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New Frank Lloyd Wright House Stands Out At Florida Southern College

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jane Rose, USFSM

New Saunders Library To Be Built In Tampa In 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WalMart Announces New Store in South St. Petersburg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarasota's Selby Gardens Flourishes With Renovations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construction Begins On Water Works Park, Extension Of Tampa Riverwalk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BIG Boost To Waterfront In Gulfport, Madeira Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tempo Picks Up As Encore! Rises Near Downtown Tampa

Construction is expected to begin in January on the Tempo, an apartment building designed for families with children as well as singles, in the growing Encore! project between downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

The Tempo is a 203-unit building with multipurpose room, a swimming pool, a theater, a parking garage and commercial space on the ground floor.

It will follow the Ella, the TRIO and the Reed as the fourth building out of the ground in the music-themed project that pays tribute to Tampa's rich musical and performance history.

The Encore! planned community is a collaborative effort by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development to build mixed-use developments for mixed-income families, young professionals and seniors in an affordable urban environment. The 29-acre project will eventually include a school, outdoor recreation spaces, urban gardens, trees and sidewalks designed to encourage neighborliness and pride in community.

The Housing Authority also is looking at options for replacing North Boulevard Homes, a public housing complex on North Boulevard just west of downtown. The Authority is expected to seek federal funding through HUD to make it happen.

The investment in rebuilding and replacing the city's public housing complexes with mixed-use housing, retail and commercial is a multiyear commitment that aims to create urban neighborhoods that are more attractive, affordable and safer for moderate income households.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

Invision Tampa Discusses Community Feedback For West River Neighborhoods

The reintroduction of the street grid in the Tampa neighborhoods along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, intense development on Main Street and greater access to the river are among key recommendations emanating from the Invision Tampa process now underway.

A community briefing on July 18, 2013 shared feedback from surveys, research and workshops for the redevelopment of the West River area near downtown Tampa. Stakeholders gathered to hear the Invision Team report back initial ideas and strategies from the input given during the last design workshop in June.

The West River area includes the western bank of the Hillsborough River and its neighborhoods according to the Invision Tampa website. The briefing is a way to continue collaboration between the design team and community stakeholders.

"The process is like a funnel," says Brenda Dohring-Hicks of The Dohring Group who attended both the West River design workshop and the community briefing. "They gather all the ideas and then narrow them down to a concept with effective strategies."

"The event had a lot of people from the neighborhood, which showed how much they care about the future redevelopment," explains Dohring-Hicks. 

The West River area redevelopment "will have a positive impact on the historic neighborhood," says Dohring-Hicks.  “Its proximity to downtown and surrounding areas will make the project even more impactful.” 

Invision Team encourages community members to share feedback on its website and through social media.  You can view the InVision Tampa Plan online or at the AIA Tampa Bay Galleria at 200 North Ashley Suite 100, until August 1, 2013.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Brenda Dohring-Hicks, The Dohring Group

Crumb & Cork Jazzes Up Franklin Street After Dark

Clusters of ribbon cuttings have brought a bustling feel to downtown Tampa as new businesses open their doors. Downtown sidewalks and restaurants are rich with activity during the work day, but Crumb & Cork, a new wine and cheese bar soon to open, will spark activity from day to night. Owner Joshua Pollick and his partner Joseph Saine are adding authenticity to downtown by jazzing up the atmosphere on Franklin Street.

"We have seen the recent resurgence of life and activity in the downtown area," says Pollick.  "We see a bright future in downtown from our landmark address at 501 North Franklin." 

Pollick chose downtown because it is well-served by public transportation, has friendly Downtown Ambassadors, a business-friendly climate, and an administration that has its listening-ears on for ways to make downtown more livable, walkable and enjoyable. 

"The close proximity of beautiful parks, the Riverwalk and gorgeous new residential buildings have reshaped the way we see our city," explains Pollick.

Crumb & Cork seeks to build a unique experience with over 130 wine selections and live jazz music. The space is designed to be comfortable, a place to relax with friends. Sidewalk lounging will accompany the stylish indoor seating. Patrons will be able to enjoy Sunday brunch, workday lunch, happy hours and evenings out.  A graduate of the University of South Florida, Pollick says he's proud to bring a locally owned USF “Bull Business" to downtown.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Joshua Pollick, owner, Crumb & Cork

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Encore Rising: Downtown Tampa’s Mixed-Use Redevelopment Grows

Encore, the $425 million mixed-use redevelopment venture between the Tampa Housing Authority and the Banc of America Community Development Corporation, spans 12 city blocks of downtown Tampa, where Cass Street meets Nebraska Avenue.

The emerging neighborhood not only spans the physical distance between Ybor City and the Central Business District, it bridges generations of people while recognizing the city's rich musical history.

Four Encore residential buildings are in various stages of development. Ella, is already home to active, senior residents and nearly 100 percent occupied. Trio is designed for families with children, singles and couples. Preleasing for the mixed-income apartment homes will begin toward the end of the year. Reed, will break ground in mid-August and will be home to active seniors. Tempo, currently in design, will begin construction in early 2014 and families can choose from one, two, three or four bedroom mixed-income apartment homes.

Young professionals, families and active seniors alike will be moving into downtown Tampa’s Encore development. Of the combined 649 units, 305 are dedicated for active seniors.   

"We welcome our first residents, and look forward to having many others join them as this vibrant downtown neighborhood continues to take shape," says Senior VP Eileen Pope of Banc of America Community Development Corporation.  The project will continue over the next seven to nine years and when complete, more than 2,500 people will call Encore home.

From environmentally sustainable construction and public art to a new park and public middle school, Encore brings together Tampa's history with vibrant redevelopment, serves as a catalyst for economic investment and creates an enduring future through a multigenerational neighborhood.

Writier: Taryn Sabia
Source: Eileen Pope, Banc of America Community Development Corporation

Grants Encourage Street Scene In Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa's public realm has seen vast improvements over the past few years. New parks, restaurants, museums, well-planned events and Riverwalk improvements are generating activity in public spaces like never before.   

Now the Tampa Downtown Partnership is offering businesses grants up to $2,500 to help make the urban street scene even livelier.

The Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program supports enhancements to exterior, ground floor storefront properties.

"The purpose of the Tampa Downtown Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program is to create a more attractive pedestrian atmosphere, and commercially vibrant environment through street level storefront improvements and inviting sidewalk cafe settings," says Shaun Drinkard, Director of Placemaking for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. "The program began in March of this year and the applications are seeking improvements that are engaging and pedestrian oriented.''

Kurdi's Fresh Mediterranean Grill, located on the corner of Tampa Street and Polk Street at Skypoint, is one of the first storefront businesses to qualify for program funding. The restaurant, which offers a healthy and unique fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine used the reimbursable grant "to expand their available seating to the outside through cafe tables, and planters were used to create an inviting experience for their patrons and passersby," says Adam Fritz, an urban designer with Baker Barrios Architects and grant chair. Duckweed Urban Market, Taps and the CI Group have also been approved.  

The maximum amount a storefront improvement project can receive is 50 percent of the total project budget, up to $2,500. The grant may be used for design, labor, materials or permitting fees related to façade improvements, cafe furniture, landscaping, signage, lighting and more. 

"The greater the connection between the life of the street and the activity at the base [of buildings], the more inviting the street and hence the more memorable experience of the city," Fritz says.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Shaun Drinkard, Tampa Downtown Partnership; Adam Fritz, Baker Barrios Architects

Tampa Heights Riverfront Adds Restaurant, Park

The Tampa Heights neighborhood will soon be home to a much talked about new restaurant, Ulele and the city’s next special events destination, Waterworks Park. The historic Waterworks building and park will work together, integrate with the neighborhood and connect to the Riverwalk. 

The new Ulele Restaurant will emerge from the renovated city Water Works Building. The Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant, is expected to open Ulele in the winter of 2014. The name comes from the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights, and was once Tampa’s first source of drinking water. Ulule Spring is undergoing restoration as part of the Waterworks Park renovation.

The design of the park is "a modern interpretation that is respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures," explains Angela Hendershot, an architect with Rowe Architects, Inc.  Rowe Architects is part of the Design Build Team for the Waterworks Park renovation with Biltmore Construction

"The series of contemporary park structures have folded roof plains in which the geometry is a takeoff of the historic Waterworks Building roof pitch," describes Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

The park will include play space for children, a playground, interactive water features, pavilions, docks, a kayak launch and stage and "will serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk," says Hendershot.

Special markers will draw attention to Tampa historic features, such as the Scottish Chief, a Civil War era vessel that sank at the southern end of Waterworks Park, and the Clara Frye Garden.  Clara Frye was a nurse who opened the first, free African-American Hospital in Tampa on the site now occupied by Blake High School which will be in view from the garden and Riverwalk. 

"Importantly, both projects will enhace the waterfront and you will be able to access the park and Ulele from the water," says Rowe.

Waterworks Park and Ulele will bring an important sense of history to the city and will share it with the Tampa Heights adding to the neighborhood’s character, revitalization and economic vitality.   

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects
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