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New College Of Florida Begins Library Plaza Renovation, Bell Tower Project

New College of Florida students will see changes on campus when they return in the fall.

Implementing various parts of its 2006 Campus Master Plan, New College recently began a $300,000 renovation on the plaza in front of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. Sharing the facility with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, a key component of the project is the construction of a new $400,000 bell tower. The timing of the library plaza renovation is tied to the Fall 2011 opening of the new campus Academic Center and Plaza, located adjacent of the library.

"Over the last few years, New College has been implementing various parts of its Master Plan, which includes urban design components to foster a greater sense of community to enhance the educational and environmental experience for students, faculty and staff,'' says Linda Joffe, New College associate director of public affairs.

According to Joffe, the plan marked an important step in the college's transition back to an independent campus on its historical property, which encompass the former estates of Charles Ringling and Ralph Caples; in 2001, New College separated itself from USF, becoming Florida's independent honors college.

Located between Ringling Plaza and College Drive -- just north of the Ringling Museum and Asolo Repertory Theatre -- the entire plaza in front of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library will be "scraped,'' making way for designs by Graham-Booth Landscape Architecture of St. Petersburg: new pavers, landscaping, lighting, grass, raised planters and tables with attached seating.

In addition, a 64-foot bell tower, designed by Renker-Eich-Parks Architects of St. Petersburg, will evoke New College's historic Four Winds seal and the "building on learning'' concept. The obelisk-style tower will feature four twisting, precast concrete pilasters held together by two rings. Mounted between the rings will be four bells built by French company Paccard, the "Stradivarius of bell makers.'' Currently, more than 120,000 Paccard bells are located in cities and villages throughout the world.

"The modernist bell tower is a welcomed addition to campus architecture. On many college campuses, a bell tower is a landmark and New College wanted to give its students a similar experience,'' Joffe says. "The project is expected to further transform the heart of the campus, creating a seamless, communal outdoor space -- the perfect transition between the historic Ringling-era campus and residential campus.''

According to Joffe, the four bells can be programmed to produce a wide range of melodies. The college hopes that students in the music program will embrace an opportunity to create original music to be played by the new bells.

Funds for the $700,000 project are provided by a $400,000 donation by philanthropists and community leader Beverly Koski with the remaining $300,000 designated by state of Florida infrastructure funding. Project manager and New College Senior Architect Jack Whelan expects the project to be complete by October 2012.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Linda Joffe, New College of Florida

Burger 21 Expands In Tampa Bay, New Jersey

Satisfying burger-loving palettes, Tampa-based Burger 21 continues to expand.

With plans to open two new Tampa Bay area locations in Lakeside Village in Lakeland and Trout Creek Commons in Tampa by the end of Summer 2012, the fast-casual burger concept recently announced its fourth franchise agreement to open a restaurant in New Jersey. Upon opening, the first Northeast location will mark the 10th location for Burger 21, including locations in Westchase and Carrollwood.

"America has a love affair with burgers. Couple that with the explosive growth of the fast-casual segment of the food industry and the result is a strong consumer demand for premium, better burger products served in an inviting fast-casual atmosphere,'' says Alisha dos Santos, communications manager for Front Burner Brands, the concepts’ management company.

Wanting to go "beyond the better burger,'' Burger 21 features 21 chef-inspired burger creations ranging from hand-crafted, freshly ground Angus beef to turkey, chicken, shrimp, tuna and veggie burgers. Toss in made-to-order salads; Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs; hand-breaded chicken tenders and an extensive shake bar including hand-dipped floats, shakes and sundaes and you have the key to fast-casual success. Burger 21 also recently launched a brand new gluten-free menu.

"In developing the concept, the owners of The Melting Pot fondue franchise -- the Johnston family -- saw an opportunity to fill a void in the burger business,'' dos Santos says. "The concept defines its own category, beyond the better burger, offering quality, premium ingredients, innovative recipes and a gourmet experience without the gourmet price.''

In September 2011, Burger 21 launched an aggressive growth strategy to bring hand-crafted burger creations and hand-dipped signature shakes to more cities across the United States, seeking single and multi-unit operators with restaurant experience to join the upscale fast-casual dining concept. With the newest franchise locations in Atlanta, Georgia and Voorhees, N.J., Burger 21 plans to expand its efforts into the Midwest and along the West Coast.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Alisha dos Santos, Front Burner Brands

Secrets Of The Sea Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium Opens In 2013, John's Pass Village

Come Spring 2013, some of the sea's greatest secrets will be revealed.

Rebranding the current 2,000-square-foot St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium concept into Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium -- a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept -- John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach will welcome the approximately $4 million facility.

“Secrets of the Sea will be a premier venue designed to bring the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford. “The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow. The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

Mystery Stations will be located throughout the new 12,500-square-foot center, allowing for interactive experiences in which  visitors will explore the sea's secrets, discovering how scientists ("Sea Sleuths'') are working to reveal some of the sea's greatest mysteries. The stations will also showcase how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from these unsolved mysteries.

Additionally, various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

According to Rutherford, the new aquarium space is expected to generate nearly $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries while anchoring one of Tampa Bay's top attractions by expanding visitation in Pinellas County.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

Key contributors to the design and rebranding of the aquarium include Aqua Marketing Communications and design firms Hands On! and MAM Exhibit Design. Several facility spaces, exhibits and Mystery Stations have already been gifted by Bay News 9, Hubbard’s Properties, Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Margaret E. Dickins Foundation and USF College of Marine Science.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium/Secrets of the Sea

HART Upgrades Bus Routes, Stops In Westshore, East Tampa

In an attempt to make services more accessible and convenient to customers, HART Route 15 at Columbus Drive in Tampa recently received a facelift thanks to the Bus Stop Improvement Program.

Running along Columbus Drive from the Westshore Plaza Transfer Center to the NetPark Transfer Center, 28 bus stops were improved with landing pads (concrete pads that provide a stable surface for persons with a mobility device) with approximately 1,100 feet of sidewalk installed along the 16-mile route.

An additional 28 bus stops will be improved with 6,600 feet of sidewalk installed along Route 15 as part of the Broadway Sidewalk Project which focuses on the Broadway Avenue portion of Route 15 between 50th and 66th Streets in East Tampa; work started the week of July 9th on the $200,000 project funded by the New Freedom Grant, a federal program that supports transit projects improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.

“No project is too small to drastically improve connectivity,” says HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia. “The Broadway Sidewalk Project is an example of this, providing connections from bus stops to the adjacent industrial development.”

Route 39 at Busch Boulevard and Route 36 at Dale Mabry Highway and Himes Avenue are the next HART routes slated for improvements as part of the Bus Stop Improvement program, a route-by-route assessment of bus stops to ensure ADA accessibility, convenience and safety aiming to improve the overall efficiency of HART services.

“This program is critical because our customers, drivers and buses are the essential parts of our system,” Mejia says. “Our 3,300 bus stops throughout Hillsborough County serve as the access points to our system.”

HART aims to make all stops ADA compliant eventually. In 2010, 113 shelters were installed with 79 bus stops upgraded  while in 2011, 50 shelters were installed and 218 bus stops upgraded. So far, in 2012, 38 shelters have been installed with 287 bus stops improved. Currently, one of every six HART bus stops has a shelter.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Warner's Bayou To Renovate Boat Launch, Manatee County

Manatee County residents, boaters, fishing enthusiasts and environmental supports are in for a treat: A new proposal is in the works for improvements to Warner's Bayou.

Proposed improvements for Warner's Bayou's boat ramp include an extended guardrail, a foot bridge leading to the beach area, two shallow swales for storm water treatment, a restroom on the north side of the ramp and a fish cleaning station.

Originally, the project was expected to cost approximately $728,000 and included repaving of the parking lot, but has been scaled back to meet the community's request: The parking lot will remain shell with the exception of two paved/concrete handicap spaces.

A public workshop to discuss new plans was held on July 11th.

“I believe the new plan was very well-received,” says Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County information outreach coordinator. “People seemed pleased to know that the county had scaled back the original plan -- appreciative that the county listened to their concerns.”

According to Azzara, costs for any improvements will be split evenly between the West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) and Florida Boater Improvement Program; no Manatee County property tax dollars will be spent on the improvements.

“The end result will be an impressive and constructive collaboration among the county, Warner's Bayou residents, boaters and environmental interests,” says Azzara of the project, which is expected to have finalized plans by the Manatee County Commission by late Fall 2012.

The county will host a similar open house workshop for proposed improvements to the Fort Hamer boat ramp at Fort Hamer Park on August 1st at 6:30 p.m. at Williams Elementary School on Fort Hamer Road in Parrish.

Several projects are currently in the works for Manatee County including the county's first Green Street and a new cafe at the Green Bridge Fishing Pier.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Nicholas Azzara, Manatee County

HART To Send $9M Back To Hillsborough County

After a detailed cost analysis, HART officials say they are able to reallocate almost $9 million back into Hillsborough County.

According to HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) determined that several projects were significantly under budget upon completion, allowing the money to go toward Hillsborough County infrastructure needs, if desired.

“In an era when such projects frequently incur cost overruns, it is important for HART to demonstrate that we have been and will continue to be responsible stewards of taxpayer money,” Mejia says.

Funded by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT), a total of just more than $8.9 million is currently available for reallocation with the MetroRapid East-West project offering $1 million and the MetroRapid North-South offering approximately $5.7 million. The Brandon Park and Ride was completed with a little more than $2 million remaining. Made available by capital funding, the remaining funds cannot be reallocated toward operational costs such as bus routes.

HART also recently announced proposed changes to fares and services, addressing a number of issues including increased operational costs and decreased ad valorem revenues. These changes include raising the One-Way Cash and 1-Day Unlimited Ride Fares by about 25 cents with changes also affecting 1-Day Unlimited HARTFlex, 3-Day Unlimited, 31-Day Unlimited, 1-Day 10 Pack Unlimited and ADA Paratransit fares. Bus route and schedule changes may be made as well.

“Bus route and schedule changes proposed for November 2012 will streamline some routes while boosting service for others,” Mejia says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Washington Street Park Gets Design Award, Tampa

Washington Street Park in Tampa is on a roll: The Channel District park recently received yet another award praising its design.

Last month, the public green space was among three parks in Tampa to receive excellence awards for design and public participation at the Hillsborough County Planning Commission's 30th Anniversary Community Design Awards. Now, the park is being honored by a Landscape Architecture Award from the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (FLASLA).

Recognizing the transformation of an empty urban space into a now useable public green space, Washington Street Park, designed by Lea Del Tosto of WilsonMiller/Stantec, is the first public open air space in the Channel District, providing recreation opportunities for the more than 2,000 residents living in the neighborhood.

“It's a green oasis in what is becoming a densely developed and populated neighborhood,” says Bob McDonaugh, manager of the Channel District and Downtown Community Redevelopment Areas (CRA)

According to McDonaugh, the park's design came about after a series of meetings with neighborhood residents, encouraging public participation during the design process of the approximately $815,000 nautical-themed park.

Including a lawn area, large canvas shade structure and non-traditional play area, the half-acre space was designed to allow for flexible use of its plaza and lawn areas, which can accommodate gatherings of various sizes. The park also includes a fenced dog area complete with artificial turf designed specifically for pet areas, pet water fixtures and seating for dog owners.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bob McDonaugh, City of Tampa

Riverwalk Gets $10.9M Federal Grant, Tampa

The City of Tampa is making significant progress on making downtown Tampa a place for residents to live, work and play.

In addition to the new 20-story Southgate Tower office building planned for 2016 near the Tampa Bay Times Forum off of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway -- the first new office building in downtown Tampa in 20 years -- significant progress will soon be made in an attempt to complete Tampa's 2.6-mile riverfront walkway along the Hillsborough River.

Thanks to a $10.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the City will be able to make way on filling in two major gaps in the Tampa Riverwalk: one segment going south of Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park under the Kennedy Boulevard Bridge and a second going north from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts to Water Works Park.

The total construction cost for both segments is $13.7 million with the portion under Kennedy Bridge costing approximately $10 million alone.

“The Kennedy Boulevard Plaza segment is the key link,” says Lee Hoffman, development manager for the Riverwalk. “Everything has been designed and permitted, we were just waiting on funding.”

Construction on these portions will create approximately 200 temporary construction jobs, in addition to becoming a catalyst for investment along the Hillsborough River. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls the TIGER grant a “game-changer for downtown Tampa,” emphasizing the Riverwalk as a key element in the effort to revitalize the downtown urban core.

Construction on the newly funded segments is expected to start by the end of 2013.

Recently, Mayor Buckhorn cut the ribbon to two new sections of the Riverwalk: the Brorein Street Underpass and the Brownstone Segment, which extended the southern part of the existing walkway an additional 550 feet. These sections brought the length of contiguous Riverwalk walkway just shy of one mile. Currently, 1.5 miles of the Riverwalk are in place for the public to enjoy.

According to Bob McDonaugh, administrator of economic opportunity for the City of Tampa, the City has also been successful in getting grant funding from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to put in docks behind the Tampa Bay History Center as part of the Riverwalk project. The docks will service the History Center, Forum and Channelside area and is expected to see completion by early August.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Lee Hoffman & Bob McDonaugh, City of Tampa

City of Clearwater Makes Plans To Improve U.S. 19

The U.S. 19 corridor in Clearwater is about to become more attractive, successful and sustainable.

Preliminary plans are in the works to improve the Clearwater stretch of U.S. 19 because conditions along the main north-south road have changed dramatically over the past several years.

According to Cate Lee, planner at the City's Planning and Development Department, recent construction has begun hurting some businesses dependent on impulse customers relying on direct access from U.S. 19. The City's new plans will allow and incentivize investment in properties located along the corridor that may be prohibited or discouraged now under current plans or codes.

“The City of Clearwater is undertaking this planning process to set the framework for development post-Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) roadway improvements,” Lee says. “The plan that will be the end result of the current study will guide growth along the corridor for the next few decades.”

Offering recommendations on a wide range of topics from land use to urban design and mobility to sustainability, the final report will promote more sustainable forms and patterns of development by improving vehicle, pedestrian and bike connections throughout Clearwater.

Currently, the study area includes the segments of the U.S. 19 corridor from Belleair Road north to Curlew Road while considering the future of Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Drew Street and North McMullen Booth Road.

“This planning effort takes a long range view of the corridor: What is the future? What types of land use and development do people who, work, play and shop along the corridor want to see?,” Lee says. “The roadway improvements allow for greater regional connectivity to Tampa and south Pinellas and north Pasco counties.”

Lee stresses the importance of taking advantage of the corridor plans and improvements to create more jobs and quality places for residents to live, work and play. The City expects final planning and approval of the plan by the end of Summer 2012 with the final adoption by City Council by Fall 2012.

Want to have a say in the changes made along the corridor? The City is encouraging feedback from those who regularly use the Clearwater portion of U.S. 19 to help identify problems, offer ideas and suggest possible solutions via an online discussion board.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Cate Lee, City of Clearwater

Construction Continues On Green Street, Palmetto

Manatee County's City of Palmetto is jumping on the green train.

Redeveloping Fifth Street West in downtown Palmetto to integrate environmentally friendly right-of-way landscaping, the first Green Street in Manatee County will cut down on pollution flowing into the Manatee River by filtrating storm water.

“Essentially, we're trying to take away all of the existing flow of water off of the asphalt and pavement to try to reintroduce nature's own way of using the ground as a sponge as it naturally absorbs storm water,” says Green Street architect Charlie Ugarte.

Palmetto's Green Street, a term coined by Portland, OR's sustainability efforts, will use a number of techniques -- everything from porous pavers to rain gardens to retention areas -- to reintroduce the storm water directly intro the ground at the source, versus using pipes and other manmade means. Native Florida plants and trees will be utilized because their roots serve to filter street runoff.

“This project is really something that had to be done to the street as it was in an atrocious condition,” Ugarte says. “We couldn't just repair things. We needed to create a prototype for how urban design could be done in Palmetto and couldn't afford the traditional rain water systems in our compact, dense environment.”

Currently under construction, the $1.4 million Green Street project is slated to see completion in August 2012. Funds for the project by Bradenton's NRC Construction Co. are being provided by the Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) with the help of a $582,000 grant from Southwest Florida Water Management (SFMD).

According to Ugarte, this project is just the start of Palmetto's plan to re-urbanize the downtown neighborhoods into a compact community as a similar approach is in the works for Riverside Park.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Charlie Ugarte, Ugarte and Associates

Tampa Port Authority To Build Oil Recycling Facility

The Tampa Port Authority and NexLube Tampa recently joined forces, signing a long-term lease to develop and construct an oil recycling facility at the Port of Tampa.

Marking a $75 million to $80 million investment, the new facility will have the capacity to process up to 24 million gallons of used oil per year at the Port and is said to be be the first of its kind in Florida. Ultimately, the recycled oil will be used to produce lubricants, diesel and asphalt while oil from automobile oil changes will be reprocessed for use.

“[This project has] been in the works for over two years,” says Andrew Fobes, director of public relations at the Port. “All of the legwork has been completed and NexLube is ready to move ahead.”

The new facility will be located on 12 acres at Pendola Point in Tampa and is expected to create hundreds of jobs during a two-year construction phase. Once fully operational, the facility is expected to generate approximately $10 million in Hillsborough County property tax revenues to the Port Authority over the term of the 20-year lease agreement.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with NexLube Tampa on this amazing project. As a major petroleum port, Tampa is a logical center for significant oil recycling,” says Port Director and CEO Richard Wainio, who is retiring in September. “We are eager to see NexLube's business succeed and thank the many partners who helped make this day possible.”

Upon completion of construction, a total of 75 full-time positions with average salaries and wages ranging between $60,000 and $65,000 is expected at the new facility.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Andrew Fobes & Richard Wainio, Tampa Port Authority

3 Tampa Parks Win Community Design Awards

The designs of three Tampa parks were recently honored at the Hillsborough County Planning Commission’s 30th Anniversary Community Design Awards.

Honoring the very best in planning and community design, the awards were given to Washington Street Park in the Channel District, Bern's Park in South Tampa and Sulphur Springs' new Springhill Community Center.

“In addition to recreational opportunities, quality parks enhance a community by adding value to the neighborhood, provide a place to gather for friendship and improve the environment's air and water quality,” says Greg Bayor, director of City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department.

Located on half an acre, the Channel District's Washington Street Park won an Award of Excellence for an Institutional, Public or Quasi-Public Space. Designed by WilsonMiller/Stantec, the $815,000 nautical-themed park opened in December 2011 and incorporates numerous elements suggested by neighborhood residents, including oversized sea grass sculptures, an open lawn area, a plaza with a large canvas shade structure, a dog run and non-traditional play area. Washington Street Park's design allows for flexible use, accommodating gatherings of various sizes.

Bern's Park in South Tampa along South Howard Avenue won an Award of Merit for Public Participation, honoring Bern Laxer's contribution to the quality of life in Tampa. Located just around the corner from Bern's Steakhouse, Bern's Park features a two-tiered fountain with bronze sculptures donated by the Laxer family and is surrounded by benches donated by neighborhood residents. Designed by residents, for residents, Laurie Potier-Brown, project manager and landscape architect for the City's Parks and Recreation Department, says the park encourages neighborhood strolling through the lush landscaping installed by more than 75 community volunteers.

Opened in May 2012, the $2.5 million Springhill Community Center in Sulphur Springs won an Award of Excellence for Public Participation. Located between Eskimo and Okaloosa avenues, the 16,000-square-foot community center is the location of the middle school component of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA's Neighborhood of Promise Initiative. Designed by members of the community, Sulphur Springs Elementary students and Tom Hester with the City, the community center includes a gymnasium, warming kitchen, computer classroom, multipurpose room, splash pad, playground and sports field. The center replaced a once rundown block previously devoted to a baseball field.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Greg Bayor, City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department

Ameriprise Financial, McLain Foods Move Into City Center, St. Pete

The City Center in St. Petersburg is seeing a significant amount of leasing activity.

On the heels of an $8 million renovation project, two new tenants -- Ameriprise Financial Inc. and McLain Foods -- will take advantage of new first-class amenities offered by the 240,000 square foot, two-building complex including a state-of-the-art fitness center, atrium cafe and 65-seat conference center. Existing tenants Royal Bank of Canada Securities (RBC) and Insco Insurance Services signed lease extensions.

“We want to promote a high-quality lifestyle,” says Larry Feldman, CEO of Feldman Equities, an owner of the City Center. “One building can help attract the types of companies that the St. Pete area needs. We're looking to bring in the innovative-type tenants to make for a really dynamic workplace.”

Ameriprise Financial leased 5,368 square feet of space brokered by Jack Hoskins of CBRE; Hoskins also brokered a 16,350-square-foot lease renewal with RBC. In addition, McLain Foods will move into a 4,069-square-foot space at the City Center while Insco Insurance Services has signed a lease extension and expansion for 3,552 square feet. The recent leasing activity totals 29,339 square feet.

“These are the kinds of businesses St. Pete needs,” says Feldman.

Since December 2010, occupancy at the City Center, managed by Tower Realty Partners, has risen from 44 percent to 76 percent. Over the last 15 months, leasing activity has totaled more than 100,000 square feet.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Larry Feldman, Feldman Equities

New Cafe Coming To Palmetto, Bradenton

A new cafe is coming to the city of Palmetto in Manatee County, just north of Bradenton.

As part of a bigger plan to revamp the southern gateway of Palmetto, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) plans to demolish the current bait shop building located adjacent to the Green Bridge Fishing Pier to replace it with a small cafe.

Tentatively named “The Seahorse,” the new 3,200-square-foot building aims to become a place with indoor and outdoor seating, allowing visitors to enjoy the view of the river. The building will feature rentable space for vendors, as well as a retail establishment to sell bait and tackle. According to "Seahorse" architect Charlie Ugarte, plans for the project are still evolving.

“The city needs something to create a gateway into Palmetto off of the Green Bridge,” Ugarte says. “The building that is there now is just about ready to fall apart and really needs something to replace it.”

Ugarte used a compass as inspiration for the approximately $350,000 project, keeping the traditional architecture of Palmetto in mind. Ultimately, Ugarte and the CRA came up with “The Seahorse,” a structure that can be viewed from the river, pier, parking area and Green Bridge.

“That is where the four points of a compass come in,” says Ugarte. “You can approach this building from four directions and each one of them seem to be equally important.”

“The Seahorse” is just one of the many projects currently in the works in the Palmetto area. Currently, the CRA is overseeing several projects, including renovations of the seawall and boat ramp.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Charlie Ugarte, Ugarte and Associates

Largo Temporarily Suspends Impact Fees

In an effort to stimulate the local economy and residential development, the City of Largo Commission recently approved a temporary suspension of the collection of parkland and facility/capital improvement fees.

Following in the footsteps of Dade City and North Port, the suspension of impact fees will last for approximately 24 months, demonstrating the City's flexibility and awareness of the current financial challenges associated with the fees.

According to Largo's Community Development Director Carol Stricklin, Largo's residential real estate market has recently become active with a handful of new apartment projects under review and town home subdivision projects being restarted after construction halted during the recession.

The parkland and facility/capital improvement fees collected on residential development can cost anywhere between $1,800 and $2,600 per unit with the money being used to buy and develop parks and green spaces in Largo. Ultimately, the suspension translates into a lower cost associated with building a new home or housing developing.

The City heard from the development community that the fees were impacting the feasibility of projects,” Stricklin says. “Suspending these fees will ultimately stimulate residential development in Largo, encouraging projects to move forward to construction.”

Aiming to develop walkable, compact centers and transit-oriented, mixed-use corridors, Stricklin says the City's new policy aims to attract new multifamily projects in the right locations to help create a more vibrant city.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Carol Stricklin, City of Largo
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