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Construction begins on new apartment tower in downtown Tampa

The downtown Tampa skyline will be getting more crowded in coming months as yet another new apartment building grows out of the ground on north Franklin Street between Tyler and Cass streets.

With 362-units, the 23-story apartment building will also have 8,000-square-feet of retail space.

The building by developers Carter of Atlanta includes very dramatic public art, a generous amount of ground floor retail and a full amenity package including a rooftop pool,” says Bob McDonaugh, Economic Opportunity Administrator for the city of Tampa. “It all adds up to a very attractive development, which should be quite successful when it is completed.”

The design team includes DPR Construction and RJT+R Architecture.

The new tower is named Nine15 after its address at 915 Franklin N. St. It joins several other projects in the making including the Arts and Entertainment Residencies (AER) near the Straz Center and The Channel Club at the intersection of Meridian Avenue and East Twiggs Street.

“The city of Tampa is experiencing the same phenomenon that many other cities are experiencing, the flight back to the urban core,” McDonaugh says. “Today, many of the millennials as well as their empty nest parents are deciding that an urban lifestyle is what suits them.”

McDonaugh goes on to say that while there is very little vacancy available in many urban areas, the site for the new tower is where the former Grant Building sat mostly vacant for years, an interesting location because it is the furthest north of the current wave of residential development taking place in downtown Tampa.

USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute begins move to downtown Tampa

Tampa’s downtown revitalization continues to flourish as plans for the new USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute begin to take shape at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive.
 
The decision to place a facility in downtown was out of need and convenience.
 
“The current outdated medical school facilities were designed for a different era of medical teaching when large classroom instruction was the norm instead of today’s emphasis on smaller, active learning classrooms and on team-based, technologically intensive modes of learning,” says Dr. Charles Lockwood, Senior VP of USF Health and Dean of Morsani College of Medicine.  “Moreover, combining the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute into a single facility on the downtown site to be generously donated by Jeff Vinik will provide the university with an important competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest students, the most talented young faculty and the country’s leading cardiovascular research scientists.”
 
While specifics of the building have yet to be determined, USF has already received an $18 million gift from Carol and Frank Morsani to assist with construction of the complex. Lockwood says it has been that kind of generous financial support from the community that led to the downtown plan.
 
“A series of events aligned, including our need for new facilities, Mr. Vinik’s visionary plan to develop the downtown Tampa waterfront, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s championing of the Heart Institute’s funding, and a new spirit of collaboration and cooperation between USF and Tampa General Hospital,” he says. “After careful review of our situation, we seized upon the unparalleled opportunity to make the downtown location a reality. “
 
Last June, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott supported plans for the new facility by including $17 million in the annual state budget.
 
“The move will be critical in placing both the medical school and future heart institute within five minutes of Tampa General Hospital, USF’s primary teaching hospital where our students do most of their clinical rotations and our clinical faculty admit most of their patients,” Lockwood says. “This downtown location is precisely where millennial medical students and young faculty want to be.”

Reed at ENCORE! Tampa is completed, fully occupied

The Reed at ENCORE! Tampa, a new senior building between downtown Tampa and Ybor City, is now complete and fully occupied. 
 
The Reed is part of a larger designed community encompassing 28 acres and expected to cover 12 city blocks. Plans include a variety of housing for all ages, including low income as well as market rate rentals and sales. 
 
Though the near $30-million Reed at ENCORE building already houses more than 150 seniors, there are some final touches to be completed.
 
“There is a design element remaining to be installed, the maestro’s baton, which is a large public art element, which will grace the front entry way of the building,” says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority.
 
According to Moore, the Reed building has special significance to the area.
 
“Reed is our second senior building and the third building overall to open at ENCORE,” he says. ‘The building is named after Essie Mae Reed, a local pioneer in women’s rights and public housing, and Tampa’s first black female to qualify to run for city council.”
 
To honor the late-Essie Mae Reed, a bust was revealed at the ribbon cutting, which was attended by U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. During the event, Castor read a proclamation she read on the floor of Congress honoring Ms. Reed several years ago. The mayor shared memories of times he spent with the pioneer. The Reed family shared their emotional comments about how profoundly honored they feel to have such a remembrance of their family member.

Gonzmart seeks food service contract at Tampa Convention Center

One of Tampa’s most notable restaurateurs has announced his intentions to provide food service to the Tampa Convention Center.

Richard Gonzmart, most well known as being a co-owner of the Columbia Restaurant group, is teaming up with Lutz-based Spectra by Comcast Spectacor on the project. While there is currently no request for proposals for a food and beverage contract for the Tampa Bay Convention Center, that is not stopping the determined Gonzmart.

“I always said I wanted to be in the convention center,” an enthusiastic Gonzmart said to media gathered along the Tampa Riverwalk on a bright afternoon this past week. “And when you see what we’re going to do, you’re going to say, “Wow, why didn’t somebody else think of that?”

The company Gonzmart is teaming up with, Spectra, is a food service company with service contracts in casinos, sports arenas and other convention centers around the U.S.

While the pair did not give any details about the type of cuisine they plan on serving, Ken Young, founder and president of Spectra assured it would be quality food.

During the press conference, Gonzmart mentioned that jobs would be created should his bid be accepted.

“There will definitely be a positive economic impact,” he saya. “With that will be job creation, it will be a very exciting time for the area. There is so much potential here, and we already have the most beautiful setting with the center located right here on the Hillsborough River. You can take a boat over to Harbour Island, there is this great Riverwalk, it’s a great location.”

Request for proposals on food service bids will be sent out in the next few weeks. Proposals are due in the first quarter of 2016.

Duckweed welcomes artisan chocolates, plans to open new grocery in Channelside

Downtown Tampa residents accustomed to running into the Duckweed Urban Market to grab a sandwich, salad fixings or a bottle of wine now can also grab gourmet chocolates as they peruse the shelves of the beloved grocery.

When Ashworth Artisan Chocolate closed its doors last month, Duckweed Owners Michelle and Brent Deatherage opened their's to the chocolate company. The owners of the two businesses had met through the Tampa Bay Partnership and bicycle friendly business meetings, as well as being customers at each other’s stores.
 
The idea to move Ashworth’s business into Duckweed is a strategic one designed to benefit both parties.
 
“After having been in business for over eight years, Ashworth Artisan Chocolate has a loyal following of thousands of customers, many of whom may have never been to Duckweed before,” says Jessica Moore, Manager of Duckweed. “Now when Ashworth customers come in for their chocolate fix, they'll be introduced to everything Duckweed has to offer and might leave with a nice bottle of wine or a bouquet of fresh flowers to go with their box of chocolate truffles. By combining our customer bases, we are certain we will increase sales for both businesses.”

Duckweed, which started in 2011, in a 500-square-foot spot on Polk Street, has grown quite a bit to its current location in the Element building. Just as its name signifies, it has small but mighty roots.
 
“Duckweed itself is a teeny-tiny aquatic plant found throughout Florida, and is actually known as the smallest flowering plant, but it provides a large amount of nutrients to the aquatic life that feeds on it,” Moore says. “So we decided to name our tiny little store that brings nourishment to the people of downtown after the tiny plant. Since we have grown, we have thought about changing it, but customers and employees alike are too fond of our quirky name, so it has stuck.”
 
Soon the downtown location will not be the only Duckweed in Tampa. Plans for Duckweed in Channelside are underway, with a scheduled opening at The Place this winter.
 
“The store owners are residents of the Channel District, so they're acutely aware that their neighbors and residents such as themselves are lacking easily accessible groceries,” Moore says. “With Channelside's promising future on the minds of many locals, we felt that would be a great spot for the next installment of Duckweed.”
 
Duckweed at The Place in Channelside will also feature Ashworth Artisan Chocolate. 

SkyHouse Channelside adds to hip, urban scene in downtown Tampa

Breathtaking views of downtown Tampa on one side, a view overlooking Ybor City and Port Tampa Bay on the other. An infinity edge saltwater pool, lounge and clubroom complete with billiards, a catering kitchen, flat screen TVs and a terrace with fireplaces, grills and outdoor seating.

Sound pretty good? Well, that is just the rooftop of the new SkyHouse Channelside, a luxury apartment tower along the eastern waterfront in downtown Tampa.

SkyHouse Channelside, on 12th Street between East Whiting Street and East Washington Street, is the latest tower to open in an ongoing development trend happening downtown.

Earlier this month, New York investor Larry Feldman filed plans with the City of Tampa to build a 52-story mixed-use project on the infamous Trump Tower site at the intersection of Ashley Drive and East Brorein Street, which could feature somewhere between 200 and 300 residential units.

Other properties in the works are The Arts and Entertainment Residences (AER), a 350-unit apartment complex that is planned next to the Straz Center, and The Martin at Meridian in the Channel District, a 24-story tower offering 316 units.

SkyHouse Channelside, which is already at a 40-percent occupancy rate, offers studios up to 3-bedroom units. Its builder says it is that assortment, plus the amenities that will draw people to the tower.

“People are looking for the new feel, and the amenity level of the rooftop terrace. With the rooftop saltwater pool, along with the variety of units really make this a great fit for millennials or those looking to downsize,” says Tom Underwood, project executive with Baston-Cook, which built SkyHouse Channelside.  “The units range anywhere from 900-square-feet to over 1,500.”

Other amenities throughout the luxury tower include 24-hour concierge, controlled access parking garage, and wi-fi accessibility throughout common areas.

In addition to the luxurious amenities, SkyHouse Channelside and other planned downtown Tampa residential towers and complexes offer residents an opportunity to live without a car or at least use their car less often -- another example of the city's growing urban scene.

Monthly rent at SkyHouse Channelside ranges between $1,000 to over $3,000 a month. For more information on the tower, visit the SkyHouse Channelside website.

Construction begins on redesign of historic downtown Tampa park

Historical culture meets the future at the new Perry Harvey Park being constructed near ENCORE! Tampa just north of downtown at the intersection of Harrison Street and Central Avenue.

The $6.95 million project is being funded through a federal Choice Neighborhood Grant obtained by the Tampa Housing Authority for redeveloping the neighborhood.

“The $30 million dollar choice neighborhood implementation grant included a $2 million allocation for the renovation of Perry Harvey Park because the neighborhood lacked adequate recreational amenities to support the planned ENCORE! and surrounding community,” says LeRoy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority. “Parks and recreational amenities are essential to good community planning and promote wellness, cultural awareness and community building.”
 
The park's design celebrates the history of Central Avenue and its culture. The area was settled after the Civil War, when freed slaves were relocated to an area northeast of downtown Tampa. As time went on, the area became a successful African- American residential and business community. Many legendary artists, including Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown, were drawn there to perform to growing audiences.

“After the public participation process of three public meetings, an advisory committee of community leaders was appointed to develop the program for park elements to ensure the park reflected the historical culture,” says Brad Suder, Superintendent in the city of Tampa’s planning design natural resources division. “This included granddaughters of Perry Harvey, Sr. and descendants of business leaders who grew up in the community. The idea was to capture important milestones, events and facts. The city selected four different artists to showcase the cultural history in different parts of the park, including a southern gateway into the park, a leaders row, a history walk and a statue of Perry Harvey, Sr.”

In addition to the artwork, the park will feature an interactive fountain, concert/festival space, improvements to the basketball courts, picnic shelters and a skate park.

Construction on the park is expected to be completed in winter 2016.

NorthStar Bank opens new branches in South Tampa, downtown St. Pete

Technology has changed so much of what we do, and how we do it, including banking. For those, who desire or need to have the face-to-face exchanges with another human being, NorthStar Bank is opening up two additional branches.

The bank has had a presence in Tampa since it opened its main office in the Sykes building in downtown Tampa back in 2007. Today, NorthStar employs approximately 40 people with another office in Belleair Bluffs, and two new spaces: a branch on MacDill Avenue in Tampa and a loan production office in downtown St. Petersburg.

“The south Tampa branch is set to open in August,” says David Stone, President and CEO of NorthStar Bank. “We just opened the St. Petersburg office earlier this month.”

Stone says the St. Petersburg office will be strictly a loan production office, meaning no deposits can be taken; only business involving loan activity will occur. The loans will mostly be commercial loans for business owners, although home and auto loans will be offered.

“We have been debating whether to have a presence in the St. Pete market, and we decided it would make sense to have a loan production office because it’s a smaller investment to begin with,” Stone says. “A full service branch, you are looking at 2- to 3-million dollars.”

While the bank does offer online banking, Stone says it is important that customers get human contact.

“I’m sure you have read a lot of about branches closing with the bigger banks. That doesn’t mean there is not a need for a brick-and-mortar presence. The type of customers that we target want to talk with somebody,'' Stone continues. "We target professionals, doctors, lawyers, accountants, CPAs, those who have established small businesses, so when they have a banking need, it’s a little bit more complex than something you can do over a machine. That is why a face-to-face relationship is so important.”
 

The Heights undergoes major redevelopment, Armature Works gets 1st tenant

The Tampa Heights neighborhood is beginning to experience a rebirth as redevelopment takes place along the Hillsborough River, up North Franklin Street and across Palm Avenue.

At center stage is The Heights, 40-plus acres bordering the northern edge of downtown Tampa, including the Armature Works Building and its first new tenant.
 
SofworX, an “idea lab” led by U.S. Special Operation Forces from MacDill Air Force Base, moved in May into a 3,000-square-foot space inside the historic 68,000-square-feet Armature Works building. Plans call for the renovated structure to become home to local start-up companies, schools and inventors.
 
“SofWorX fits within our vision for the community as a beginning to develop more creative space,” says Chas Bruck, Principal of Tampa-based SoHo Capital LLC, which is leading the redevelopment project.
 
The entire Armature Works building will go through a restoration process, Bruck says, with the first phase being completed by January 2016, and the second phase a few months after. The project is a massive undertaking that will cost a minimum of $10 million in investments.
 
“The city’s Architectural Review Commission approval was key for us to begin work restoring the structure and bringing our vision to life,” he says.
 
In addition to the Armature Works building, Bruck has big plans for the rest of the neighborhood, including 317 new apartments, 23,000-square-feet of retail along Palm Avenue, 340,000-square-feet of office space and 240 hotel rooms, as well as making the area more pedestrian friendly.
 
“We have plans for master infrastructure improvements for the entire community, including the extension of the Riverwalk to Boulevard Bridge,” he says.
 
With The Heights project in its infancy stage right now, Bruck has plans to see his vision through, taking the dormant area into a thriving new hot spot with historic-themed independent restaurants, shops, offices and residential areas.

3 new shops opening in downtown Tampa

As downtown Tampa grows as a work-live-play environment, new residential and commercial properties will soon include three new shops designed to take care of the personal needs of residents, workers and visitors. 

Pearl Salon

Pearl Salon is aiming to be an oasis for clients with 4,200 square feet in Park Tower at 400 North Tampa Street. The salon will offer nail care, waxing, eyelash extensions and massages as well as a blow dry bar for professionals on the run.

The owner of Pearl Salon, Kim Nguyen, an entrepreneur from Miami, strategically picked the downtown location.

“There are so many workers in the downtown area, as well as the University of Tampa, however, there is currently nowhere for people to get their beauty treatments done,” she says.

The $700,000 investment will create at least 25 jobs according to Nguyen.  It is scheduled to open in early June.

Uncommon Finds

Uncommon Finds is a niche perfume storefront that enables customers to discover unique scents.

“Niche perfumes are a growing product,” says owner Rob Atkins, a self-acclaimed ‘scent junkie.’

"They are much different from your typical perfume, which only has one layer of scent; ours has three, so if you put some on in the morning you should still smell it in the evening. Also we use essential oils in our product, as opposed to synthetic ingredients found in other perfumes, therefore those who have allergies can wear our products“

The store's 300 square feet of space will be located within Studio K, 406 N. Morgan St.

Uncommon Finds is scheduled to open in mid-June.

Doxa Design Lab and Gallery

Doxa Design Lab and Gallery is approximately 500 square feet of interior design services.

“We are offering full interior design services, fine art as well as custom upholstery, vintage furnishings home accents, lighting, art and design books, textiles and industrial designs created by renowned architects and product designers,” says Jaime Rogers, Senior Partner of Doxa. “We offer products for as little as $30, or as much as $20,000.”

Doxa’s opening will create jobs including a general manager, part-time bookkeeper and part-time design assistant.

The Gallery will be located at the base of SkyPoint, 777 North Ashley Drive. It also is expected to open in June.

City of Tampa seeks proposals for downtown public arts projects

As plans for the final phase of the Tampa Riverwalk project and a park move forward, the City of Tampa is looking to install a couple of new public art pieces designed to attract local residents and visitors to enjoy the beautiful waterfront walkway along the Hillsborough River.
 
The first piece would grace the final segment of the Tampa Riverwalk itself; and the other is for the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park located at 1001 N. Boulevard. The Riverwalk project has a projected budget of up to $200,000 and the park $400,000. The City of Tampa is open to all ideas and artists.
 
"We do open calls to artists whenever possible in order to reach the broadest, or widest range of artists,'' says Robin Nigh, Manager of the City of Tampa's Art Programs Division. "This helps raise the city's visibility in the arts, while also providing diverse options and creative solutions that otherwise might not have been considered.'' 
 
The final segment of the Riverwalk has two sites; one located under the Laurel Street Bridge and the other under I-275. 
 
"I do not think there is any preconceived notion about what the art should be,'' Nigh says.  "From the technical and practical side, it needs to be safe and appropriate for the environmental conditions. Conceptually, the art needs to be impactful, contribute to the overall space and place, as well as provide an engaging experience where residents and visitors want to be, return to, and recommend to others.''
 
The Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is set to be the largest event park in downtown Tampa. Therefore, the city is seeking innovative artists to create artwork such as entrance gateways, an arrival plaza and other public art displays.
 
Artists interested in submitting an application can visit the city's website

Vinik hires top urban planners to design waterfront properties in downtown Tampa

Jeff Vinik’s Strategic Property Partners LCC has appointed world-renowned urban planners Jeff Speck and David Dixon to lead the design of downtown Tampa’s southern waterfront into a mixed-use, walkable metropolitan neighborhood.

The property abuts the Tampa Riverwalk, a miles-long stretch of pathways that snake through downtown Tampa’s Channel District and along the Hillsborough River north to Water Works Park in the Tampa Heights neighborhood. A new over-water Kennedy Boulevard segment is set to open in late March 2015. Eventually, 2.2 miles of uninterrupted sidewalk will follow the river through the city.

Vinik's SPP master planning development team is behind a billion dollar plan to transform the area’s landscape over the next five years, with new downtown facilities for the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and USF Heart Institute proposed, along with hotel, retail and mixed-use residential space. The TECO Line Streetcar would also be expanded.

Over the next four months, Speck and Dixon will work with retail planners, transportation and traffic design engineers, brand architecture designers and New Urbanism residential planners to create a practical plan for the 40 acres SPP owns along downtown Tampa’s southern waterfront.

Tampa Bay Lightning owner and SPP principal Vinik says, "At the onset, Urban Design Associates initiated a wonderful vision for what the area can become -- America’s next great urban waterfront -- and now we are confident that Jeff and David will guide us in turning that vision into a practical, yet dynamic Master Plan."

SPP, which Vinik founded in 2014, controls Amelie Arena, Channelside Bay Plaza and the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina. Cascade Investment, based in Seattle and founded by billionaire Bill Gates, is the primary funding partner for the project.

Speck, who wrote a book in 2013 titled Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, leads a design practice (Speck & Associates, LLC) based in Washington D.C. He is the former director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, where he oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and worked with dozens of American mayors to solve city planning challenges.

Dixon, a Senior Principal and Urban Design Group Leader for Stantec, has won numerous urban planning awards, lead the redevelopment of post-Katrina New Orleans, and helped Washington D.C. maximize the social and economic benefits of a new streetcar system.

Speck will serve as SPP’s overall consulting Design Leader, while Dixon will lead the SPP Master Plan team.
 
"We are asking Jeff and David to help us advance a great live, work, play and stay district,'' Vinik says. "One that is welcoming, pedestrian-friendly, progressive, and also healthy, as we aspire to create a true 'wellness' district for our residents, employers, students and visitors.''  

Tampa Pizza Company opens downtown, Westchase locations

Downtown Tampa residents and visitors may already be familiar with the locally driven, all-natural restaurant that shares a corner of the ground floor in Skypoint Condos with Kurdi's Mediterranian GrillAnise Global Gastropub and Taps Tavern.

The pizza restaurant’s name and menu, however, is new.

Local restaurateurs Dave Burton and Ralph Santell, who previously ran the downtown and Westshore locations of the Deerfield Beach-based Pizza Fusion franchise, have reopened the establishments under the new name Tampa Pizza Company.

Though the decision to leave Pizza Fusion before contracts expired led to a lawsuit, which was settled in Feb 2015, the restaurateurs remained focused on the vision of Tampa Pizza Company.

“We believe in Tampa and all the great things going on in our community,” says Santell. “We strive to be a point of pride for all of our customers and local residents through our restaurants and out in our neighborhoods.”

Indeed, the creation of the Tampa Pizza Company brings together many local elements, from mural art to menu ingredients.

The Tampa Pizza Company’s downtown location is home to new murals of local Tampa scenes painted by artists Robert Horning and Bianca Burrows.

New furniture for the location was purchased at local independent furniture stores such as Rare Hues and The Missing Piece, while Florida Seating in Pinellas County serviced reupholstered banquettes and Tanner Paints of Tampa developed a new interior paint palette.

Upgrades to the Tampa Pizza Company’s Westchase location include new paint and décor, along with a server system with mobile tablet ordering capabilities.

“It was important to us to turn to our local vendors here in the Tampa Bay area to make improvements to the dining experience that we offer our guests,” adds Burton, who hopes to see changes to the space make it feel “more eclectic, independent and local.”

Changes at both locations include upgraded bars and an expanded beverage program, along with plans to expand the restaurant craft beer selections in coming months.

One unique implement? A wine tap system.

Some aspects of the new brand won’t feel like a big change for customers – the lean, healthy influence of a menu laden with all-natural, vegetarian and special dietary needs-friendly options is still there.

Traditional pizza is also available, along with chicken wings, seasonal appetizers, custom sandwiches and wraps, and desserts including bakery items and gelato.

“Ralph and I have built a loyal following over the years, and it is very important to us that we maintain the quality service and incredible food that our guests expect,” says Burton. “Our mission is fairly simple -- create fresh, delicious meals that are appealing to even the health conscience customers who crave great tasting food.”

The first two Tampa Pizza Company restaurants are located in downtown Tampa, in the ground floor of the Skypoint Condos at 777 N. Ashley Dr., and in Westchase, at Westchase Town Center, 9556 W Linebaugh Ave.

Downtown Tampa quiet zone silences train horns with FDOT grant funds

Downtown Tampa and Channelside residents will rest a little easier in coming months, thanks to a $1.35 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Trains travel through Tampa on a daily basis, and their horns “are a nuisance,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Train horns are sounded in compliance with federal rules and regulations, which require a train to blast its horn for 15 to 20 seconds at any public crossing. As a result, the loud but legally mandatory horns are “bouncing off the buildings throughout downtown, bothering residents and impacting our economic opportunity as our urban core continues to densify," Buckhorn says.

In fact, the sound of train horns in downtown Tampa has been such a sore subject among residents that some have turned to a Facebook page, called “Help Tampa Sleep,'' to address the topic in a public forum.

Back in August 2014, the city contracted King Engineering Associates to study the development of a “quiet zone” in downtown Tampa.

Buckhorn’s staff reached out to the FDOT to seek information about quiet zones after learning that Florida Gov. Rick Scott was to include quiet zone funding in the state budget. The funds, awarded to the City of Tampa through FDOT’s Quiet Zone Grant program, will be used to create the “quiet zone” along CSX railroad tracks throughout downtown Tampa -- meaning trains will no longer blare their horns in the middle of the night as they pass through town.   

State funding will not cover the entire cost of creating a “quiet zone” in the middle of downtown Tampa -- the anticipated cost for the projects is $2.7 million. FDOT grants will provide up to half the cost of creating quiet zones. The projected improvements are expected to begin in summer 2015.

To silence train horns in downtown Tampa, the City of Tampa must meet “quiet zone” safety requirements established by the Federal Railroad Administration. The project will include the upgrade of nine public highway-rail crossings through downtown Tampa -- from North Jefferson Street to Doyle Carlton Drive -- with additional gating, street medians and signage. 

“Downtown residents and businesses can coexist with the trains, and a quiet zone allows us to strike that balance,” Buckhorn says.

Some citizens are concerned with the solution, however. Gasparilla Interactive Festival Executive Director Vinny Tafuro, a downtown resident, says that he is "hopeful that the project successfully quiets the horns," but is also "concerned with the aesthetics of how the crossings will look, and the reality of the CSX engineers actually following the guidelines and not blowing the horns."

"As a fan of innovative technology, I would prefer a long-term solution that improved on a loud horn as a warning," Tafuro says. "Seems archaic."

In fact, the Train Quiet Zone rules do stipulate that a train horn may be blown in a "quiet zone" during emergency situations.

To view the grant application and award, please visit the City of Tampa’s website or click here. To learn more about the Train Horn Rule as well as Train Quiet Zones, visit the Federal Railroad Administration's website.

Hablo Taco opens in downtown Tampa's Channel District

Holy guacamole. A new tequila bar and taco lounge opens its doors in Channelside Bay Plaza in downtown Tampa on Wednesday (Feb. 4). 

Hablo Taco is the first business to open in the plaza since Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik announced a plan to invest a staggering $1 billion in Tampa’s downtown Channel District over the next five to seven years.

The Hablo Taco food menu is a mix of bar food, like burgers, and Mexican-inspired staples, such as nachos, tacos and Mexican street corn, along with four variations on guacamole. The restaurant’s bar menu focuses on margaritas and frozen cocktails along with a variety of tequilas.
 
“We like the menu options and we believe the management is developing a fun, welcoming environment that will offer something for everyone,” says Bill Wickett, EVP of Marketing and Communications for Tampa Bay Lightning.
 
The 6,000-square-foot restaurant sits across from Hooters and will boast a 50-ft outdoor bar. Hablo Taco will be run by Guy Revelle, the operator of the plaza’s Splitsville Lanes bowling alley, as well as previous plaza tenants Stumps Supper Club, Howl at the Moon and Tinatapas.
 
“Once Hablo Taco opens, we will focus on driving exciting events (like the upcoming Gasparilla Film Festival) into Channelside,” Wickett says, “which we believe will appeal to residents in the Channelside and downtown neighborhoods, thereby bringing more traffic to the existing businesses in the mall.” 

Vinik, along with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, welcomed Hablo Taco, 615 Channelside Drive, with a ribbon cutting in late January.

“We are excited to open Hablo Taco and we believe it will become a destination, not only for Lightning fans and Amalie Arena guests, but for Channelside residents and employees of our downtown businesses,” Wickett says.

Franklin Street, a family of full-service real estate companies, manages Channelside Bay Plaza. For more information on Hablo Taco, or to explore job opportunities, visit the restaurant’s website.
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