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Tampa's East Hillsborough Avenue Attracts Investors, New Shops

East Hillsborough Avenue is attracting new investments -- a women's clothing shop and an as-yet-unannounced regional chain store. 
 
For Ron Harjani, owner of GQ Fashions at 3010 E. Hillsborough, the previous announcement that a Walmart Super Center will open a few blocks away next year is good news. It spurred him to build a 10,000-square-foot building next to GQ to house Fashion Essence, a family-operated women's clothing store. He also will have additional space available for lease.
 
Walmart, however, wasn't a major factor for another development plan.
 
ROI, a commercial property brokerage firm, is working with Florida Design Consultants and JVB Architect on developing a 25,000-square-foot building at the corner of Hillsborough and 32nd Street, next to Harjani's new building.
 
 ROI broker Eric Odum says a regional chain store, in the fashion and beauty market, will be the anchor tenant and occupy about 15,000 square feet.  Another 10,000 square feet is available for leasing.
 
Planning for the project began before Walmart's announced arrival, Odum says. But he says, "The visibility of our location is going to be phenomenal."
 
Design plans are undergoing revisions, Odum says, but construction is expected to begin this summer and take about six months. Funding for the project is from Platinum Bank.
 
Harjani expects to open Fashion Essence within the next month. His contractor is Final Touch Wall Systems with offices in Land O' Lakes and Valrico.
 
The location on Hillsborough is a prime spot, says Harjani. He also is encouraged by the redevelopment he sees in Tampa overall in recent years.
 
Walmart Super Center is scheduled to open, possibly as early as mid-2015, on East Hillsborough on about 12 acres stretching almost from 15th Street, next to VetCare Harris Animal Hospital, to 19th Street, across from McDonald's restaurant. The site was formerly home to Abraham Chevrolet automobile dealership but has been vacant for many years.
 
"Walmart is coming,"  Harjani says. "Hillsborough Avenue is parallel to Interstate 4 and a major thoroughfare going east to west. I personally think it's got a lot of potential."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Eric Odum, ROI; Ron Harjani, GQ Fashions

Tampa Opens New Fire Station On Waters Avenue

Tampa firefighters had a nickname for the Sulphur Springs fire station #11 - the house of pain.
 
"It's because their (emergency) runs were so many," says Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward.
 
This one station fielded then and now about 10 percent of all of Tampa's annual fire emergencies, reaching as many as 8,000 a year. It generally serves the neighborhoods of Sulphur Springs, Forest Hills and Lowry Park.
 
Today Fire Station #11 is as busy as ever but firefighters are working and sleeping in a much larger, state-of-the-art building. More than a dozen retired firefighters joined with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Council Chairman Charlie Miranda and City Councilman Harry Cohen to officially welcome residents to an open house of their new fire station.
 
"In no uncertain terms this is the kind of station...the type of place that is worthy of the efforts (firefighters) put forth for us," Buckhorn says. "The house of pain just got a little better."
 
The approximately 8,700 square-foot building, at 1500 Waters Ave., replaces the small, aging station that for decades was tucked away on Fairbanks Street inside the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Firefighters had to maneuver huge fire trucks down narrow residential streets and around tight corners to reach the intersection of Florida and Waters avenues.
    
The City of Tampa built the station soon after its annexation of Sulphur Springs in 1954. And, it was very much a neighborhood station. Retired firefighter Jim Galbraith, 69, says a close watch was kept of residents especially the elderly. "They'd call us in the morning," he says. "If we didn't get a call, we'd call them."
 
At a cost of $1.6 million, the new station has a modern design with a three-bay garage flanked by work and sleeping quarters and giving quick access to Waters. It was built by Pillar Construction.
 
The new station will allow the city to provide a more aggressive response time for this community, Forward says.
 
Funding is from community investment tax dollars. The station is eco-friendly and has efficiency lighting, solar-powered outside lighting and hot water heating, recycled materials and Florida-friendly landscaping. 
 
The city built Fire Station #22 in New Tampa with a similar design. A third fire station, #19, is expected to open in  August in Port Tampa
 
Source: Tom Forward, Tampa Fire Department
Writer: Kathy Steele
 
 

Eco-friendly Communities Get New Design Guidelines

New urbanism is adding a new tool to its design palette for developing communities that are walkable, sustainable and eco-friendly.
 
For nearly 20 years the U.S. Green Building Council has issued certifications to show that building construction has met independent standards for environmental responsibility. But after testing a pilot program, a new certification is being offered, known as LEED ND, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Neighborhood Development.
 
This takes a more holistic approach to community development. 
 
On Wednesday, April 9, from noon to 1:30 p.m. the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and the Congress for the New Urbanism Tampa Bay will host a luncheon meeting where urban designers Erin Chantry and Vinod Kadu will discuss the new rating system. The event is at The Charter House, 7616 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway.
 
Pasco County developer Frank Starkey also is guest speaker and will talk about his experiences with LEED in developing the new urban community of Longleaf as well as his views on what the new ratings mean for future development. 
 
The cost is $25 for organization members and $35 for non-members.
 
"(The new system) obviously takes into account not just buildings but the streets and overall development," says Taylor Ralph, a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council Florida Gulf Coast Chapter and president of REAL Building Consultants.
 
Storm water, energy efficiencies, sidewalks and recyling efforts are among the factors that will be reviewed in looking at the total project, Ralph says.
 
The Encore development, north of downtown, is expected to be one of the first master-planned communities in Florida to qualify for the new LEED certification.
 
Encore is a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building, opened in 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multi-family apartment building, is opening in May. The Reed, a 158-unit senior apartment building, is slated to open in 2015 along with The Tempo, a 203-unit multi-family apartment building. Retail, a grocery store and a hotel also are anticipated for Encore.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Taylor Ralph, REAL Building Consultants

Historic Bungalow Turns Into Welcome Center, Safe House For LGBT Community

A historical bungalow will soon be home to the LGBT Welcome Center and Coffeehouse, a gathering place for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community and visitors to the Tampa Bay region.
 
An opening date is scheduled for June 27-29, the weekend of the St. Pete Pride Street Festival and Promenade, one of the country's largest gay pride events. However, funds are needed to complete on-going renovations.
 
At 7 p.m. April 11, The Studio @620 will host "Queery", a live music and art show to benefit the welcome center. The show will feature musical performances by Mark Castle, Young Egypt, Laser Collins + Lars Warn and artwork by Mia Culbertson, Emily Miller and Priscilla 3000. A $5 donation will be collected at the door. The Studio is located at 620 1st Ave. S., St. Petersburg.
 
Creating a welcome center at 2227 Central Ave. is a long-time goal of the nonprofit Metro Wellness and Community Centers, which for more than 20 years has provided the Tampa Bay community with a range of HIV services, wellness and social programs. The organization has locations in St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey.
 
"(The welcome center) will connect tourists and residents to our services and offer new space for a hangout and to hold meetings, to have classes, meet with friends and for dates," says Adam Jahr, Metro's program manager. "One of our goals is to be a safe space for at-risk and troubled youth."

Nearly half of the LGBT youth are bullied, says Jahr, adding that data also shows that about 40 percent of homeless youth are from the LGBT community.
 
The welcome center also will offer travel resources for visitors, such as special deals for dining and entertainment, and general information on arts, cultural events, ticket locations and "things to do" in the Tampa Bay area.
 
The bungalow was donated to the nonprofit and relocated a short distance from the historical Kenwood neighborhood to the Grand Central district. It sits next door to Metro's thrift store on Central Avenue.
 
In a "Name a Room" campaign, approximately $140,000 is being sought to renovate bungalow rooms including the living and dining rooms, kitchen and reading room. If you are interested in naming a room, contact Larry Biddle at 813-417-1225.
 
There also are opportunities to donate for items such as coffee mugs or t-shirts, and commemorative tiles to be installed in the bungalow's fireplace.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Adam Jahr, Metro Wellness and Community Centers

Chihuly Collection Opens New Store In St. Pete

Visitors to the Chihuly Collection art gallery in downtown St. Petersburg can expect a new Chihuly experience when they step into the gallery's expanded retail store.
 
A grand opening is planned from 4-6 p.m. April 4 at the gallery at 400 Beach Drive. The following day visitors can tour Seattle Artist Dale Chihuly's permanent collection of glass-blown creations for the discounted price of $1.
 
The Chihuly Collection, owned by the Morean Arts Center, opened nearly four years ago. It is the first installation of Chihuly's internationally acclaimed glass sculptures in a building specifically designed for that purpose by award-winning architect Albert Alfonso of Tampa.
 
The approximately 2,500-square-foot retail store increases the space for merchandise from the Chihuly Workshop, including 2014 studio edition glasswork, limited edition prints, books, DVDs, notecards and assorted Chihuly-brand gifts. The shop will have a separate entrance off Beach Drive.
 
Among the studio editions for sale are Marigold Persian, Sahara Basket Set, Maya Blue Persian and Zinnia Macchia.
 
There also is a new emphasis on showcasing Florida artists of all mediums in the reconfigured and redesigned retail shop. The inventory will include more jewelry, artisanal soaps and pottery. And, about 1,000 square feet of former retail space now is a rotating art gallery that will feature glass artwork from artists around the country.
 
"We're trying to have more products of Florida artists along with the elements of Chihuly," says Andy Schlauch, the Chihuly Collection's executive director.
 
Cypress, black steel and concrete floors are among the architectural features of the interior design by Rob Bowen Design. The special touches are meant to mimic Chihuly's famous boathouse in Seattle, says Schlauch.
 
Biltmore Construction completed the work over several weeks. Concrete floors are by Scofield.
 
"It's a new open floor plan," says Schlauch. "I especially love the dark charchoal concrete floors. The feel will be something very different from what people experience on Beach Drive."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Andy Schlauch, Chihuly Collection

Le Meridien Hotel Plans June 1 Opening In Downtown Tampa

Get ready for Tampa's newest luxury hotel. The renovated and historical Classic Federal Courthouse on Florida Avenue is almost ready for its debut as Le  Meridien.
 
Opening date for the upscale, 130-room hotel is June 1, with a grand opening planned for later that month. It is one of 11 Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts planned in the next 12 months by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
 
Le Meridien Tampa brings an artsy vibe to what the city plans as an "art promenade" on Zack Street between Florida and Ashley Drive. Guests at Le Meridien will receive a free pass to the Tampa Museum of Arts. A wall on the main floor, near Bizou Brasserie and Longitude Bar, will be a gallery of the best from local artists.
 
"Le Meridiens around the world emphasize art," says Gary Prosterman, CEO of Development Services Group in Memphis. "It has a tremendous amount of architectural features that are really appealing. It's obviously a different experience from just your typical business class hotel or certainly different from a select service hotel."
 
The "cultural heritage traveler" and the creative segment of travelers, regardless of profession, will appreciate the environment and amenities at Le Meridien, Prosterman says.
 
The 109-year-old neo-classical building is on the National Register of Historic Places but for years sat vacant. In 2012 the city, with Tampa City Council approval, agreed to a long-term lease. DSG was selected as developers for the project. Kobi Karp of Miami did the conceptual design: The Beck Group is design builder, serving as architect and construction manager; and Ferrell Redevelopment of Tampa consulted on the building's historic preservation.
 
Two courtrooms have been transformed. One is now the Bizou at the top of a grand staircase leading to the main floor. A fourth floor courtroom is the hotel's ballroom.
 
Marble and terrazzo features, floor-to-ceiling windows and extra wide corridors recall the grandeur of the historical courthouse.  Guests can enjoy modern conveniences of business and fitness centers, an outdoor lawn area for dining, the restaurant, bakery, coffee house and bar, and a garden.
 
Room rates will vary with peak season prices ranging from about $180 to $280; in off-peak season rooms will be about $150 to $220.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Prosterman

Trader Joe's Opens In South Tampa

For Tampa's hard core fans of Trader Joe's, the treks to Sarasota are over. At 8 a.m. Friday, Trader Joe's brings its quirky brand of grocery shopping to South Tampa.
 
With some fanfare, but not too much, Trader Joe's takes over the former Shapes fitness center at 3808 Swann Ave., west of Dale Mabry Highway.
 
"We cut the cord of a giant lei," says Trader Joe's spokeswoman Rachel Broderick.
 
And, the shopping begins.
 
Store manager Aimee Pawelek and Regional VP Kent Smathers will be on hand for the lei-cutting.
 
Expect to get a flower necklace handed to you from Trader Joe's sales crew. They'll stand out from the crowd in loud Hawaiian shirts. A day of festive celebration is planned with food demonstrations, live music, a balloon artist and more.
 
Copies of Trader Joe's irreverent newsletter, "Fearless Flyer" will soon arrive in area resident mailboxes.
 
The much-anticipated opening day is bally-hooed on Facebook pages, blogs and media outlets. It was the source of rumor and speculation nearly a year ago when Shapes closed its gym in July.

Trader Joe's doesn't release figures on job hires, but Broderick says 70 percent of the jobs were filled with local residents.
 
Cap Dale Mabry LLC, a Greenville, S.C. development company and affiliate of Centennial American Properties, bought the site in August 2013 for about $2.7 million, according to Hillsborough County records. Barry Byrd Architecture of Knoxville, Tenn. did the design.
 
The decor mixes cedar-covered walls with Hawaiian tiki-style features. Colorful murals throughout the store honor Tampa Bay history including Plant Hall, Hillsborough River State Park, Ybor City and Clearwater Beach.
 
The former gym was expanded slightly to about 12,300 square feet. Trees were added to the landscaping to buffer the adjacent parking lot from nearby homes. Centennial American Properties also got variances to install three Trader Joe's signs.
 
The California-based grocery store that morphed into Trader Joe's was founded in the late 1950s. It adopted the Trader Joe's name in 1967.
 
Shoppers are attracted to the off-beat, eclectic and ever-changing products that fill Trader Joe's shelves. As many as 3,000 items bear Trader Joe's brand name including Trader Joe's salsas, fried rice and marinara sauces. As many as a dozen new items are added to shelves weekly.
 
Ruggedly Adventurous Cowboy Bark, Tandoori Naan, Collier's Welsh Cheddar Cheese, Kenya AA Coffee and Palak Paneer are among products listed on the company website. But there is also Trader Joe's Raw Pignolias (pine nuts), Grass Fed Wagyu Beef Burgers and Chocolate Chip Scone Mix. And the now-Three-Buck Chuck Wine (pay more if you like) is ready for a party.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Rachel Broderick, Trader Joe's

Restoration Of Old Hyde Park Art Center Under Way

From the outside, the Old Hyde Park Art Center on Swann Avenue looks as if it were a typical older South Tampa home. But the approximately 115-year-old wood structure is possibly the oldest building still in use in Tampa.
 
With an $18,000 makeover, the art gallery building soon will more closely resemble the historical structure it is. Restoration work by Timeline Contracting will reconfigure the front stoop and add columns and a canopy to the entry way. The exterior will be painted in three colors similar to the light, mid-tone and dark colors of the original structure, giving the building more eye-catching appeal.
 
"It's pretty unique," says Kathy Durdin, president of Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., which owns and operates the art center. "Before the turn of the century, there were these generic (wood frame) buildings all over the place, but they were lost because there was no purpose for them."
 
The saving grace for this building is that the city and school district kept finding public uses for it, and even different locations.
 
In 1899 the two-room wood building served as a temporary school until a red-brick replacement for the Hyde Park Grammar School was built at 502 South Boulevard. The original grammar school was at Platt Street and Magnolia Avenue.
 
Tampa was still a pioneer town emerging alongside the Hillsborough River, dotted with orange groves and dairy cattle. In 1914 the temporary school became the grammar school's lunch room, where parents served the first hot lunches to Tampa students. A year later the school was renamed the John B. Gorrie Elementary School.
 
Nearly eight years later the school lunch room had a new purpose as the Hyde Park Branch Library, again a first for a public school. In 1936 the building was moved to its current location, 705 Swann Ave. For the next three decades it was the Tampa Public Library, Hyde Park Branch.
 
When the library closed in 1969, the Tampa Realistic Artists, Inc., began leasing the property as an art gallery eventually buying it 10 years later. The nonprofit group promotes art awareness through exhibits, workshops and seminars.
 
The funds to renovate the art center come from the Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Grant Program which promotes historic preservation, heritage tourism and job creation.
 
Work on the entry way will be completed in March. Additional restoration is planned for the front doors, which still have city seals embedded in the lockplates.
 
"We've got to believe at the turn of the century these lockplates were all over Tampa," says Durdin. "The doors are pretty special."

The art center is open to the public and is free of charge. The next exhibit, "Landscapes and Seascapes,'' will run from today until March 21. For more information, call Durdin at 813-220-5800 or email her at this link.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kathy Durdin, Old Hyde Park Art Center

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

For 25 years the dream has been to build a new Temple to serve Tampa Bay's growing Hindu community. It is a pledge that Physician Pawan Rattan, made to his father many years ago.
 
Last weekend a prayer service and groundbreaking ceremony brought the dream to reality. Within the next 12 to 18 months, a 10,600-square-foot Temple will be built at 311 E. Palm Ave., within one-mile of downtown Tampa.
 
"It's a very significant event for us," says Rattan, who is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sanatan Mandir. "It celebrates our culture, our heritage. It brings us together. At the same time it promotes mutual respect for others."
 
Unlike many Hindu temples that are ornate and built in marble, this Temple building will reflect the historical character of Tampa Heights as well as traditional Hindu temple architecture. The facade is of red brick. The roof will be topped with five sikharas, or rising towers.
 
Wisdom Structural, Inc., Roosevelt Stephens Drafting Service and Ferlita Engineering are working on the approximately $1.5 million project. Several hundred construction-related jobs will be created. 
 
"My hope is that this also triggers an uplifting of the area," says Physician and Philantropist Kiran Patel.
 
For more than two decades, a 4,000-square-foot building at the Palm Avenue site has served as the Hindu Temple, Sanatan Mandir. It was once the educational building for the Jewish congregaton of Rodeph Sholom, which relocated to South Tampa. According to Hillsborough County records, the Jewish congregation sold the Palm Avenue property to Rattan in 1988. It later was transferred by deed to Hindu Samaj, Inc.
 
Once the new Hindu temple opens, the building will become a community hall.
 
The Rodeph Sholom temple building, at 309 Palm Ave., was torn down years ago. Plans are to install a marble art piece at the new Hindu Temple to honor the Jewish heritage at the site.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Physicians Pawan Rattan and Kiran Patel, Sanatan Mandir

Building Boom: An Open Mic Night About Urban Tampa

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of downtown Tampa on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 starting at 5:30 pm.

Led by Urban Charrette and CNU Tampa Bay, Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event, focused on generating constructive conversation within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

Every event is open to the public. Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will help make Tampa a more livable city.

The March event is the first in a new three-part series, entitled "Tampa: The New Building Boom.'' The first event, "New Buildings, New City?'' will focus on new developments, and how they are changing Tampa's urban landscape. What do you love? What is missing? The organizers welcome ideas on the challenges facing Tampa, and the influence new developments will have on the growth of the city in coming years.

The event organizers encourage people to share their photos and opinions on these topics by visiting Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online, following the event.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay, and Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

Tradition Meets Technology In New Seminole Heights' Library

Bungalow tradition meets modern technology at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, which is in the midst of a "soft" opening after a nearly one-year construction schedule.
 
The red brick building evokes the history of a neighborhood rich in Craftsman-style bungalows and street grids canopied with grand oak trees. The technology is state-of-the-art and ready for mobile devices with Wi-Fi and plugs for laptops, tablets, IPads and more installed in the base of lamps and on the frames of chairs and tables and ottomans.
 
There are computer stations in clusters and single computers tucked away in quiet corners.
 
"It's been a big accomplishment that we have so much space, so much technology," says Carrie Hurst, the library's branch supervisor.
 
The library, at 4711 Central Ave., replaces a cramped 8,000-square-foot library that dated to the mid-1960s. Residents formed the Seminole Heights Friends of the Library and lobbied for the new 2-story, approximately 22,000-square-foot building.
 
The "arts and craft" design with tall windows, arches, a veranda and second story balcony is the work of FleischmanGarcia Architects. Stain glass art is designed by WRW Studio of Charlotteville, N.Y. A child's portrait hanging on the second floor is by University of Tampa graduate Princess Smith who was named 2013 Emerging Artist of  the Year at the Raymond James Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
 
The total cost of the project, including equipment, design and construction, is just under $7 million.
 
On the ground floor the Friends' group has a bookstore. Patrons can get a drink or snack from vending machines in a cafe area. And community meetings can be held in a 100-seat room that can be divided into two rooms, if needed.
 
Hurst says groups already are booking the space.
 
The main library on the second floor has reference and circulation desks; an "innovation studio" with movable furniture on wheels; offices for staffers; small study and meeting rooms; and a room filled with preservation research materials. The latter will be dedicated to the memory of  the late Steve Gluckman, a local historian and library fund-raiser. 
 
The library serves a unique role in the life of a neighborhood, says Pat Benjamin, president of the Friend's group. "There is home where you work and there is the place where you work," she says. "And the library is the third place. It's just a jewel in the neighborhood. It is for everybody."
 
The grand opening of the library will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on March 17.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Carrie Hurst, Seminole Heights Branch Library; Pat Benjamin, Friends of the Library

Encore Tampa Breaks Ground On New Tempo

Tempo is the fourth, but possibly not the last apartment building, to have its groundbreaking at Encore, the $425 million mixed-income housing and retail development being built by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp.
 
The 7-story, 203-unit multifamily apartment community is expected to open in 2015. It joins the Ella, a 160-unit senior apartment building that opened in late 2012 and is fully occupied. The Trio, a 141-unit multifamily apartment building, should open by April. And the Reed, a 158-unit apartment building for seniors, looks to open late this year or early in 2015.
 
All of the construction activity puts the Housing Authority about one year ahead of a schedule set out nearly three years ago. "We wanted to break ground on one building a year," says Leroy Moore, the housing authority's chief operating officer.
 
A fifth apartment building is possible but Moore says construction likely will be held off a couple of years while retail is added to the project's mix.
 
"Hopefully, we'll see demand for retail speed up greatly by the end of the year," says Moore. "We're being very diligent and selective."
 
By then, the Housing Authority expects to have about 300 leased apartments, nearly double the current number. Once fully completed, more than 2,500 people will live at Encore.
 
Moore anticipates an announcement on a grocery store for Encore within about 60 days. 
 
The approximately $43 million Tempo project is a public/private partnership between the Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development Corp. The architect is Bessolo Design Group and the general contractor is Siltek Group, Inc.
 
Encore replaces the former Central Park Village public housing complex, which was torn down several years ago as part of the city's revitalization efforts north of downtown. The nearly 40 acres between Cass Street and Nebraska Avenue is in a neighborhood founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. Nearby Central Avenue was a black business and entertainment district that thrived until the 1960s and 70s when highway widening projects and urban renewal wiped out most of the area.
 
The musically themed Encore honors the heritage of the neighborhood, where legendary artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday often performed in night clubs in the Central Avenue district known as "Harlem South."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority

Sears Home Services To Renovate Tampa Heights Community Center

The wrecking ball nearly took a fatal swing at the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church. But instead a grass-roots movement that began more than three years ago is salvaging the 90-year-old, Gothic revival style church for a better purpose.
 
By summer 2014 the red-brick building should be transformed into a community center and the new home of the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, which provides neighborhood children with after-school and mentoring programs and summer activities.
 
"I want this to be a place where teenagers will be standing in line to join because its cool," says architect John Tennison, who is co-owner of Atelier Architecture Engineering Construction. He has guided restoration efforts from the beginning, working with hundreds of volunteers every Saturday who put sweat-equity into this community project.
 
Today those efforts will get a major push toward completion from Sears Home Services and Ty Pennington, a DIY (Do It Yourself) expert and former host of the ABC show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." More than 80 Sears employees, in town for a company convention, will pitch in as Sears and Pennington bring the nationwide "Building Community Together" Initiative to Tampa.
 
Sears also has named February as National Hiring Month and plans to fill 1,000 jobs nationwide.
 
Locally, nonprofit Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay will be a partner with Sears on this day of service, which gets underway at 1 p.m. at the church, located at 602 E. Palm Ave. Rebuilding Together provides repairs, handicapped accessibility and energy efficient upgrades to low-income households free of charge. In addition to work on the community center, three local homes will get needed repairs.
 
"This is a major step," says Lena Young-Green, president of the Junior Civic Association which is an outgrowth of the Tampa Heights Civic Association. She got the church project started in 2010.
 
A completion date is possible by summer, she says. Only four unfunded items remain on the to-do list: a new roof, termite tenting, fencing and some additional electrical work.
 
Sears and Rebuilding Together are the latest in a long list of donors.
 
Among the contributions are a full commercial kitchen from Richard Gonzmart of The Columbia Restaurant Group, door hardware from Assa Abloy, labor from True Blue, computers from MIT Computers and funds from Hillsborough County, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, the University of South Florida's Entrepeneurship Alumni Society, Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank and its charitable foundation, and national playground builder, KaBoom!
 
The volunteer effort was in full force Saturday as more than 50 employees from CGM Services: Air Conditioning and Heating worked to install the church's first air conditioning system. The in-kind work and equipment is valued at about $100,000. 
 
"Helping the kids has always mattered to me," says CGM owner Mike Charles, who serves on the Junior Civic Association's board. "This is another historical renovation, one of my favorites."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lena Young-Green, Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association; Mike Charles, CGM Services

Tampa Heights' Home Tour Offers Peek At Ulele Restaurant

Eager for a peek inside the Ulele Restaurant?
 
A ticket to the 13th Annual Tampa Heights Tour of Homes will put you there for a tantalizing behind the curtain view of Tampa's next hot dining spot, opening soon inside the city's historical Water Works building. The approximately $4 million restoration is about two months away from completion.
 
But Richard Gonzmart and The Columbia Restaurant Group are opening Ulele's doors as a special showcase and the final stop on Tampa Heights' home tour. Other stops include nine homes, mostly in the Victorian and Craftsman-bungalow styles; the Tampa Heights Community Garden; and, a historical church being restored as the new home for Tampa Heights Community Center. 
 
The restaurant and Tampa's planned redesign of the adjacent Water Works Park are part of a broader plan to revitalize  the city's first suburb, built in the 1880s on "the heights" above the Hillsborough River. Ulele's menu will feature Native American and multicultural influences.
 
"A few months ago, it was just a shell. Now there is quite a bit there," says Brian Seel, senior project engineer at The Beck Group of Tampa, the project's designer. "It will be really interesting for people to see it close to completion."
 
Seel is the president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, the tour's sponsor.
 
The tour is from noon to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 the day of the event. The starting point is the historical Faith Temple Missionary Baptist Church at the corner of Palm and Lamar avenues. The church, like the Water Works, is undergoing a restoration to convert the 90-year-old structure into a community center and home base for Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association.
 
A portion of the proceeds from this year's tour will benefit restoration efforts, which are headed toward a summer completion. The association provides after-school, mentoring and summer programs for area children.
 
"That and Water Works mean a lot for our neighborhood," Seel says. "We're very excited for them to open."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Brian Seel, Tampa Heights Civic Association

SkyHouse Channelside Designed For Young Professionals

Developers believe they have the perfect mix for young renters: an upscale high-rise apartment complex located in the Channel District.
 
Atlanta-based Novare Group and Batson-Cook Development Company are going vertical with SkyHouse Channelside, a 23-story, 320-unit apartment building on 12th Street between East Washington and East Whiting streets.
 
The approximately $55 million project is the second in Florida for the development partners, following the November opening of Skyhouse Orlando.
 
Skyhouse Channelside is expected to provide 500 construction jobs and attract more than 400 residents -- mostly young professionals -- to the new urban district along the Tampa Port's waterfront between downtown and historical Ybor City.
 
Apartments will offer one to three bedrooms with floor-to-ceiling glass opening to grand vistas. The "SkyHouse" is on the top floor with a club room, fitness equipment and outdoor plazas featuring a swimming pool, fireplaces, covered outdoor lounges and 360-degree views of the city skyline.
 
"Our mission with SkyHouse is to find places in dynamic cities where 25- to 34-year old singles can, with our developments, experience a great high-rise living experience that fits within their budget," says Jim Borders, Novare Group's president. "Tampa is the main business center along the west coast of Florida and continues to draw young, educated professionals who will enjoy everything SkyHouse has to offer."
 
Novare is familiar with Tampa's urban infill renaissance. The company co-developed the Element on Franklin Street and SkyPoint on Ashley Drive.
 
Downtown and the Channel District are destinations for people seeking an energized, urban living experience with museums, night life, jobs and public transportation. Other high-rise apartments and condominiums, built as the real estate market collapsed several years ago, now are nearly fully occupied.
 
Young people and empty-nesters especially are looking for the "lock-and-leave" life-style of walkable restaurants and entertainment, says Byron Moger, executive director of commerical real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield.
 
"I think it's very appealing to people who want to live downtown," Moger says. "I think its a genuine lifestyle that has reached critical mass."
 
Harbour Island and Downtown Tampa have potential for more multifamily residential, he says.
 
Another project slated for the Channel District is The Martin at Meridian, a  high-rise, south of Twiggs Street. And downtown may get a residential tower next to the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.
 
SkyHouse residential towers can be found in cities in four states: Florida, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. In addition to Batson-Cook, Novare is partnering with architectural firm Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart.
 
Wells Fargo is providing construction financing for the project. Steve Gardner and Truett Gardner of Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort are local attorneys with the project.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jim Borders, Novare Group; Byron Moger, Cushman & Wakefield
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