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HCC's SouthShore Campus Adds Science And Technology Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Allen Witt, HCC Southshore

AT&T's Store Of The Future Opens In Tampa

AT&T's Store of the Future is open and showing off the newest technology in a sleek, cool store off Westshore Boulevard in the shopping center anchored by The Container Store..

The shop is the fourth of its kind in Florida and is modeled after a Chicago flagship store large enough to fit a car inside. Tampa's shop isn't nearly as large but customers can enjoy taking the latest technology for a spin in the care of friendly sales clerks who chat with you at white "learning" tables designed to mimic real life situations.

It is designed to encourage interaction and make the shopping experience fun and engaging whether you're an individual or bring your entire family.

Step over to the guitar display and try out headsets, speakers and the latest sound and streaming technology. Head to another table and find out how your phone can become a movie projector.

Or walk over to the white "kitchen island" and learn how a smartphone bolts a dead-lock at your house or sets the temperature controls. Have a pet to keep an eye on? There's a video gadget for that.

Want to monitor a fleet of trucks for your business including their top speeds? There's a device for that too.

The forward-looking store caters to the mobile lifestyle.

"We're trying to show the different applications available for customers," says Susan Boothe, merchandising manager for AT&T's Florida operations. But the story is deliberately "nice and comfortable and takes the intimidation factor out of it."

The store is at 1812 N. Westshore Blvd., in the new shopping center anchored by retail and restaurants such as The Container Store, Sleeping Mattress, Pei Wei Asian Dining and Olive Garden Restaurant.

The store's eco-friendly design is by architects at Callison, a global company whose clients include Starbucks, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Boothe, AT&T

Yogurtland Opens First Tampa Location In Citrus Park

Tampa residents and visitors now have a new option for their favorite frozen treat.
 
Yogurtland touts its high quality yogurt with real ingredients in a clean environment. Ingredients are often sourced from their original location, such as Madagascar vanilla beans from Madagascar and Belgian chocolate from Belgium, in non-traditional flavor combinations such as black current cherry tart or sticky toffee pudding.
 
The first franchise in Tampa opened in Citrus Park this spring. The franchise owner, Jack Suleiman, is a second generation restaurant owner with a family history of franchises. Having opened a Taco Bell in 2008 and a Johnny Rockets in 2010 in Citrus Park, Suleiman had a familiarity with the area and knew the market well. The specific location next to Chipotle was selected to give people a dessert option since the restaurant doesn’t currently offer any. Suleiman also likes the Carrollwood and Citrus Park communities.
 
"People get involved. The community actually works together, unlike in some bigger cities," says Suleiman.
 
Growing up in the restaurant business taught Suleiman the value of hard work and ethics at an early age. He and his brother washed potatoes at his father’s restaurant at the ages of 15 and 16, often working after school and on holidays. Eventually, he ended up as a manager and then opened up his own restaurants.  
 
Suleiman’s dream was always to open a yogurt shop. He chose the Yogurtland franchise because of its concept of real ingredients, strong growth rate and overall atmosphere.
 
“I was very impressed with the company,” says Suleiman. “They do everything they can to make sure that we’re serving the best quality.”

Suleiman financed the franchise through family funds.
 
If all goes well with the first location, he plans to open more in the Tampa Bay region within six months. The company will be hiring additional team members over the summer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jack Suleiman, Yogurtland

Two Fold Bicycle Shop Opens In St. Petersburg

A new bicycle shop in St. Petersburg caters to enthusiasts who want the zip and portability of bicycles that can be folded to the size of carry-on luggage. Or tucked into a back pack. 

On May 10 Michael Davis will hold a grand opening for Two Fold Bicycle Shop at 657 N. Central Ave. The shop, which quietly opened at the beginning of the month, deals exclusively in folding bicycles made by major brand names Brompton, Dahon and Tern. Shortly Davis will add bicycles from Bike Friday, an Oregon company that custom-makes folding bicycles.

"They are fun to ride," says Davis, who also designs and builds wheel frames. "People who are into them really get into them. You can see them out there. It is a trend that is picking up now."

Their popularity makes sense to a lot of people who are embracing the new urban lifestyle. And, while his shop is in St. Petersburg, his first two sales were to residents of downtown Tampa's growing high-rise community.

The folding bicycles have smaller wheels, quick acceleration and ease of steering. Hinges allow for the bicycles to be folded up for easy storage at work or at home. And for multi-modal commuters they are easily carried on and off buses.

Prices range from about $400 for a one-gear folding bicycle to more sophisticated models that can cost $3,500 or more.

Davis is an avid bicyclist himself. He formerly owned 66 Fixed Gear and Singlespeed, a St. Petersburg shop that did repairs and sold custom-made bicycles. But it was a trip last year to the Interbike International Bicycle Expo in Las Vegas that spurred Davis to focus his newest business on the expo's break-out star.

 "Everybody was talking about folding bicycles," he says.

The bicycles originally were invented for use by military forces in war times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Until recently they often were novelty items tucked away in a shop corner.

That is changing along with the urban landscape.

Condominiums and apartments are going up in downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa. The Central Avenue district in St. Petersburg is stirring to life with new boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, offices and neighborhood bars. College students and young professionals are embracing the urban experience.

Tampa has at least five residential towers slated for construction in the next few years in downtown and Channel District.

The folding bicycles are the right fit, Davis says, for people who have to go up and down elevators, share space with roommates or just want a healthier living environment with fewer automobile trips. 

"Once you get folding bicycles in front of people, they practically sell themselves," says Davis.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michael Davis, Two Fold Bicycle Shop


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frolic Exchange Brings Bohemian Chic To Seminole Heights

A mother-daughter duo is bringing Bohemian chic to Seminole Heights with their new clothing shop called Frolic Exchange.

Bree and Nancy Denicourt will hold a grand opening on May 10. The shop, at 4634 N. Florida, is the brick-and-mortar version of an online business selling vintage, recycled and designer clothes and accessories.

"We do pretty well there," says 22-year-old Bree Denicourt of the online business. "But, I was getting bored and decided I wanted a physical site."

Frolic Exchange held a preview party in April, sponsored by Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and featuring live music.  Future store events will utilize an outdoor patio area.

Bree Denicourt has been a fan of vintage clothing for years and started the online venture more than two years ago. "I obsessively collected them even if they didn't fit me," she says.

The shop features racks of vintage and designer dresses, vests, jackets, crop tops, tie-up blouses, pencil skirts, swim suits, jewelry, purses and more. There also is a men's section that includes T-shirts, jackets, pants and hand-made bow ties. 

Frolic Exchange fits snugly between the art gallery Tempus Projects and mid-century modern furniture store, A Modern Line

Last year Seminole Heights' resident Andrew Watson opened Built in a small warehouse building at 4501 N. Florida. He designs and makes custom furniture and fixtures for residential and commercial clients including The Bricks in Ybor City and the Bends in St. Petersburg. Most recently he did the table tops for the soon-to-open Ulele Restaurant in Tampa Heights.

To the north of these new businesses, Florida has blossomed in recent years with locally owned businesses including Cappy's Pizza, Microgroove, Independent, Cleanse Apothecary, Forever Beautiful Salon & Wine Spa, Sherry's YesterDaze Vintage Clothing and Antiques and The Refinery.

Now it seems this stretch of Florida, south of Violet Street, is ready for action.

"There's a little boom happening," says Watson. "We decided to be part of that."

Bree Denicourt sees a synergy developing among the businesses settling along Florida.

 "People are going to want to stop and spend time here," she says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bree Denicourt, Frolic Exchange; Andrew Watson, Built 

NoHo Flats Showcases Apartments At Open House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Laura Delahaye, NoHo Flats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Centra Care Health Clinic To Open On Dale Mabry In Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake McKelvy, Florida Hospital

University Of Tampa Residence Hall Meets Gold Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tampa's East Hillsborough Avenue Attracts Investors, New Shops

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

New Shops Fill Lakewood Ranch's Main Street

New businesses are filling Lakewood Ranch at Main Street to capacity. But the sprawling community of master-planned villages in Manatee and Sarasota counties also is seeing commercial growth elsewhere.
 
The newly remodeled corporate headquarters for MGA Insurance Group is home to a new dental practice and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.
 
Longtime Lakewood Ranch residents Michelle Scala and Shepherd Frenchman opened Lakewood Ranch Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in February in Suite 100 at 8430 Enterprise Circle. Their landlord is MGA, which occupies the second floor and leases offices on the ground floor.
 
This is a second location for the couple who also have Bayshore Gardens Aesthetic Dentistry  at 1805 Bayshore Gardens Pkwy., in Bradenton. The couple have doctoral degrees from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. Scala also is a graduate of the University of Miami, and Frenchman of the University of South Florida.
 
The couple accepts patients of all ages for general dentistry with an emphasis on cosmetics, dental implants and pain-free procedures.
 
"We've been residents of Lakewood Ranch for 10 years," says Scala.  "It's where we began to raise our children. It's a very family oriented community with access to more city-wide elements as well."
 
And the business community is seeing new life as the economy gets stronger. "It's nice to see more of an influx now," Scala says.
 
The business alliance recently opened offices in Suite 140 at the MGA building.
 
Scala and Frenchman will hold a grand opening at their new dental office from 4 to 8 p.m. May 15.
 
Lakewood Ranch's Main Street business area will reach full capacity in May when In Focus Family Eye Care opens in Suite 103 at 8120 Main Street. The optometry office is owned by Brad and Ashley Masuga. In the next two week, White Rose Interiors and Unleashed for Pets, also will open.
 
In January the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee opened its culinary school at 8130 Main Street, in the former spot operated as the Viking Culinary Center. The school's culinary students will become future chefs taking their classes at this new facility, the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership Culinary Innovation Lab.
 
Late last year Healthy Living Organic and Natural Market opened at 10671 Boardwalk Loop and Shirts and Stones at 8141 Main St. The market offers vitamins, minerals, herbs, homeopathic and beauty products. 
 
Shirts and Stones sells an array of custom rhinestone and vinyl clothing. The store also is licensed to sell college merchandise including Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Florida.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michelle Scala, Lakewood Ranch Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Artspace Eyes Sarasota's 'North Trail' For Creative Redevelopment

Visitors arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located along the Tamiami Trail at the northern edge of Sarasota County known as the North Trail, see a less than flattering portrait of the city as they drive south into the city of Sarasota.
 
“For many years, the North Trail conversation has dragged on, but the bottom line is that the space that lies between the airport, the Ringling [art museum and college] complex, and downtown Sarasota is simply not a very inviting front door to the city,” says Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota, sponsor of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership (NTRP).
 
The NTRP is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Sarasota’s “front door” through urban renewal and the creation of affordable live-work artist spaces. 
 
In the first week of April, the North Trail took its first steps in its journey toward the artistic rebirth envisioned by the NTRP with a visit by consultants Wendy Holmes and Stacey Mickelson of Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.
 
“Artspace is the largest, and really, the only organization that does what they do in this country -- which is to focus on the development of live-work environments for artists that can be used to rekindle areas of communities that need to be re-vitalized,’’ Shirley says. “They are involved in 35 projects throughout the country and have a more than 30-year track record.”
 
Led by Artist and Historical Preservationist Veronica Morgan, the NTRP raised the $15,000 required for an Artspace consultation, which included tours of Sarasota’s arts community and two days of workshops that connected artists, civic leaders and the financial community with Artspace consultants.
 
“The goal was to allow the Artspace team to get a more in-depth look at Sarasota, specifically focusing on the North Trail, and to allow us, the community, to learn more about Artspace and see if it would make sense for us,’’ Shirley says. “I believe that we had overall a very successful evening, and the indication from Artspace is that they felt the same.” 
 
In early June, Artspace will provide the NTRP with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations. Shirley says that if the organizations choose to move forward with a project in Sarasota, the next phase would include a $42,000 survey of the entire county, and that the revitilization project would commence in approximately 3-5 years. 
 
“Virtually everyone in the community knows how important the arts are here, and we’ve seen what the arts can do in communities that make a commitment to them,” Shirley says. “If we could possibly use the arts to help generate the re-vitilization of the North Trail, it would be ‘the Sarasota thing to do.’ ”
 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jim Shirley, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota
 

Tampa Opens New Fire Station On Waters Avenue

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

New Petra Restaurant Will Open On Kennedy Boulevard

Petra Restaurant will bring its Middle-Eastern cuisine to South and West Tampa within the next month
 
It will be the third location for owner Ayman Saed, who operates two other Petra restaurants in Temple Terrace and New Tampa.
 
The new location is directly across from the University of Tampa's lacrosse field in a vacant two-story building at 1118 W. Kennedy Blvd.  The spot has been home to several bars and restaurants including the Pachyderm Wing Company.
 
"I'm trying to tap into the many people here who want Middle Eastern food," says Saed. "I've never found the right location until now."

New businesses, restaurants and expansion plans by UT and Tampa General Hospital are sparking renewed commercial interest in this stretch of Kennedy from Ashley Drive to Howard Avenue. Downtown and North Hyde Park also are bringing in new residents who want more shopping and dining options. 
 
Re-modeling  began about three weeks ago. Saed hopes to open by the end of May.
 
There will be indoor seating as well as an outdoor patio and something not found at Saed's other restaurants -  a hookah lounge. On some evenings patrons will be able to enjoy live Middle Eastern music. The second floor will be available to rent for parties or other special events. There are no plans at this time to sell alcohol.
 
The New Tampa restaurant has been open about a year on Preserve Walk Lane in the Tampa Palms' neighborhood. The Temple Terrace restaurant, at 4812 E. Busch Blvd., opened about eight years ago.
 
 The restaurant and an adjacent convenience store were damaged in a fire more than two years ago. 
 
Saed says he was touched by the number of patrons who wanted to see the restaurant re-opened. In the end, he rebuilt and expanded Petra, opting to forego the store. And, he began searching for his third restaurant location.
 
The menu at the Kennedy Boulevard restaurant will be similar to the other locations with soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and platters with selections including chicken shawarma and lamb kebabs. There also will be hummus, falafel and Baba ghanoush. And, daily chef specials will be offered including on some days, mansaf, a traditional lamb dish.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ayman Saed, Petra Restaurant
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