce. Breads are from local bakery Buh-Bites; coffee is from Buddy Brew Coffee on Kennedy Boulevard.
 
Homemade Southern biscuits, challah, bagels, eggs, country ham, cheese grits and French toast casserole are on the breakfast menu. Lunches are grilled cheese sandwiches made with 11 varieties of cheese, meats and vegetables. And there is Chipotle chicken and gourmet mac & cheese. 
 
Every now and then the Goldsteins will change out the menu, gauging customer preferences and what local produce is available. Vegetarian and vegan options are available.
 
Soups of all kinds are made fresh daily by Marci Goldstein. "I have a knack for soups," she says. She misses Memphis, where she grew up, but says Tampa has been a good move.
 
They are empty-nesters with grown children pursuing their own careers. "We decided we needed a change," says 55-year-old Chuck Goldstein. "We wanted to go back to where we started. We're very eco-friendly, very green."
 
Where the couple started from in Memphis, Goldstein says, was "very poor, but we built and built and built."
 
Tampa's re-energized downtown of high-rises, shops and restaurants struck a chord with them. They make their home at Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District.
 
"It was very important that we live and work downtown," Chuck Goldstein says. 
 
Catering is still a mainstay for the couple who count some of Tampa's downtown businesses as clients including the law firm, Hill Ward Henderson
 
They believe in supporting the community where they live, and have reached out to nonprofits. At Christmas the couple pitched in to cook a holiday meal for clients of Metropolitan Ministries.
 
"It's our way of giving back," Chuck Goldstein says.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Chuck Goldstein, Sunny Side Up

Tampa General Hospital Opens First of Two Transplant Houses

The first of two "transplant houses" that will serve as temporary homes for Tampa General Hospital's discharged transplant patients is open on Davis Islands.
 
The house at 18 Columbia Drive is across from Ronald McDonald House and within walking distance of the hospital. 
 
"This is a 20-year dream come true," says Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, medical director for TGH's cardiac transplant program. "We are just so lucky."
 
TGH is the only local hospital with a transplant center, performing between 400-500 transplants annually including hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and pancreases. In addition, the hospital implants about 50 heart pumps annually.
 
But the TGH transplant team says patients who travel long distances for the surgeries are at a disadvantage when they are ready for discharge. Follow-up medical visits will be needed over the next weeks or months. Patients and their families face costly stays in hotels or long-distance travel from their hometowns to Tampa.
 
Janet Walin, 60, remembers the hard times she had in 1999. For her lung transplant, she had to travel and take up residency in St. Louis away from her family in Florida.
 
"This is awesome," she says, standing in the living room of Tampa General Hospital's new "home away from home."
 
Walin is a volunteer, along with many other former transplant patients, with the National Organization for Transplant Enlightenment, or N.O.T.E. It was founded by Thomas Thrasher, who was Florida's first heart transplant patient when he had his surgery at TGH in 1985.
 
The Columbia Drive residence has three bedrooms with private bathrooms; two living rooms; a kitchen and dining room; and a screened porch. Bedrooms have two beds available for the patient and a family member or caregiver.
 
Rooms to Go donated furniture for the house; Brighthouse is providing a year of cable and Internet service. More than $1 million will fund renovations at this house and a second house at 34 Columbia is from the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. About $40,000 of that is from hospital employees.
 
Renovations on the second transplant house will begin in May.
 
"This is like a miracle for people who need it," says 64-year-old Kathy Gibson, who had a kidney transplant at TGH 14 years ago. "It will be a great gift to everybody."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Debbie Rinde-Hoffman, Tampa General Hospital; Kathy Gibson and Janet Walin, transplant recipients

Tradition Meets Technology In New Seminole Heights' Library

Bungalow tradition meets modern technology at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, which is in the midst of a "soft" opening after a nearly one-year construction schedule.
 
The red brick building evokes the history of a neighborhood rich in Craftsman-style bungalows and street grids canopied with grand oak trees. The technology is state-of-the-art and ready for mobile devices with Wi-Fi and plugs for laptops, tablets, IPads and more installed in the base of lamps and on the frames of chairs and tables and ottomans.
 
There are computer stations in clusters and single computers tucked away in quiet corners.
 
"It's been a big accomplishment that we have so much space, so much technology," says Carrie Hurst, the library's branch supervisor.
 
The library, at 4711 Central Ave., replaces a cramped 8,000-square-foot library that dated to the mid-1960s. Residents formed the Seminole Heights Friends of the Library and lobbied for the new 2-story, approximately 22,000-square-foot building.
 
The "arts and craft" design with tall windows, arches, a veranda and second story balcony is the work of FleischmanGarcia Architects. Stain glass art is designed by WRW Studio of Charlotteville, N.Y. A child's portrait hanging on the second floor is by University of Tampa graduate Princess Smith who was named 2013 Emerging Artist of  the Year at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
 
The total cost of the project, including equipment, design and construction, is just under $7 million.
 
On the ground floor the Friends' group has a bookstore. Patrons can get a drink or snack from vending machines in a cafe area. And community meetings can be held in a 100-seat room that can be divided into two rooms, if needed.
 
Hurst says groups already are booking the space.
 
The main library on the second floor has reference and circulation desks; an "innovation studio" with movable furniture on wheels; offices for staffers; small study and meeting rooms; and a room filled with preservation research materials. The latter will be dedicated to the memory of  the late Steve Gluckman, a local historian and library fund-raiser. 
 
The library serves a unique role in the life of a neighborhood, says Pat Benjamin, president of the Friend's group. "There is home where you work and there is the place where you work," she says. "And the library is the third place. It's just a jewel in the neighborhood. It is for everybody."
 
The grand opening of the library will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on March 17.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Carrie Hurst, Seminole Heights Branch Library; Pat Benjamin, Friends of the Library

Encore Tampa Breaks Ground On New Tempo

Tempo is the fourth, but possibly not the last apartment building, to have its groundbreaking at Encore, the $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp.
 
The 7-story, 203-unit multifamily apartment community is expected to open in 2015. It joins the Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building that opened in late 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multifamily apartment building, should open by April. And the Reed, a 158-unit apartment building for seniors, looks to open late this year or early in 2015.
 
All of the construction activity puts the Housing Authority about one year ahead of a schedule set out nearly three years ago. "We wanted to break ground on one building a year," says Leroy Moore, the housing authority's chief operating officer.
 
A fifth apartment building is possible but Moore says construction likely will be held off a couple of years while retail is added to the project's mix.
 
"Hopefully, we'll see demand for retail speed up greatly by the end of the year," says Moore. "We're being very diligent and selective."
 
By then, the Housing Authority expects to have about 300 leased apartments, nearly double the current number. Once fully completed, more than 2,500 people will live at Encore.
 
Moore anticipates an announcement on a grocery store for Encore within about 60 days. 
 
The approximately $43 million Tempo project is a public/private partnership between the Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The architect is Bessolo Design Group and the general contractor is Siltek Group, Inc.
 
Encore replaces the former Central Park Village public housing complex, which was torn down several years ago as part of the city's revitalization efforts north of downtown. The nearly 40 acres between Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue is in a neighborhood founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. Nearby Central Avenue was a black business and entertainment district that thrived until the 1960s and 70s when highway widening projects and urban renewal wiped out most of the area.
 
The musically themed Encore honors the heritage of the neighborhood, where legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday often performed in night clubs in the Central Avenue district known as "Harlem South."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority
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