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Volunteers Renovate Sulphur Springs Homes, Tampa

United Way HandsOn Suncoast and Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) show what a little paint and a handful of volunteers can do to improve a neighborhood.

As part of a collaborative effort with RTTB, United Way volunteers came together November 3 to help renovate four low-income Sulphur Springs homes; the homes are part of RTTB's Healthy Homes for Sulphur Springs initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Allegany Franciscan Ministries.

More than one dozen volunteers -- from licensed general contractors to local residents looking to spend a Saturday doing a good deed -- painted scuffed up exterior walls, repaired damaged roofs and faulty plumbing, pressure cleaned, planted new greenery and worked on small woodwork projects.

“We are committed to keep delivering -- along with our corporate partners -- healthy homes for residents in Sulphur Springs,” says RTTB Board President Beverly Minardi. “We want to thank those that volunteer for making this happen.”

With the support of more than 100 volunteers, RTTB preserves and revitalizes Tampa Bay area homes and communities to ensure that all homeowners, including those in lower-income neighborhoods, live in warmth, safety and independence.

“Our main focus is to revitalize one neighborhood at a time,” says RTTB Project Manager Mark Zdrojewski.

RTTB's goal is to keep affordable housing in the area, sparking economic development in the neighborhoods served. Since April 2011, the organization has completed renovations on more than 30 homes in the St. Pete area alone.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Beverly Minardi & Mark Zdrojewski, RTTB

Saint Leo U Gets New Turf Stadium, Parking Lot, Pasco County

Saint Leo University is celebrating the grand opening and dedication of a new turf stadium and parking garage on its main Pasco County campus.

Ten feet above ground, the new $13 million artificial field sits atop a new 740-space parking garage on the east side of campus near the gym.

One of several improvements Saint Leo has made to its athletic facilities, the surface is able to support 6,000 people and have two fields for intramural sports running perpendicular to the game field for extracurricular activities like football, lacrosse, soccer, ultimate frisbee and kickball.

With Lunz Prebor Fowler of Lakeland as archiect on the project and Clearwater's Creative Contractors, Inc. as contractor, the highly unusual artificial turf structure meets NCAA regulations for men's and women's lacrosse and soccer.

According to Brad Jorgensen, the only men's lacrosse coach in the program's eight-year history, the biggest asset the new field brings is not having to worry about overuse or weather damage.

“We beat up grass. Just the nature of our sport isn't kind to grass. Even the best lacrosse facilities show wear and tear by the end of the season,” Jorgensen says. “I think, long term, not having to deal with resodding and filling in holes is really going to help us out.”

The women's lacrosse team got to experience the new artificial turf game and practice field for the first time during a conditioning session on September 24th; the official grand opening and dedication took place on October 19th.

“[The team] was so excited to get out here. They're really proud of the facility,” says women's lacrosse coach Lesley Graham. “They want to do it justice, play hard, show everybody we're a force to be reckoned with and deserve this first-class facility.”

The Pasco County-based university recently acquired more than 30 acres of land from the Benedictine Sisters of Florida to include in an updated master plan for expansion.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Brad Jorgensen, Saint Leo University

Temple Crest Playground Designed By Kids Becomes Reality, Tampa

A playground envisioned by the children of the Temple Crest neighborhood in Tampa is now a reality, thanks to the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department, KABOOM!, Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc. and Foresters.

In less than eight hours and with the help of more than 200 volunteers, a new play space was built at Temple Crest Park, at 8116 N. 37th St. in Tampa. Plans for the park began at a Design Day held in September, where local children and community leaders met with organizers for KaBOOM! and Foresters to submit ideas in the form of drawings to create the final design of the playground.

“A playground is an important piece for the revitalization of a community,” says Foresters Senior VP Kasia Czarski. “Not only does it provide a first step towards keeping children healthy, but it's a safe, central location for the entire neighborhood to get together.”

Featuring ball fields, grills, play courts, picnic areas and a community center prior to the addition, the new 2,500-square-foot playground includes new play spaces such as a Glide Slide, Spiral Climber and Vertical Adventure Tube.

“Every child deserves a really cool place where they can play,” says Mark Downing of Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc. “We're committed to helping create those spaces in Tampa and are pleased to sponsor our fifth playground build with KaBOOM! and the City of Tampa.”

Since 2006, $7 million has been invested by Foresters in conjunction with KaBOOM!, totaling almost 100 playgrounds built or planned across the United States and Canada; over the past 15 years, more than 2.6 million children and families have benefited from the partnership between Foresters and KaBOOM!

“Foresters believes in providing opportunities for families to spend quality time together,” Czarski says.

The project is one of more than 150 playground builds led by KaBOOM! in 2012 as an effort to provide a great play space within walking distance of every child in the country.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kasia Czarski, Foresters & Mark Downing, Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Bern's Builds Boutique Hotel In South Tampa

Epicurean, a new 137-room boutique hotel, is in the works for South Tampa's South Howard Avenue.

In conjunction with the Marriott, the $32 million Epicurean is a collaboration between Mainsail Lodging & Development and Bern's Steak House.

Sitting directly across from Bern's and just down the street from Side Bern's, the unique space is expected to feature a large state-of-the-art culinary classroom, the Bern Laxer School of Food & Wine; high-end bistro; wine shop; rooftop lounge; full-service spa; and retail and production bakery and pastry shop.

Tampa's Urban Studio Architects is overseeing the design of the building itself with Getty's Hospitality & Development working on the building's interior.

“Tampa residents and visitors are to expect a chic neighborhood hotel, the location allowing for residents to walk over and become a regular in their own backyard,” says Mainsail Lodging & Development President Joe Collier. “Epicurean will allow out-of-town guests to stay in the middle of a thriving Tampa neighborhood with so many options within walking distance.”

From culinary demonstrations to evening wine tastings to special events such as Bern's Wine Fest, Epicurean plans to have plenty to keep both residents and visitors coming back. The hotel will also feature signature organic bath products and will be the first newly constructed property, of 34 high-end boutique resorts in the U.S., to join the Marriott's prestigious Autograph Collection.

“Projects in the Tampa Bay area are starting to move forward again and the economy is on the upswing,” Collier says. “Travelers these days are move savvy and looking for something new and different -- an experience, not just a hotel stay. We think Epicurean will fulfill all of these expectations.”

Through the addition of jobs and impact on economic development, Collier expects the hotel to be beneficial to the City and South Tampa residents, bringing additional tourists to the area.

“We love the fact that the hotel will be right in the middle of a popular, vibrant neighborhood where we can add the flavor of the area and have access to loyal Bern's customers,” he says. “Bern's is one of the most successful restaurants in the U.S. with the world's largest private wine collection. It's a destination by itself.”

After being put on hold for nearly five years due to the recession, ground broke on the Epicurean on October 23rd. The hotel is scheduled to open in November 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Joe Collier, Mainsail Lodging & Development

311 Apartments Designed For North Hyde Park, Tampa

A new residential development of urban apartments is in the works for the North Hyde Park neighborhood of Tampa.

Located just west of the University of Tampa at 403 N. Rome Ave., NoHo Flats at North Hyde Park is a 311-unit urban apartment project developed by Atlanta-based Pollack Shores Real Estate Group; the 7-building complex is slated to feature state-of-the-art amenities in an active part of of the city just west of downtown.

“The property is adjacent to 20 acres owned by Tampa General Hospital, which plans to build a major rehab center there,” says Ben Lee, principal of Schifino Lee Advertising and Branding, who is working with developers on the project.

Pollack Shores purchased the NoHo Flats development site for $4.8 million from Tampa-based Hyde Park Realty Group months ago. Upon completion of the project, the area is envisioned as similar to the South Hyde Park neighborhood.

Promoting a lifestyle of urban living, NoHo Flats will feature vertical bike racks for tenant use while a linear park and streetscape with sidewalks, streetlights, trees, benches and landscaping will be included in the construction of the project; the park will be open to the public.

In addition, Pollack Shores will lend support to build a community center at Vila Brothers Park, less than one mile from the development.

A fountain courtyard with fire pits, a fitness center including a multipurpose yoga/spin room, an outdoor pet area and large indoor clubroom with bar are among the lifestyle amenities to be offered at NoHo Flats. More than 90 on-street parking spots are to be built for public and tenants' guests to use. Interior unit features include custom cabinets, quartz countertops, faux wood flooring, custom tile and stainless steel appliances.

The project will break ground on October 24th and is expected to see completion by late 2013.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ben Lee, Schifino Lee Advertising and Branding

Saint Leo U Acquires 32 Acres, Plans Expansion

An expansion for Saint Leo University is in the works: The Pasco County-based university recently acquired more than 30 acres of land from the Benedictine Sisters of Florida.

Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, Saint Leo University, at 33701 S.R. 52 a few miles west of Dade City, is the oldest Catholic university in Florida, operating independently as a private nonprofit institution embracing Catholic Benedictine values and traditions. The university currently sits on 186 acres in Saint Leo, FL, offering more than 40 academic programs, including associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as the educational specialist (Ed.S.) degree.

“The university continues to grow and meet the ever-changing needs of our students,” says VP of Student Services Ken Posner. “We've been strategic in designing a campus learning environment that works.”

Acquiring 37 acres of the Benedictine Sisters' land holdings, the area includes the Holy Name Monastery, at 33201 S.R. 52 in Saint Leo, directly adjacent to the west end of Saint Leo University's campus. The university plans to use the land for future expansion as enrollment grows, incorporating the space into its updated master plan.

“We have been so blessed to have the Sister's involvement in Saint Leo since our founding as the first Catholic college in Florida,” says university President Arthur F. Kirk, Jr. “The Sisters' work will continue: They will live nearby, their presence will continue to enrich our university and they will be able to see on a daily basis how the addition of this parcel enhances our educational mission.”

The Benedictine Sisters, a community of 16, has been in Pasco County for 123 years and will remain on the existing Holy Name Monastery while a new one is built on the 40 acres of remaining land owned by the Sisters; the project is expected to take approximately two and a half years, including a fundraising effort.

“We plant our roots deep and feel blessed that we can transplant ourselves across the street near the university and in our hometown of Saint Leo,” says Prioress of Holy Name Monastery Sister Roberta Bailey, O.S.B. “We are pleased that the land will remain in the 'family' and continue to be used for educational ministries that uphold the same Benedictine values that the Sisters espouse.”

The six core values currently guiding university life are drawn from the Benedictine tradition, emphasizing a life of prayer, work, community, scholasticism and hospitality.

In September 2011, St. Leo celebrated the opening of the $12 million, 47,921-square-foot Donald R. Tapia School of Business and began an approximately $19 million construction project on two new apartment-style residence halls on the main campus in Pasco County.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Ken Posner & Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., Saint Leo University & Sister Roberta Bailey, Benedictine Sisters of Florida

Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel Opens To Patients

After hosting a community grand opening to approximately 8,000 people, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opened to patients on October 1st at 7 a.m.

Featuring an 18-bed emergency room with a streamlined emergency room process, dedicated imaging equipment and nurses and board-certified emergency room physicians on-site 24 hours a day, the 200,000-square-foot hospital took 22 months to build.

The hospital was fully staffed with with 175 expert physicians upon opening, practicing in the Emergency Department, Vascular Surgery, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Cardiac Care, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Radiology Services and Imaging Diagnostics, Women's Mammography and Diagnostics, General Surgery, Gastroenterology, Urology and Pulmonary.

In addition, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel is expected to open a $25 million, 100,000-square-foot, three-story Wellness Center by January 2013.

“This is part of the continuum of care for the Wesley Chapel community,” says Donna Jarmusz, senior VP of business development for Alter+Care, who is overseeing the construction of the Wellness Plaza project. “The hospital will be treating people who need inpatient care for more serious illness while the Wellness Center is part of the hospital's mission and philosophy to help people improve and maintain their health.”

According to hospital spokeswoman Tracy Clouser, the hospital will continue to fill a number of nursing and various staff positions. To apply, visit the hospital's website.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Donna Jarmusz, Alter+Care & Tracy Clouser, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel

Cru Cellars Expands, Adds Wine Garden, South Tampa

Attention book clubbees, meetup groups, friends, wine lovers in search of your peeps: Cru Cellars in South Tampa is expanding.

Located at 2506 S. MacDill Ave., the 2,000-square-foot space wine bar was voted Tampa's “Best Wine Bar” by Creative Loafing, featuring more than 25 wines by the glass and seven wine flights. Cru recently expanded, adding a kitchen in February 2012 and is expected to further expand with a 35-seat Wine Garden.

Extending from the existing wine bar, the Wine Garden will feature long banquette tables and chairs with the back half of the garden available to rent for private parties. Greenery and plants will be added, as well a large window from the current wine bar.

“The rentable space will hold about 20 people for a cocktail or mingling-style event or about 10 to 12 in a sit-down dinner style event,” says Cru Cellars owner Jennifer Bingham.

Cru will celebrate the Wine Garden grand opening on October 11th from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event will coincide with the 3rd Annual Perfect Pairing wine tasting event, featuring a sneak peak of a new fall menu.

“This is the biggest and best tasting we do all year. Featuring six stations of wine, each will be paired perfectly with a small bite, cheese or dessert,” Bingham says. “A percentage of the net sales will go to The Children's Home, as it has for the last two years.”

Designed by Hope Montgomery Ruhe and Jason Ruhe of In Bloom, the new Fall menu will debut mid-October 2012 including a new Saturday and Sunday wine brunch menu featuring breakfast and lunch options by chef Josh Burton.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jennifer Bingham, Cru Cellars

TGH Moves Offices To New Corporate Center, Downtown Tampa

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) has moved a number of its offices to the new Corporate Center on Kennedy Boulevard in downtown Tampa.

Located at 606 Kennedy Blvd., the hospital renovated a two-story, 52,000-square-foot facility originally built in 1926, making enough space to relocate approximately 450 TGH employees on 5.6 acres of land just west of downtown Tampa.

“Many TGH offices were moved to the new TGH Corporate Center so we could convert the spaces they previously occupied at the hospital into patient care,” says TGH Manager of Construction Services Kelly Glass. “The Kennedy Boulevard location was the right size for us and is in close proximity to the hospital.”

Designed to U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) requirements, existing wood flooring, brick arches and several items for added energy efficiency were left in place from the original architecture of the Bryn-Alan Photography laboratory and call center. According to Glass, the center expects to receive LEED Certification upon completion of a more than 450-space parking lot; the lot is currently under construction.

“The building was designed to blend into the current, new architecture of the Kennedy Boulevard area,” Glass says. “We believe the addition of the Corporate Center is a positive influence in the redevelopment of the corridor.”

Approximately $9.7 million was spent on purchasing the land for the Corporate Center with an additional $5 million spent on renovations.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kelly Glass, TGH

Crescent Resources Begins Work On Apartment Community On Bayshore, Tampa

A new eight-story, 367-unit apartment community is in the works for Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

North Carolina-based Crescent Resources is working on a $68 million project, Circle Bayshore, located at 319 Bayshore Blvd., just minutes from the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway, Hyde Park Village, Channelside, downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

Circle Bayshore will rent studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment units featuring high ceilings; walk-in closets; private balcony; full-size washer and dryer; gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, undermount sinks and a prep island; and bathrooms finished with custom wood cabinetry, ceramic tile floors and granite countertops.

“Circle Bayshore will offer its residents a unique lifestyle in an uncommon location with amazing amenities, first-class programming and high-quality interiors,” says Brian Natwick, president of Crescent Resources' multifamily division.

Keen on going green, Circle Bayshore is expected to incorporate a number of sustainable, energy efficient features and materials, ultimately receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

In addition, the bay-front community will feature high-end amenities including a resort-style swimming pool, two-story health club and fitness center, outdoor living area with grilling stations and a fire pit, business center and club room.

Funded by an equity investment from Crescent Resources, construction financing from Capital One and mezzanine financing from Nationwide Real Estate Investments, the new community was designed by MSA Architects of Miami with Fort Lauderdale's Moss & Associates acting as general contractor, King Engineering of Tampa as civil engineer and Orlando's Land Resource Design Group, Inc. as landscape architect.

Crescent Resources expects to break ground on Circle Bayshore by October 2012 with initial apartments complete by the first quarter of 2014.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Brian Natwick, Crescent Resources

New Urban, Green Community Near Downtown St. Pete

A newly renovated 176-unit multifamily apartment community is in the works for St. Petersburg.

An example of affordable urban housing, Avesta Woodlawn Park by Avesta Homes touts itself as "St. Pete's first sensibly green apartment community" located on 18th Avenue just minutes from downtown, offering double-pane, low-e windows, ENGERY STAR appliances, water efficient landscaping featuring native plants, LED lighting, efficient plumbing fixtures and an on-site recycling program.

Avesta Woodlawn Park embodies the urban “live, work and play” concept, promoting alternative ways to travel with covered bike parking for residents and easy access to public transportation.

“Avesta Homes is very excited to be a part of the St. Petersburg community,” says Carol Toffolo, Avesta Homes director of marketing. “Improvement of a local neighborhood community while attracting residents will directly benefit local shops and business owners. Our improvements (the renovation and beautification of the prior Woodlawn Park property) increase the desirability for future home buyers and renters in the local area.”

Residents of the new urban community will also have access to eco-friendly amenities such as a community garden, fenced dog park, fitness trail and workout stations, private fenced backyards and a swimming pool featuring poolside WiFi.

The $3 million renovation project is slated to be complete by December 2012. Units are expected to be available for rent beginning September 2012 ranging from as low as $695 for a one-bedroom and up to $895 for a two-bedroom.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Carol Toffolon, Avesta Homes

Carmel: New Cafe, Wine Bar Opens In South Tampa

With locations in Clearwater, Carrollwood and Sarasota, Carmel Café & Wine Bar has made its way to South Tampa.

Offering a modern interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine, a convenient and innovative MenuPad app and, of course, wine, Carmel Cafe's newest location on Swann Avenue at Henderson Boulevard in South Tampa celebrated its opening on August 14th. The 4,000-square-foot restaurant is Carmel Cafe's first free-standing location, designed by Alfonso Architects and constructed by TWT Restaurant Design and Construction.

“We are extremely excited to introduce the Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar experience to South Tampa. Opening in the area has always been one of our goals and we are very pleased to be here,” says Chris Sullivan, a founding partner of Carmel Cafe. “This is the first location we have been able to design and build from the ground up which marks a milestone for us."

The new location will initially be open for dining guests to enjoy nightly dinners with hours expanding to include weekday lunches beginning on September 17th and weekend brunches on September 22nd. Featuring flavors introduced by Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Morocco, the Carmel Café Mod Med menu offers both small and large plates to pair with the a global selection of old and new world wines.

Setting itself apart from traditional restaurants, Carmel Cafe's innovative MenuPad app ordering system allows guests to completely customize their dining experience by using tableside iPads. Featuring crisp, colorful photos and detailed descriptions of each dish, guests are allowed the ability to control the preparation, presentation and pacing of their dining experience; the app also identifies wines to pair with dishes.

“This is a very different dining experience that encourages our guests to leisurely share several small plates, casually meet for a glass of wine or cocktail or just relax and enjoy their favorite menu items,” says Terry Ryan, a founding partner of Carmel Cafe. “Using the MenuPad app, our guests are able to get exactly what they want, the way they want it, when they want it.”

In addition, the thrifty-minded can enjoy the South Tampa location's “Five After 5 @ Carmel” menu every Wednesday, featuring a selection of wines and flatbreads for $5 each.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Chris Sullivan and Terry Ryan, Carmel Cafe

City-Developed Website Brings Development, Investors To St. Pete

The number of building permits issued in St. Petersburg is up about 10 percent during the last year, rising from 12,701 in 2011 to 13,869 in 2012. The construction value associated with building permit activity also increased.

With approximately $232 million now in construction values permitted for 2012, the fiscal year is in the running for being the highest building permit activity since 2007. City officials attribute some of the activity to more accessible information provided by Blue Chip, an online map service developed by the City of St. Pete.

“Blue Chip helps promote future development efforts in the community through the pre-selection process of prime sites, which must meet a 5-point criteria for inclusion on the Google Map application service,” says Kimberly Bailey, the the city's economic development analyst and Blue Chip developer. "Blue Chip is then promoted to Real Estate business journals and publications for investor attraction from around the world.''

Designed to identify prime real estate properties available for development and investor interest, the site launched in November 2011 and has seen eight of the initial Blue Chip properties sold with two additional sites under contract for purchase.

Blue Chip information is categorized by land acreage or zoning designation, providing contact information for the listing's real estate broker. The site also provides a link to the city's six major business clusters: medical technology and life sciences; information technology; marine and environmental sciences; financial services; manufacturing; and arts, culture, events and tourism.

“Residents can benefit from the site to determine if any prime Blue Chip parcels have been identified within their nearby business activity corridor, which brings investor awareness to their section of the community for the development and redevelopment of currently underutilized land,” Bailey says.

According to Bailey, Blue Chip has had more than 620 unique website visits, giving St. Pete international exposure to the United Kingdom, Canada, France, India, Kenya, The Philippines, Portugal and Siberia.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Kimberly Bailey, City of St. Pete

New Trees, Artsy Bridge Lighting Spruce Up Downtown Tampa

Almost 800 strategically planted new trees and artsy lightning along Tampa's downtown bridges are among the most noticiable improvements made by the City of Tampa in preparation for the RNC.

The Opportunity Corridors Project planted 782 indigenous trees such as Southern Red Cedar, Chickasaw Plum and Sabal Palms along major streets in downtown neighborhoods; irrigation and lighting were also installed.

Agua Luces by Artist Tracey Dear features colorful lighting along five of nine downtown bridges, including the Platt Street Bridge, Brorein Street Bridge, Kennedy Boulevard Bridge, the Crosstown Expressway overpass and CSX Railroad Bridge.

The downtown Opportunity Corridors -- what Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls the “front doors” of the city -- include Bayshore Boulevard from Platt Street to Rome Avenue, Ashley Drive, the Organe/Jefferson Interchange, Union Station, Laurel Street, Franklin Street and Nuccio Parkway.

“Mayor Buckhorn believes that major transportation arteries are economic development opportunities,” says David Vaughn,  City of Tampa director of contract administrations.

The city plans to expand the tree plantings in concentric circles beyond downtown.  The goal is to encourage the improved corridors to grow neighborhood support through retail, creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Agua Luces is an initiative of the Lights On Tampa Committee, Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: David Vaughn, City of Tampa

HART Breaks Ground On First Public Bus Rapid Transit, Hillsborough

MetroRapid North-South, the first public transit system of its kind in Hillbsborough County, aims to speed up travel between  downtown Tampa and the University of South Florida.

Local business and community leaders gathered with HART staff on Monday, August 6th, to celebrate the historic groundbreaking, which marks the beginning construction phase of the project. About $31 million from the Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT) will pay for the design and construction phases of the project. As of June 2012, costs of the MetroRapid N-S project are estimated to be under budget by $5.7 million.

"Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years, and with this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county," says HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia. "Several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned and we found that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity."

Featuring elements of bus rapid transit, MetroRapid N-S will run 17.5 miles along Nebraska and Fletcher Avenues in Tampa, from the HART Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa to Telecom Park/Hidden River Corporate Park, west of Interstate 75. The new system is expected to improve travel-time savings by approximately 15 percent, using GPS-based Transit Signal Priority (TSP) technology at selected intersections to shorten red lights and lengthen green lights.

“MetroRapid N-S will connect downtown Tampa to USF -- two major employment centers,” Mejia says. “In addition, the corridor overlays what are currently the busiest routes, allowing a large portion of our ridership to benefit from faster, more frequent service.”

According to Mejia, several routes feed into the MetroRapid N-S corridor. Fewer stops along the corridor supply added convenience; local bus routes have bus stops every 750 to 1,250 feet while MetroRapid's 59 stops are spaced out about every 2,600 to 4,000 feet.

"Added features like the ticket vending machines will provide additional travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board," Mejia says.

A new park and ride facility is planned in Hidden River Corporate Park, serving the northeast end of the line. MetroRapid N-S construction is slated to be complete and open to Tampa Bay area residents and visitors by 2013.

In July, HART ridership was up by six percent with 60,998 more bus trips taken compared to July 2011. HART is expected to operate extra bus and streetcar service during August's Republican National Convention, providing public transportation options between Ybor City and Channelside.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART
372 Construction Articles | Page: | Show All
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