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Pinellas County agencies plan to curate Alt. U.S. 19 Cultural Corridor

Two county agencies -- Forward Pinellas and Creative Pinellas -- are joining forces to create an Alt. U.S. 19 Cultural Corridor.

It’s “a unique partnership,” says Rodney Chatman, planning division manager for Forward Pinellas, the county’s land use and transportation agency. “Our partnerships are usually with local governments or agencies involved in transportation.”

The duo plans to connect and highlight the arts and culture destinations along Alt. U.S. 19, which runs through northern Pinellas County cities including Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs. 

“The area has a very strong arts and culture basis,” Chatman says. “So, we want to think about how to brand the Alt. 19 corridor as a cultural destination. But we needed to find an agency to help us with that. We don’t really talk to artists in the course of our work.” 

This is where Creative Pinellas, the county’s designated arts agency, comes in, he adds. Together, the agencies will lay a foundation to “strengthen Alt. 19 as a place for arts and culture,” he says. They began meeting in discuss the concept and the approach to the cultural corridor. 

Last month, for the first time, they invited the public to provide input on the plan at two workshops, one at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum, the other at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus. Two upcoming workshops will be held Monday, July 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and Monday, July 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo.

Chatman says they’ve been working to identify artistic and cultural “hubs and enclaves” along the thoroughfare. “There’s a lot of history that’s there, and also, I think there’s a tie to economic development, tourism and commerce if we’re able to pull this off.”

The agencies will create a categorized database of these artistic hotspots with geographic and descriptive information about them available as an online resource. “There isn’t currently a good inventory of public art installations, museums and galleries,” he says.

They’ll also discuss possible future locations of public art and cultural programming, he adds. This could range from utilizing vacant commercial spaces as pop-up galleries and canvasses for large-scale murals to incorporating designs by local artists at crosswalks and intersections.

“The nature of what we do really doesn’t interface with art or culture, and it’s sort of an interesting partnership because the land usage and transportation networks do traverse through these areas,” he adds. “And we’re starting to see more of an acknowledgment that we can plan and build roads differently and have more of a placemaker approach.”

For more information, visit the websites for Forward Pinellas and Creative Pinellas.

Lector Social Club for Literature and Natural Wine opens in Downtown Tampa

In the late 19th century, around the time Tampa took shape as a cigar-peddling boomtown, a new job began to appear in the city’s factories -- el lector. Seated in an elevated chair in the middle of the factory floor, lectors would read out loud from newspapers, novels, and poetry collections, providing factories workers -- who’d pooled together change to pay the lector out of their own pockets -- with both entertainment and education throughout their hot and humid workdays.

Lector Wine Shoppe and Social Club in downtown Tampa hopes to carry on that tradition and celebrate Tampa’s history as a cultural touchstone. With a focus on literature and natural wine in a chic and intimate setting, Lector offers book-and-bottle pairings, a lending library, monthly membership program, and modest residency to support artists in the city.

“Tampa has always been this landing place for artists and philosophers to travel from other countries, to stay in Tampa and Ybor before traveling up north,” says Michael Hooker, Lector founder. “We want to help remember that history and strengthen the bridge between this exchange of different artists and ideas.”

Lector Social Club will host a range of cultural events -- from literary readings to historical talks and small concerts. As a sampling of its future cultural program, the venue held a grand opening featuring local historian Manny Leto; poet Maureen McDole; and musicians Melissa and Joe Grady; among others.

Only natural wines -- wines made with little or no chemical manipulation -- are offered at Lector, including bottles from organic and biodynamic vineyards. The store is set up with sections like “Robust Romanticism” and “Noble Noir,” with the aim to provide a more welcoming atmosphere.

“A lot of people have been giving in to organic and farm-to-table food, but then they're drinking [wines made with] pesticides and chemicals,” Hooker says. “We're trying to open up peoples’ minds through the concept of natural wines through that avenue.” 

Bottles range from $7 to $67, with most wines priced around $18.

Women's apparel boutique to open in Hyde Park Village

Hype Park Village will be getting a new women’s fashion boutique this fall. Following the success of their first store in St. Petersburg, the owners of Canvas Fashion Gallery have chosen to open a second location in South Tampa.

“We fill a void in Saint Pete that we're also hoping to fill in Tampa,” Shelby Pletcher, Canvas co-owner, tells 83 Degrees. She compared her store to Nordstrom, in that it offers a range of apparel at mid-tier price points. “There's a lot of low- and high-end shops around, but not a lot of in between.”

Canvas Fashion Gallery specializes in a variety of styles, including casual and more formal apparel from brands like BB Dakota, Show Me Your MuMu, Z Supply, and Jack, some of which haven't previously been available in Tampa. 

“And a lot of our core brands nobody else is selling in Tampa,” Pletcher said.

The new store will join the dozens of boutiques in Hype Park Village, occupying the current space of men's clothing store London-Phillips and barber shop Cambridge Club, the latter of which will move a block north. Canvas Fashion Gallery's Tampa location will feature five fitting rooms, a denim bar, and a shoe and accessory parlor, with white-walls, color-coded racks, and a gallery-like aesthetic similar to its Saint Petersburg location.

Pletcher and her business partner, Michelle Burtch, cater to busy shoppers looking for a more intimate and customer-centric shopping experience, women who may not have the time to browse large department store. To meet the needs of the ultra-active, they even offer same-day delivery to local customers. 

“The core of our business is really relationship based,” Pletcher said. “If we pride ourselves on anything, it's our relationship with our customers.”

With the new venue in Hyde Park, the owners hope to bring convenience and style to the community’s busy residents.

“Even though going into a development like Hype Park is going to be very different from our location in Saint Petersburg, it is similar in the sense that our customers are near our location,” Pletcher said. “It's a convenience factor for them…with the selection that we offer, and our eye for styling people and understanding what customers need.”

$30K grant will bring interactive art to Sulphur Springs, Tampa

An interactive art project called the Echo Quilt has been selected for a $30,000 grant from the Gobioff Foundation as a part of its Treasure Tampa initiative.

Proposed by LiveWork Studios, the immersive installations will be built along the Hillsborough River at Community Stepping Stones in Sulphur Springs in the spirit of creative placemaking, which uses public-private partnerships to bring impactful art into communities.

The Echo Quilt combines a large on-site installation with an interactive component, including audio recording equipment that allows visitors to store and disseminate their own stories. The project is meant to share and contribute to the neighborhood's history.

“As a piece of sculpture, the physical structure is designed to provide viewers with a beautiful, quiet, contemplative space that engages both its pristine site along the banks of the Hillsborough River and the unique, and often overlooked community of Sulphur Springs,” Devon Brady, LiveWork Studios co-founder and Echo Quilt organizer, tells 83 Degrees. “Our preliminary designs for the structure reference old gramophone horns and the architecture of the inner ear as a nod to the speaking and listening functions of the piece.

“The interactive component of the project consists of a telephone interface that allows participants to record their own stories, as well as listening to the stories of other participants and pre-programmed audio provided by artists, historians, and anthropologists,” he adds.

As a part of the grant, LiveWork will coordinate with students from Community Stepping Stones, the University of South Florida, and local residents to further conceptualize and construct the project through a series of community meetings. 

Through the Tampa Treasure initiative, the Gobioff Foundation aims to inspire businesses to engage in public-private partnership in support of community-minded art projects. Last year, the initiative awarded a $30,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corporation for an installation called Art in the Park at the Harvest Hope Park. Foundation president, Neil Gobioff, explains that these grants are meant to both beautify a community and communicate the principles of creative placemaking.

“Beyond just being a grant for creative placemaking, what we wanted was the education part of getting people to understand what creative placemaking is, how simple it can be … and how it can positively transform a community,” he says. “The idea is that the community is actively involved and engaged in the process, ideally from the design to the implementation. That helps to create a sense of ownership and sense of pride from the community’s point.”

The Echo Quilt is scheduled to be finished in May 2019.

St. Pete selects 3 artists to display in Pier District

Three artists have been selected to create public art for the new 26-acre, $76-million Saint Petersburg Pier District. The decion was made last week by the nine-member Pier Public Art Committee, who deliberated on more than 70 entries over the past two years.

The winners include Belgian multimedia artist Nick Ervinck, and Americans Xenobia Bailey and Nathan Mabry, from New York City and Los Angeles respectively.

“We left it fairly open as far as criteria,” Wayne Atherholt, the Saint Petersburg cultural affairs director, tells 83 Degrees. “They were looking for an artist who has had a major installation before and didn't want to experiment with someone who has never created any public art before. That was probably the biggest consideration.”

These three artists fit the bill -- they’re each renowned in their own right and with major installations under their belts. Bailey and Mabry submissions, in particular, reflect values and themes that resonate throughout St. Petersburg.

Bailey is best known for her colorful, vibrant, and complicated geometric crochets. Her commissioned piece will include a mosaic inspired by her fiber art.

“Understanding Xenobia's whole process of crocheting [a pattern], digitizing it, and converting it into tile is a fascinating thing,” Atherholt says. “The state headquarters for Florida craft art is here in Saint Petersburg. Craft art is often overlooked in public art but here is somebody who is doing an absolutely incredible job, starting with craft and transformed into this wonderful public art installation.” 

Mabry’s origami-inspired, steel pelican sculpture will stand at the entrance to the pier.

“The origami was an interesting approach, with a little nod to our sister city over in Japan,” Atherholt says, in reference to Takamatsu, Japan. “The pelican is obviously a symbol of the city and has interactivity in it. There's a chance to add additional pelicans to the proposal. One person has bought [the addition of] a pelican already.”

Ervnick's work is yet to be confirmed.

Atherholt admits he can’t speak for the nine committee members regarding their own affinity for these artists, but suggests that art often has a visceral impact.

“In some sense art just sings to you, and in this case I think [the committee members] saw the right art at the right location, and certainly within the right budget, and that's what appealed to them,” Atherholt says.

Like many cities, St. Petersburg has a “Percentage for Art” ordinance, which allocates a percentage of overall construction costs of public projects toward providing public art. The budget for the Pier Public Art project was set at $488,000.

The pier itself is making steady progress. As of mid-April, over 330 of 425 pilings have been set, and the concrete deck of the pier is about third complete. The Pier is scheduled to open in fall of 2019.

Yboy City welcomes new Center for Architecture and Design

The Center for Architecture and Design celebrated its inauguration at the historic Sans Souci building earlier this month, bringing a leading voice in the local architectural community to Ybor City.

Located in a 2,000-square-foot facility, the Center serves as headquarters for the Tampa Bay regional chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Tampa Bay Foundation for Architecture and Design (TBFAD), a nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness for architecture’s impacts on the general public. 

More than $60,000 in renovations brought the Sans Souci building up to snuff, in addition to donated materials like carpeting, lights, and ceiling fans. The new space is larger and more open than the Center’s previous facility, and puts the AIA Tampa Bay and the TBFAD in proximity with the many architectural firms based in Ybor City. 

In addition to offices and meeting rooms, the Center provides event space for AIA members and partners, as well as a gallery for art, photography, and architecture. ARTchitecture, the exhibit currently on display, features art inspired by the built environment. The University of South Florida architectural program also utilizes part of the facility to present their projects.

"It's really a multipurpose space,” Chris Culbertson, AIA Tampa Bay president, tells 83 Degrees.

AIA is a nationwide organization with local chapters offering contract documents, design competitions, and continuing education for members. Representing seven counties and around 650 members in the Tampa Bay area, AIA Tampa Bay works closely with municipal development programs, including those in downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, to foster sensible growth. The group recently recognized the city of St. Pete for excellence in architectural design.

“We're trying to stay in their face, if you will, to let them know the AIA is here and wants to … provide our feedback as to what these developments should include,” Culbertson says, suggesting that pedestrian-friendly infrastructure is of top concern.

Another key focus for AIA Tampa Bay and TBFAD is encouraging more local engagement in the development of the Tampa Bay Area. 

“We promote local involvement from all aspects of construction,” Culbertson says. “That obviously includes architecture, but also subcontractors and engineers. So often with these developments in town, people are happy about them but they'll find out that the architects or even the contractors are from a state 2,000 miles away. That doesn't really benefit our local community.”

Built in 1906, the two-story, yellow-brick Sans Souci building has housed a barber shop, telegraph office, and penny arcade over the years. Its prominent location on 7th Avenue has made it a main stop on the the Buildings Alive! Ybor City Architecture Hop.

For more information, visit the Center for Architecture and Design website.

A class act: new St. Pete Pier expected to be drawing card

Piers that jut hundreds of feet above water are costly to build. Keeping them current, so they attract and entertain visitors year after year, requires a redo every so often. So what people are witnessing in downtown St. Petersburg, the reconstruction of its pier spanning some 3,400 feet above Tampa Bay, hasn’t happened for about 45 years.

“It’s transformative,” says Chris Ballestra, managing director in charge of development for St. Petersburg’s downtown.

Since the first pier was built in 1889 as a railroad trestle, the city has had several piers that served as a major community gathering space. This redo is actually the city’s eighth. It replaces the Inverted Pyramid Pier completed in 1973, which was torn down in 2013.

“The old pier was very nice, but all the action was way out into the bay and there was nothing in between,” Ballestra explains. “We’re activating the whole site.”

The $76 million project features a Lawn Bowl capable of handling crowds of more than 3,000 for special events, plus a Splash Pad, an interactive water play area; Spa Beach, offering a naturalized shoreline for beach enthusiasts; a Marina Lawn for outdoor recreation such as shuffleboard and swings; and a Coastal Thicket, which turns parts of the stroll out to the pier head into a nature walk.

Because it is so expensive, there are very few cities that have these long piers. Which means this new pier can be “a calling card” for St. Pete, he says, along the lines of the Navy Pier in Chicago, Pier 39 in San Francisco or Santa Monica Pier in California.

“We want to compete on a very large stage around the world,” Ballestra says.

Despite its complexity, the project has been going smoothly. “It’s a very challenging construction market right now, a very competitive environment,” he says. “We’re locked in on the numbers. We don’t have any surprises, which is how we need it to be.”

Construction began on the new St. Pete Pier last June, with the activity centering around the pilings and deck above the water. “Building the pier itself is an extremely complex project,” he says. “By example, the old pier had 1500 pilings. ... For everyone one of our pilings, there three of our old pilings around it.”

Construction will go vertical in late spring or early summer, he says. Updates are available through the city’s website; click on “The New Pier” under City Initiatives.

“We wanted to preserve the community’s expectation,” he says. “We are building for a 75- to a 100-year lifespan.”

An estimated 1,000 are being employed during construction, and some 400 are expected to have ongoing jobs when the pier is completed. The main contractor is Skanska, a major project development and construction company with U.S. operations based in New York City.

While approval is still pending, the city has identified two potential pier occupants: Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, themed on novels by New York Times best-selling author Randy Wayne White, and Tampa Bay Watch, a Tierra Verde nonprofit which would run an environmental learning center open to the public.

When work is completed, the pier district will be connected with the rest of downtown. “Within the district, there’s shuttles that link directly to downtown that are free,” Ballestra explains. “We worked very hard to make sure we had an integrated process.”

A grand opening is slated for April, 2019, so there’s still a lot of work remaining. “You’re going to see a lot of construction activity,” he adds.

The project comes at a time of uncertainty -- and promise -- as the city grapples with what to do with the 86-acre Tropicana Field property following the Tampa Bay Rays’ announcement Feb. 9 that it would be moving to Ybor City. “We’re very excited to get that site redeveloped, period,” he says.

Ballestra calls the pier and Tropicana Field “bookends to a downtown.”

“What we’re doing with the pier is a full rebuild, creating its own district,” he says. “Tropicana is ultimately a bigger project, with clearly long-term implications to the city.”

He expects the results to be positive. “It’s exciting,” he says. “I feel ... very happy for our community given what’s in store in the next 50 years.”


CRED: Tampa program teaches community redevelopment skills

Looking to make a difference? If you have an interest in real estate or community redevelopment, an upcoming training program can help.

The class attracts people from varying backgrounds, from affordable housing developers to policy makers, community development staff and board members and students in business, urban studies, and architecture.

“We’d love to have non-traditional individuals that may have a passion for community development, but don’t really know how to get started,” says Angela Crist, director of the Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Members of the class, expected to include up to 25, put together recommended projects based on real-world problems, with the goal of actually implementing them. That might be a plan to utilize open space left by a former neighborhood grocery. Or an artist-themed community or even a townhouse project as in-fill in a developed area.

“It is a grassroots program. They have to work on a viable project,” Crist says.

The Community Real Estate Development program, known as CRED, is a certification program held annually to help people gain a better understanding about community real estate development, the financial aspects of property development and real estate development management.

“Our ultimate goal is that we are changing people’s behavior,” explains Crist. “At the end, they are looking at it [community real estate development] through a different lens, so they can go out and improve their community.

The class, which costs $150, meets on Friday afternoons and Saturdays from March 2 through April 14. It is being held from noon to 4:30 p.m. Fridays and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at Tampa Housing Authority, 5301 Cypress St., Tampa.

The deadline to register is February 16. Apply online here.

The program presents diverse segments of the commercial redevelopment field, utilizing USF professors and community talent to teach and mentor. “Every class they have is like a lunch and learn or various speakers," Crist says.

CRED is sponsored by the Housing Finance Authority of Hillsborough County, the Housing Finance Authority of Pinellas County, Tampa Housing Authority, and Sun Trust Foundation.

Participants can earn a certificate from USF.  The class can be used for continuing education units for professionals or academic credit for college students though an independent study course at USF.  

Certification maintenance credits are required for a number of professionals including planners, and development and planning education staff.

College students find the program to be very hands-on, Crist adds, helping them to understand the process from “soup to nuts.”

Class members also benefit from the course’s networking potential because it draws together developers, lenders, and government officials/staffers in a non-threatening environment.

Although the class has been held in North and South Florida, it is only available in Tampa Bay this year because of scheduling and capacity issues, Crist says.


Luxury high-rise under construction in downtown St. Pete

Construction has begun on the $80 million Icon Central mixed-used development in downtown St. Petersburg, which will include an upscale 368-unit high-rise apartment complex and upgrade of the 1926 Union Trust Bank building.

Its 15-story luxury apartment complex at 801 Central Ave. will literally stand out amid the area’s existing mid-rises – inside and outside. It will feature amenities such as an outdoor movie lawn, a club lounge with game simulator room, and indoor Zen garden.

“We studied the market and we’ve included these top tier amenities that will appeal to both the baby boomers and the millennials," says Jessica Suarez, VP of development for the Miami-based Related Group, the project developer.

It will incorporate the arts through rotating art exhibits, local artist displays, an art and wine tasting room, plus art in the courtyard surrounding the pool, she adds.

“We’ve taken it to another level,” Suarez says. “The art element in St. Pete is significant.”

A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, scheduled at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, is expected to draw local officials and team members. 

Work began in December. “We’ve cleared the site and we’re doing foundations,” she says.

The project is the latest in The Related Group’s Icon brand, known for luxury highrise rentals. It includes Icon Harbor Island apartments in Tampa, plus Icon projects in Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta.

Icon Central will include studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units with monthly rents expected to range from $1600 to $4000; some on the top floors will have water views. Leasing is anticipated in mid-2019.

The high-rise, being built in a contemporary federal architecture style, also will include a spa with steam and sauna, a pool courtyard with a European-style heated pool, and a summer grilling kitchen.

The intimate, outdoor movie lawn will have a large screen on the side of the building, which can be used for movies or projections during outdoor classes.

Related seeks to create a community around activities for its residents. “That [Icon Central] is a community for us. We’re constantly involving them,” she says. “It’s different. You don’t see anything like that in St. Pete.”

The residential complex will be connected to the bank building with a multi-use building with retail, residential and parking space. The first two levels will be primarily cast stone, with tan stucco above. The bank is being renovated with stonework, cornices and other features reflecting the historical era.

What we envision there is more of a high-end -- boutique stores with lounge and meeting space, or a food hall,” she says.

The interior of the bank, as well as an 1980s addition, have been demolished. “As construction progresses, we will start marketing the retail,” she explains.

The retail space is expected to be completed around mid-2019.

What attracted the developer to St. Petersburg was the continued growth and development, similar to more successful areas in the Miami area that have been revitalized, she says.

Icon Central has been in the works for three years.

The Related Group is active in the Tampa market, where move-ins have begun at Icon Harbor Island, a 340-unit luxury development. Construction is continuing at River Manorwalk, an eight story, 400-unit complex being built on the site of the former Tampa Tribune downtown, with leasing and move-ins planned in mid-2019.

Related also is developing the 396-unit Town Westshore rental community and partnering with Tampa Housing Authority in its West River redevelopment involving 150 acres on the west bank of the Hillsborough River on the edges of downtown.


11 people, projects in Downtown Tampa recognized for urban excellence

What is the value of a new dog park to the surrounding neighborhood? 

For residents on the northern half of the Channel District in downtown Tampa, it’s immense, if only measured based on dogs-per-acre.

The Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is built underneath the Selmon Expressway, directly across from Bell Channelside and within walking distance of Grand Central and Ventana. It’s excellent thanks to a thoughtful design and dual use of space (dogs below, cars above), and the acknowledgement of a public hero: 

Hillsborough County Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr. lost his life to a wrong-way driver on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in March of last year. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority wanted to do something to honor his legacy. After learning about the strong bond between Kotfila and his German Shepard, Dexter, it was decided to  dedicate the Selmon Greenway dog park in his honor.

“The neighborhood loves it and is grateful to have a shaded space to use year-round, as well as separate space for small dogs,'' says Sarah McKinley, a downtown resident and worker. "They [the dogs] all seem very pleased.”

And as any dog owner knows, dog parks have a way of becoming the main gathering spot for the neighborhood. If anything will force you away from solitary Netflix binging, it’s to take Rufus for a walk.

The Downtown Partnership also recognized other projects for improving the quality of life in Tampa. Winners include The Downtowner free shuttle service (transportation), The Art of the Brick (private sector project), Second Screen Cult Cinema (arts and culture), and the I AM PRICELESS mural (social impact).

The full list of winners is available on the Tampa Downtown Partnership's website. Look for winners in categories like historic preservation, experience, collaboration, and people’s choice.

Taken in aggregate, these actors and their impacts build upon the momentum that continues to push Tampa’s urban center in more dynamic directions each year.

A special acknowledgement was also made to Christine Burdick, Tampa Downtown Partnership’s CEO for the past 15 years. She led the Partnership through what many consider Downtown Tampa’s most transformative change in modern times, but will soon retire from her work with the organization.

Burdick is credited as the driver of many successful initiatives, such as programming activities in Curtis Hixon Park, completion and management of The Tampa Riverwalk, relocation of the Tampa Museum of Art, and initiating the Coast Bike Share program.

A new facelift for historic Downtown Tampa landmark

Downtown Tampa’s only “elaborate movie palace” is undergoing a much-anticipated upgrade: wider, cushier seats and a more modern concessions stand for attendees to enjoy, as well as significant infrastructural improvements to protect the 1926 building from extreme weather.

The $6 million Phase 1 scope of work at Tampa Theatre addresses both the integrity of the building and the superior audience experience; seating has long been a gripe of even the venue’s biggest fans. The 1970s-era lobby concession counter is inefficient for rapid service and out of step with the original Mediterranean design. Both will be addressed with work starting today.

Authenticity is key in this process, and so even the new paint will be forensically matched to what was used 91 years ago.

While the mainstream model for cinema is changing thanks to streaming services and dinner-bar-theater hybrids, the Tampa Theatre’s charm is its ambiance and urban setting, surrounded by bars, restaurants and modern residential highrises.

Attendees enjoy a regular lineup of unique independent films and documentaries, seasonal classics (horror around Halloween, holiday from now until the new year -- to be shown outside during Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park, and participation in film festivals like TIGLFF and GIFF.

Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco recalled a friend telling him, ahead of this morning’s media briefing: “I proposed to my wife there!”

When you attend a movie screening at The Tampa Theatre, you get one of the rare glimpses into prewar life in Tampa -- a distant past of gilded opulence. A time when streetcars ran up and down Franklin Street and ushers showed dressed-up moviegoers to their assigned seats before a film.

In 1976, the Tampa Theatre was saved from demolition through a coalition of impassioned community and civic leaders, including former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe, Sr. In 1978, it was selected to be part of the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for federal preservation tax credits and incentives.

Today, individual donations, sponsorships and partnerships, and philanthropic businesses support its continued operation and improvement. This morning, realty brokerage Smith & Associates’ CEO Bob Glaser presented Tampa Theatre CEO John Bell with a check for $250,000, generosity that will help speed the restoration work.

So where are all those old seats going? Head to Schiller’s Architectural and Design Salvage in North Hyde Park to purchase a piece of the theatre’s history.

Renovation work will wrap up by the end of December in time for a film screening on the 22nd and New Years Eve party to ring in 2018! Exact date of completion is T-B-A.


Architectural design center opens in Ybor City

The historic San Souchi building in Ybor City, a two-story yellow brick building dating back to 1906, is now home to Center for Architecture and Design, a place where architectural organizations and the community can collaborate.

The center houses the American Institute of Architects Tampa Bay and its related organization, the Tampa Bay Foundation for Architecture and Design. It already is hosting exhibits on the fourth Friday of the month.

AIA Tampa Bay has scheduled a ribbon cutting, which is open to the public, at 10 a.m. September 7 at 1315 E. 7th Ave., Ste. 105, on the building’s first floor.

The offices, formerly located at 200 N. Tampa Street, Suite 100, are now larger and more visible. “We see a lot of foot traffic on the sidewalk,” says Philip Trezza Jr., Past President of AIA Tampa Bay. “We wanted to have that physical presence and visibility in downtown Tampa and Ybor.”

The facility will be used for meetings, art galleries and architectural displays, presentations, and continuing education for its members. An event calendar is available on the association’s website.

The gallery will showcase traveling exhibits, student projects, local artists and design contest winners.

The center also will be available to rent for meetings and special events.

“We may have an option in the future to buy it [the center space]. Right now we’re leaving our options open,” Trezza says.

A $50,000 upgrade to the property, located in the Ybor City Historic District, a U.S. National Historic Landmark District near downtown Tampa, has been underway after they moved in last year.

Improvements include pine flooring made with salvaged pine from rivers and drop-in ceilings, new cabinets and kitchen, a new air conditioning system, a new electrical system, energy-efficient lighting, and countertops with poured concrete in the kitchen area. Glass panels from University of South Florida St. Petersburg’s College of Business were recycled for a table.

A retail shop, planned next year at the front of the offices, will sell art and architecturally related items.

The 2,000-square-foot center’s design was donated by
the St. Petersburg-based Harvard Jolly Architecture, where Trezza is Senior VP and a Principal.

The San Souci building won a Community Design Award given by the Hillsborough's City-County Planning Commission in 2010. The 22,000-square-foot building, which served as a retail anchor on the west end of 7th Avenue, has housed a penny arcade, barber shop, telegraph office, the San Souci theater, a Maas Brothers department store and Babcock furniture store.

AIA Tampa Bay is the regional chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It is the professional association of some 625 architects and architecture-related workers in a seven-county area including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Hernando, Citrus, Sumter and Pasco counties.

The nonprofit TBFAD offers education on design to the public, and seeks to inspire the exploration and appreciation of architecture. It now will spearhead Tampa Bay Design Week, a public festival AIA Tampa Bay started in 2014.


Inkwood Books gets ready to move to Tampa Heights, Tampa

Thanks to its new neighbor, Tampa Heights’ storied history just added another chapter -- endless chapters, actually. Inkwood Books, Tampa’s only independent book store for new books, is moving in to 1809 N. Tampa Street after more than 20 years at the corner of Armenia and Platt. It will be across the street from the Hall on Franklin, a restaurant collective set to open soon.

“We have loved our home, and we have gotten a lot of love here from the community,” says owner Stefani Beddingfield, who bought Inkwood in 2013. “But I think we are moving to a place where there is a passion for local things, where the love of local seems to be a little more viable and important to the people.”

Inkwood isn’t moving its inventory until January but will be holding events at the new site starting as early as September, when the store hosts author Leigh Bardugo, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Six Crows, Crooked Kingdom and the Grisha Trilogy. 

With a bigger, more open space and a location in the heart of reinvigorated urban area, Inkwood is hoping to attract many more intriguing authors to Tampa, building the city’s literary reputation in the publishing world as a sought-after destination. Lindsay Pingel, the store’s recently designated Events Coordinator, will be in charge of enhancing Inkwood’s national standing, but won’t be ignoring the surrounding area, working to foster relationships within the city limits as well as outside of them.

“Lindsey wants to reach out to the community to establish better connections here, locally, taking authors into the schools for example,” Beddingfield says. 

As the store makes its physical transition, Inkwood will be revamping its online presence too, offering a new website and outputting its newsletter on Tuesdays and Fridays in a modified format. In fact, the store just released its first edition under Shelf Awareness with the title: “Change is good, Inkreaders.”

New James Museum transforms 100 block of Central Ave., Downtown St. Pete

A 105-ton stone mesa will frame the entrance to the Tom & Mary James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art Museum, St. Petersburg’s newest addition to its growing collection of arts and cultural organizations.  

Located at the corner of 100 Central Avenue and First Avenue South in the heart of downtown, the James Museum represents the vision of Tom James, chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial, and his wife Mary.

The James’ have donated $50 million to build the museum, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2017 with a grand opening in early 2018.

The museum will display a portion of the James’ vast collection of more than 3,000 pieces of western and wildlife art and sculpture, as well as Native American jewelry.  The couple began collecting western and wildlife art in the late 1950s and now have one of the largest private collections in Florida.

“When my wife Mary and I decided to share the best of our collection through the establishment of a museum, it made perfect sense to build that museum in the city that has been our home for over 50 years and so much a part of our family’s success,” says James. 

“Anchored by the Dali Museum, St. Petersburg already has such a strong arts presence in downtown,” says James. “We wanted to augment the array of cultural attractions and further establish the city as a cultural destination, while providing educational and entertainment opportunities for the community.” 

The final steel beam that will support the 219-foot foot tall stone mesa was lowered into place at the end of June during a “topping off” ceremony.  The event marked slightly more than the halfway point for construction of the 84,000-square foot museum, which when completed will be larger than The Dali Museum.

From parking garage to museum

The  location of the new James Museum will be a first for the city. Rather than taking shape as a free-standing entity,  the museum is being built within the bottom two floors of the SouthCore Parking Garage, a distinctive pink landmark in the 100 block of Central Avenue.  The new ONE 41-story luxury condo tower is under construction across the street. 

Last year, St. Petersburg City Council approved a 50-year lease between the city and the museum. Parking for the museum and the public will continue to be available in the remainder of the eight-story public parking garage.

In a prepared statement, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says he is enthusiastic about the city’s partnership with the museum, which will bring another significant landmark to the downtown core.

The Beck Group is overseeing construction of the museum, which will include a 30,000-square-feet gallery space, 6,000-square feet event space, 120-seat theater, indoor sculpture court, commercial catering kitchen, café and museum store.

St. Pete Design Group, a joint venture between Harvard Jolly Architecture, Architect Yann Weymouth and Wanemacher Jensen Architects, are designing the exterior and interior.  

Weymouth designed The Dali Museum, now a major draw for visitors internationally to the city. The design for the new James Museum is expected to be just as distinctive architecturally. In addition to the 105-ton stone mesa on the front of the building, interior features include a two-story stone arroyo and waterfall.

Driving economic development

The museum’s construction presents significant development opportunities for the 100 block of Central Avenue.  

Besides transforming a 30-year-old city parking garage into a museum, the team will be creating 35,000-square-feet of retail space on the east and west side of the garage -- prime street level property that is expected to transform this corner of downtown.  

The Sembler Company is leasing ground floor retail units and Echelon Real Estate Services is leasing the Class A Office space located on the second floor.

“When we selected the museum’s location, we had in mind that we should help build and beautify that part of downtown, encourage development of hotels and other amenities for residents and visitors and make the area more attractive and pedestrian friendly,”  Tom James said at an event last year announcing the launch of the new museum. “We could have given our collection to other museums or have sold it, but we thought what better opportunity to continue the development of our city.”

Venture House moves forward on affordable housing

In South St. Petersburg, Venture House is taking the first steps toward creating affordable housing for artists, entrepreneurs, social innovators and small business owners.

In May, the nonprofit community development organization finalized architectural plans and began interior demolition on a home in the Lake Maggiore Shores neighborhood.  In June, three more properties in the Bartlett Park neighborhood were added to the list.

“It is really exciting to see us move from a great idea into taking action,” says Frank Wells, President and CEO of Venture House. “Three years ago we began just as a seed of an idea -- a winning pitch at a social enterprise contest. It’s amazing to see how much has grown out of this little seed.”

As reported in the July 2014 article in 83 Degrees Media, Venture House is working in partnership with Bright Community Trust, a Clearwater-based community land trust with a goal of “creating healthy and sustainable communities across Florida.”

Both Bright Community Trust, formerly known as the Pinellas Community Housing Foundation, and Venture House are focused on buying run-down, boarded-up homes in “blighted” neighborhoods and turning them into attractive, affordable housing.  

The goal is not only to create quality housing but also in a much bigger sense to revitalize struggling communities plagued by poverty. “Social enterprise is a big part of our mission -- how to use housing as a tool to improve and build community,” says Wells.

It’s also about giving a boost to local residents by helping increase their property values and offering a helping hand to entrepreneurs who can then create local jobs.

Southside CRA designation

Lake Maggiore Shores and Bartlett Park are neighborhoods located within the city’s Southside CRA or Community Redevelopment Area. Some 4,700 acres in South St. Petersburg and more than 20 neighborhood and business associations are included in this designation.  

It’s all part of a long-term plan to bring economic development and revitalization to South St. Petersburg through several initiatives, including improving and rehabbing the housing market to “expand opportunities for entrepreneurs, minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprises and small businesses.” 

The City of St. Petersburg is working with Venture House to identify suitable housing to rehab. The Bartlett Park homes will be new construction built on three vacant lots -- lots that the City of St. Petersburg agreed to give Venture House to fulfill the organization’s community land trust mission.

“It matches the city’s goal of in-filling new construction to make the whole block nicer for local residents,” he says.

Wells expects a bid to go out in the near future to identify a local builder to work with Venture House on the construction. Funding is coming from a combination of private donation and both federal and local funds. 

Showcase demonstration home 

The Lake Maggiore Shores’ home has a slightly different vision.  It will become a showcase demonstration home for Venture House, says Wells.

A “call” has gone out for artists to submit ideas for a proposed art project that will become a permanent fixture in the home.  

“We hope to have an event in the fall where we’ll present all the different artist ideas and have the audience vote on them. Then we’ll crowd-fund those projects that are the favorites,” says Wells.

So far, FunktionHouse, a St. Petersburg artisan furniture  maker who uses locally sourced recycled local trees, will be donating a recycled wood bar top, and the Morean Arts Center, will be creating a glass wall piece, says Wells.

In addition, community volunteers and groups like the Home Builders Institute, a career training organization for the construction industry, have been helping begun demolishing the current structure to get ready for renovation.

The Maggiore Shores showcase home is expected to be finished by early next year.  But the other three homes in the Bartlett Park neighborhood are expected to be ready for occupancy much sooner.

“Our goal is to get those houses built and people moved into them,” says Wells.

Individuals eligible to live in a Venture House-sponsored property aren’t limited to just artists and entrepreneurs in the traditional sense. 

“We’re looking at the arts in a very broad sense. Not just painters and sculptors, but also opera singers, hip hop DJ’s, spoken word artists and poets,” says Wells.

The same scenario applies to entrepreneurs. “It’s not just the next new graduate writing a phone App, but someone launching a catering or restaurant business, landscaping, braiding hair, or even an activist doing great community work,” says Wells.  

“It was Watson Haynes (president and CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League) who opened up my eyes to this idea,” says Wells. “Entrepreneurship can be a path to developing wealth that changes the outcome for the homeowner and the community, especially for people who find there aren’t a lot of job opportunities open to them. Entrepreneurship can be a transformative tool for South St. Petersburg and many other communities.”
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