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Walmart Neighborhood Market, restaurants open in Oldsmar

Drive along Tampa Road in Oldsmar, the main artery through this suburb of Tampa, and you will see the signs of new construction and renovations happening. From new retail to trendy restaurants, this small but mighty city is attracting businesses of all sizes.

Walmart 

A Walmart Neighborhood Market is scheduled to open this fall at the intersection of East Lake Road and Tampa Road, in the location that the Sweetbay Supermarket used to occupy. The market, a smaller version of Walmart superstores, carries the same goods found in a typical grocery store.

The Walmart Neighborhood Market in Oldsmar is currently hiring in preparation for the upcoming opening. The store plans to hire 95 employees, including both full and part-time associates. Interested applicants can apply online.

Rawk Star Café

With more people ditching burgers and fries for healthier options, the owners of Rawk Star Café saw a need to expand from their 1,600-square-foot location in Palm Harbor to a larger space in Oldsmar. The café, which has been in business for five years, moved to the new digs in Oldsmar in July.

“We love this location because it’s in the middle of everything, so not only do we get to keep our customer base that we developed in Palm Harbor, but we used to live in Westchase and we know a lot of people in East Lake, and we wanted to draw people from Tampa too, so this location is great because we are centrally located for all of our customers,” says Karen DiGloria, co-owner and operator of Rawk Star Café. “Tampa Road is so easy; people come through here a lot on their way to work, so it’s great.”

The café offers organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free dishes and smoothies. Menu items include raw versions of chili, pizza, even a burger. All of the menu items are made with organic ingredients and superfoods.

“We are honestly one of the only places in the area that is 100-percent organic,” DiGloria says.

Rawk Star also features a nutritional store where you can purchase everything from vitamins to shampoo. DiGloria offers nutritional counseling to customers, as she and co-owner Adam Kantrovitz are passionate about healthy eating.

“People want to know how they can live a longer life, and the answer is through eating a plant-based diet,” Kantrovitz says. “We want to help people feel better and live healthy lives, and we do all we can here every day to make that happen.”

Craft Street Kitchen

Seriously fun food, is how operating Partner Danielle Becker of Craft Street Kitchen describes the concept of the new restaurant opening just south of Tampa Road.

“We make everything in-house from scratch using local farms and farmers whenever possible,” she says. “We are serious about our ingredients but serve them in a fun, unpretentious way.“

This will be the second location for the growing restaurant. Their first location in Trinity opened in 2013, serving items like short rib sweet potato tots, French philly and espresso rubbed ribeye, along with 64 taps including those from local breweries.

Becker says the Oldsmar location will open the first week of November, and her team is excited to be in the neighborhood.

“We chose the location because of the small town feel, close-knit community and a city that is really investing and putting great efforts into the future of keeping Oldsmar incredible,” she says. 

Courtney Campbell sports new palm trees as part of beautification project

If you drive, walk or bicycle along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, you will notice the addition of newly planted palm trees lining both sides of the causeway as the Florida Department of Transportation continues its Bold Beautification Program.

The scenic span that connects Tampa and Clearwater has had quite a year, opening a parallel pedestrian and bike path in June. The causeway, also known as State Road 60, is a well-traveled thoroughfare for commuters, visitors and residents of both Hillsborough and Pinellas. In addition to providing spectacular views of the Bay, crossing over the causeway now includes views of a variety of palm trees from bismarck palms, cabbage palms, Chinese fan palms, date palms to Washington palms.

The nearly $856,000 landscaping project will be maintained by contractor SFM Services, Inc.

“The project is complete, however, the establishment period [with SFM] began February 26, 2015 and will be running for two years,” says Kristen Carson, with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

The Bold Beautification Program helps the FDOT meet its goal set by the Florida Legislature wherein just over one-percent of its statewide construction budget is to be spent on the FDOT's contractor SFM Services, Inc.

In addition to the palm trees planted, according to Carson, there are more beautification projects in the works for the causeway.

“There will be more landscaping added to the Pinellas County side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway,” she says. “It is currently in the planning stages, therefore no work has started yet.”

City of Clearwater seeks public comment on future of North Marina area

Tucked away just blocks north of downtown Clearwater is a neighborhood with vacant retail spaces, a former elementary school and commercial real estate waiting to be leased. Called the North Marina area, the neighborhood now seeks a promising future with help from the city and a Tampa consulting firm.
 
The area, 64 acres from Clearwater Bay to the Pinellas Trail between Cedar Street and Eldridge Street, is most notable for being the home to the Francis Wilson Playhouse, the Seminole boat launch and the historic now vacant North Ward Elementary School.
 
In order to revitalize the area and transform it into the neighborhood residents want it to be, the city of Clearwater is hosting three meetings to get feedback on their North Marina area master plan.  
 
One of the ideas the city is proposing is taking advantage of the waterfront, and making the area more boater-friendly.
 
“The access to the water that is already there is something we really need to capitalize on,” says City Planner Katie See at the city of Clearwater. “There aren’t too many public access areas for boats along the Clearwater harbor, so it would be nice to expand that area and have places for visitors and boaters to go to once they dock.”
 
See goes on to say that community input is a very important to the process. Therefore, participation from residents at the three meetings is essential.
  
The schedule for the community meetings is as follows:
  • Aug. 26 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.
  • Sept. 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. The second meeting will be a planning and design charrette/public workshop. Heavy appetizers will be provided.
  • Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Refreshments will be provided.
All of the meetings will be held at the North Greenwood Recreation Center, 900 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.
 
“All of the meetings build upon the other,” See says. “So while it’s not mandatory that people attend all three meetings, it helps to understand the process if you can attend all the meetings. We made sure to schedule them in the evening so they wouldn’t get in the way of work or school.”
 
The first meeting will be a town hall style community meeting, with all of the data and analysis given to the attendants. There will also be a survey where participants can provide feedback. The second meeting, will be more interactive with the Tampa consulting firm Stantec on hand to facilitate work sessions with citizens on the design and development. During the final meeting, Stantec will present all of the information and recommendations to participants to create a plan.

New England style brownstones being built in St. Petersburg

If you are in a New York state of mind but reside in the sunshine state, the Brownstones of St. Petersburg offer an appealing alternative designed for buyers in search of a unique housing option.

“Being from New York myself, I know there are a lot of people who live here, who are originally from New York and Boston, so I figured why not bring brownstones to St. Pete,” says Steve Gianfilippo, owner and founder of the Brownstone of St. Petersburg.

In addition to 4,000-square-feet of living space, homeowners can also enjoy a detached garage with an apartment, which allows owners the option to rent out space if they would like.

“The real selling point is the apartment over the garage to rent out if buyers wish, this is an option you won’t find in a condo community,” Gianfilppo says. “On top of that, you don’t have the exorbitant condo fees and assessments that come with living in a condo building downtown. Providing that option for people really differentiates us from the other properties being built in the area.”

The main buildings of the brownstones are four-stories, each level approximately 800 square feet, and each unit has its own elevator. The properties are one block from walkable Beach Drive's restaurants, museums and shops.

“Being in downtown, and so close to Beach Drive, buyers will really get to experience the urban lifestyle,” Gianfilppo says.

Gianfilppo is very familiar with the area, having his hands on various projects in and around downtown St. Petersburg, including Cordova Inn and Station House restaurant as well as the Barefoot Beach Hotel in Madiera Beach.

The brownstones will be on the market ranging in price from $1.4 million to $1.8 million, depending on the proximity of the property to Beach Drive.

For more information on the Brownstones of St. Petersburg, visit their website.

Duckweed welcomes artisan chocolates, plans to open new grocery in Channelside

Downtown Tampa residents accustomed to running into the Duckweed Urban Market to grab a sandwich, salad fixings or a bottle of wine now can also grab gourmet chocolates as they peruse the shelves of the beloved grocery.

When Ashworth Artisan Chocolate closed its doors last month, Duckweed Owners Michelle and Brent Deatherage opened their's to the chocolate company. The owners of the two businesses had met through the Tampa Bay Partnership and bicycle friendly business meetings, as well as being customers at each other’s stores.
 
The idea to move Ashworth’s business into Duckweed is a strategic one designed to benefit both parties.
 
“After having been in business for over eight years, Ashworth Artisan Chocolate has a loyal following of thousands of customers, many of whom may have never been to Duckweed before,” says Jessica Moore, Manager of Duckweed. “Now when Ashworth customers come in for their chocolate fix, they'll be introduced to everything Duckweed has to offer and might leave with a nice bottle of wine or a bouquet of fresh flowers to go with their box of chocolate truffles. By combining our customer bases, we are certain we will increase sales for both businesses.”

Duckweed, which started in 2011, in a 500-square-foot spot on Polk Street, has grown quite a bit to its current location in the Element building. Just as its name signifies, it has small but mighty roots.
 
“Duckweed itself is a teeny-tiny aquatic plant found throughout Florida, and is actually known as the smallest flowering plant, but it provides a large amount of nutrients to the aquatic life that feeds on it,” Moore says. “So we decided to name our tiny little store that brings nourishment to the people of downtown after the tiny plant. Since we have grown, we have thought about changing it, but customers and employees alike are too fond of our quirky name, so it has stuck.”
 
Soon the downtown location will not be the only Duckweed in Tampa. Plans for Duckweed in Channelside are underway, with a scheduled opening at The Place this winter.
 
“The store owners are residents of the Channel District, so they're acutely aware that their neighbors and residents such as themselves are lacking easily accessible groceries,” Moore says. “With Channelside's promising future on the minds of many locals, we felt that would be a great spot for the next installment of Duckweed.”
 
Duckweed at The Place in Channelside will also feature Ashworth Artisan Chocolate. 

Tampa Bay area college campuses create new spaces for start of school

It's that time of year when college students trade in their sunscreen and towels for pens and paper (writing enhances memory!) and hit the books: yep, it’s back to learning, lectures and labs.

In preparation for the fall semester and upcoming school year, local colleges and universities are finishing up construction and campus improvements just in time for students to take their seats.

Hillsborough Community College (HCC) is opening up a new science building on its SouthShore campus. The new $9.8 million building features laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices.

“The new building allows us to give students the classes they need and want,” says Dr. Allen Witt, HCC SouthShore Campus President. “Our campus is disproportionately higher in the sciences, especially in the biological sciences, with students going on to paths in nursing, medical and other health-related sciences, so this building gives us the capability to offer more classes in those disciplines.”

The LEED-certified building is two stories tall and encompasses over 36,000-square-feet. Witt says he is proud to say that the faculty was very involved in the construction process.

“The building process was unusual in that the teachers were involved every step of the way,” he says. “It really is a building built by teachers for teachers. Black boards fill two walls in order to complete mathematical equations, small windows were used so there wouldn’t be too much light for the use of projectors and computers, students enter from the back of the classroom so as not to disrupt the class, they thought of everything.”

Over at the University of Tampa (UT), there is also a new building opening for the fall. The Innovation and Collaboration building is a multipurpose space that includes classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices, an entrepreneurship center, a Starbucks coffee shop, meeting and study areas and a headquarters for campus safety.

“As the university’s student population has increased, so have the needs for academic and administrative space, as well as space for students to study and socialize, says Eric Cardenas, director of public information and publications for the University of Tampa. “Also, our entrepreneurship program has grown and become more nationally renowned and multifaceted, so it was determined that it needed a dedicated space, this building addresses those needs.”

UT’s Innovation and Collaboration building is a candidate for LEED Silver certification.

McKay Hall at UT also got a makeover this summer, and renovations will be completed in time for the fall semester. The residence hall, which was built in the late 1950s, received several improvements including new restrooms, an upgraded common room and a second laundry room.

Eckerd College also renovated its residence complexes, and built a new sailing center on Boca Ciega Bay. The $1.6 million Doyle Sailing Center includes floating docks with 26 slips. Eckerd’s sailing team is comprised of 32 members.

T.J.Maxx, new restaurants sprouting up in south Tampa

New restaurants and a popular discount retailer are moving into the South Tampa neighborhoods of Palma Ceia and SOHO/ Courier City.

After months of construction and speculation about what was going into the former Eckerd Drug store space on Henderson Boulevard, T.J. Maxx has announced it will be going into the shopping center between Fresh Market and First Watch. The 26,000-square-feet will be the discount clothing store's 10th location in the Tampa Bay area, but the first in south Tampa.

Its main competition for retail shoppers looking for discounted brand name clothing will likely be the stores already occupying Britton Plaza, about three miles south at Dale Mabry Highway and Euclid Avenue. Stores in Britton Plaza include Marshall's, Bealls Outlet, Burlington Coat Factory and the ever-popular Stein Mart. (Publix is currently rebuilding its space in Britton Plaza.)

Food town opeings

For foodies, the selection of restaurants in South Tampa continues to grow, with new concepts opening in new or renovated spaces nearly every week. Here are just a few of the restaurants that are creating buzz:

Four Rivers Smokehouse

With the successful launch of its location in Carrollwood, Four Rivers Smokehouse, will be coming to south Tampa later this year. Truly a 'home cooked'-inspired restaurant, Four Rivers got its start in the owner's garage after a fundraising cookout to support a family who had lost their young daughter to cancer. The barbecued food the owner made that day was very well received, so he opened up the Carrollwood restaurant and today proceeds still go to the 'Barbecue Ministry.”

Food at Four Rivers includes sandwiches, ribs, smoked chicken and brisket. The new restaurant will be located at the corner of Swann and MacDill Avenues, and is expected to open this fall.

Craft A'Fare Social Kitchen / Cask

Co-owned by Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Craft A'Fare Social Kitchen, or just Cask as locals call it, is a comfort food haven with cornmeal crusted snapper, cider braised pork with beer battered onions as well as shrimp and grits, this restaurant is southern food meets chic fare.

Cask recently opened and provides lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays. You can experience Cask at 208 South Howard Ave.

Acropolis Greek Taverna

If you are looking for something other than American fare, Acropolis Greek Taverna south Tampa will be opening soon. This Greek restaurant with locations in Ybor, New Tampa, St. Petersburg and Riverview, will be opening a south Tampa location this fall. Take your tastebuds on a journey at Acropolis by trying their ouzo mussels, octopus appetizer or Greek lamb chops.

Acropolis Greek Taverna will be located at 3023 West Kennedy Boulevard.

“I believe south Tampa has become a foodie paradise,” says Kelly Flannery, president and CEO of the south Tampa Chamber of Commerce. “There is a great selection to choose from with all these new restaurants, and its a great walkable community right here in the middle of south Tampa.”

New townhomes coming to Downtown St. Petersburg

There has been a lot of buzz about rising condos and apartments in downtown St. Petersburg, but for those interested in a different housing option, Regent Lane townhomes may be the cat's meow.

These new construction luxury townhomes are in a small private gated community with 20 units total. Each townhome is four-stories with a British mews theme, and over 2,300-square-feet of living space. The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath residencies each feature a private rooftop deck terrace.

With the property located less than two blocks away from Beach Drive, residents of Regent Lane can also enjoy all that downtown St. Petersburg has to offer, and having it all within walking distance.

“I believe the potential for an urban lifestyle that has been established in downtown St. Pete will be easily accessible to the homeowners of my project,” says Neil Rauenhorst, president of NJR properties investment, LLC.

While Regent Lane is unique in its design, and its townhome offerings, it joins a long list of residential properties coming to downtown St. Petersburg including: Bliss Over Beach Drive, Beacon 430, The Salvador, The Hermitage and One St. Petersburg.

Rauenhorst says what sets his project apart from the others is the townhome community.

“It’s a secured gated community, with private space for each homeowner,” he says. “Complete with a two-car garage, and private elevator.”

Reservations for Regent Lane are being taken now; construction is expected to be completed in summer 2016.

To view floor plans, make a reservation or get more information, visit Regent Lane’s website.

Old Raytheon site in St. Pete purchased

The former Raytheon site in St. Petersburg that has been vacant for years has been purchased, and will be redeveloped into retail, multi-family housing or mixed use, as the Commercial Development Company (CDC), which bought the 29-acres of land makes final plans for its use.

Commercial Development Company has a strong track record of bringing underutilized sites back to productive use,” says John Kowalik of CDC.  

While the company is eager to get started on the project, environmental issues that have plagued the site had to be dealt with first. According to Kowalik, Raytheon has remediated the issues, making the site suitable for redevelopment.

In order to maintain environmental compliance, Raytheon will also remain on site of the property to ensure that the groundwater treatment and recovery system (GRTS) they installed in 2014 operates efficiently.

The property located between Tyrone Square Mall and the Azalea Park neighborhoods is densely populated, which Kowalik says is great for vertical development. The company has already been contacted by potential tenants and developers showing interest in the property.

While plans for what exactly will be going in the area will not be determined for another few months, Kowalik says the area is prime for even more growth, which is why the company chose to invest.

“We seek to invest in areas where we see the most potential for growth, and the St. Petersburg market is already in a growth-phase and we are eager to see the economic and social benefits this redevelopment brings to the area.  

New Pasco community opens first model homes

Starkey Ranch, situated on more than 2,400 acres along State Road 54 and close to conservation and wildlife preserves in Pasco County, is now open for potential homebuyers to take a look at model homes.

The planned community spans just east of Gunn Highway to Starkey Boulevard. With plans to become a full community, complete with a grocery store, retail and restaurants, Starkey Ranch recently opened its first four model homes for future residents to tour.
 
According to Matt Call, Project Director at Starkey Ranch, the model homes vary in sizes from three bedrooms to five bedrooms, with some homes overlooking the water or conservation areas, and others close to a new community park.
 
“Starkey Ranch provides residents with a unique opportunity to live close to nature and walk or hike, there are so many outdoor options being next to the preserve,” he says.
 
In addition to the natural elements the community offers, Call says the neighborhood will also have a lifestyle manager who will help residents get to know their neighbors, as well as plan events for the community. 
 
“We will be having monthly events moving forward, but for the month of October, we are having weekly events each Saturday during what we’re calling Fun for Fall,” he says. “Anyone is welcome to come to these events to see the community, and get a feel for what we’re all about.”
 
Homes in the first neighborhood, Whitfield Park, start in the mid $200,000s and go up to $1 million. Whitfield Park features a community lawn, dog parks, a playground, picnic pavilions and a neighborhood pool opening next spring.
 
All of the homes throughout Starkey Ranch will be designed to meet or exceed national green building standards with energy efficient appliances and natural gas service.  
 
“Green is more than a just a philosophy for us,” Call says. “It’s very important to us to be good stewards of the environment, especially given the surroundings where the community is located.”
 
Model homes and the Starkey Ranch Welcome Center are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. For more information on monthly events, or to view home plans visit the Starkey Ranch website.

SkyHouse Channelside adds to hip, urban scene in downtown Tampa

Breathtaking views of downtown Tampa on one side, a view overlooking Ybor City and Port Tampa Bay on the other. An infinity edge saltwater pool, lounge and clubroom complete with billiards, a catering kitchen, flat screen TVs and a terrace with fireplaces, grills and outdoor seating.

Sound pretty good? Well, that is just the rooftop of the new SkyHouse Channelside, a luxury apartment tower along the eastern waterfront in downtown Tampa.

SkyHouse Channelside, on 12th Street between East Whiting Street and East Washington Street, is the latest tower to open in an ongoing development trend happening downtown.

Earlier this month, New York investor Larry Feldman filed plans with the City of Tampa to build a 52-story mixed-use project on the infamous Trump Tower site at the intersection of Ashley Drive and East Brorein Street, which could feature somewhere between 200 and 300 residential units.

Other properties in the works are The Arts and Entertainment Residences (AER), a 350-unit apartment complex that is planned next to the Straz Center, and The Martin at Meridian in the Channel District, a 24-story tower offering 316 units.

SkyHouse Channelside, which is already at a 40-percent occupancy rate, offers studios up to 3-bedroom units. Its builder says it is that assortment, plus the amenities that will draw people to the tower.

“People are looking for the new feel, and the amenity level of the rooftop terrace. With the rooftop saltwater pool, along with the variety of units really make this a great fit for millennials or those looking to downsize,” says Tom Underwood, project executive with Baston-Cook, which built SkyHouse Channelside.  “The units range anywhere from 900-square-feet to over 1,500.”

Other amenities throughout the luxury tower include 24-hour concierge, controlled access parking garage, and wi-fi accessibility throughout common areas.

In addition to the luxurious amenities, SkyHouse Channelside and other planned downtown Tampa residential towers and complexes offer residents an opportunity to live without a car or at least use their car less often -- another example of the city's growing urban scene.

Monthly rent at SkyHouse Channelside ranges between $1,000 to over $3,000 a month. For more information on the tower, visit the SkyHouse Channelside website.

Unique theater prepares to open in West Tampa

West Tampa is experiencing a great amount of change as development plans by the city are underway, and in response to all the change, a new theater company is moving into the neighborhood to offer a place of peace, thoughtfulness and innovation.

The Space at 2106 Main, an old restaurant, is being revitalized into a theater that will house performances from band and vocal representations to one-person shows to full-blown Broadway acts. The theater company’s goal is to bring a variety of art to the area.

Before becoming executive artistic director for The Space at 2106 Main, Jared O’Roark, was working with youth for over a decade at Ruth Eckerd Hall. He even gained national attention for his work in the documentary Project: Shattered Silence, which won several awards and even a Emmy nomination.

“After working at Ruth Eckerd Hall for 14 years, the owner of The Space at 2106 Main, Robert Morris, came to me and told me about this building, and when we went inside, he asked me if I saw potential for a theater, and I said, 'yes'.”

O’Roark goes on to say that the theater will be immersive, meaning actors and acts will be moving around the whole theater, even in the audience, unlike traditional theater that all takes place on a stage.

“Everything in the room can move, so every time you walk in the room it should look different,” he says. “The chairs can move, tables can move, the booths can move, so immersive also means whatever the director has in mind, he can do without being tied down.”

O’Roark says this project is also important to him due to the fact that he is able to work with a diverse group of people in a diverse community.

“We are really pushing diversity, and we are not just saying it, the three of us at the top are all minorities. Robert, the owner is Lebanese, I myself am gay, and Erica Sutherlan, the managing artistic director is African-American. We want to not only present art for people outside the community, but we want to do stuff that involves the community. We want people in the community to know that we are not keeping them at arm’s length. This is their place too. This is a diverse community, and we welcome that diversity.”

The Space at 2016 Main will open its doors in September, for a list of upcoming shows check out their Facebook page for updates.

Development of Westshore area continues as latest luxury apartment complex rises in Tampa

The Westshore area of Tampa continues its development boom as another luxury apartment complex rises from the ground. Grady Square, a $56-million luxury apartment community, is being built at the site once occupied by the former Without Walls International Church.

The new project joins The Crescent, the new Hampton Inn & Suites at Avion Park, the World of Beer and Laser Spine Institute on the list of latest developments under construction in the Westshore area closest to Tampa International Airport and International Plaza.

The 300-unit community, situated along North Grady Avenue near West Columbus Avenue, will offer studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments ranging from 574- to over 1,600-square-feet. It will be comprised of four stories surrounding three tropical courtyards, as well as a parking garage and elevator. Innovative amenities include a yoga/spin studio, meditation lounge and tech center. Other offerings include a hotel-inspired two-story clubhouse and fitness center.

The Richman Group of Florida is doing the construction on Grady Square.

“Our site is in the heart of the Westshore business district, which is not only the largest employment center in Tampa Bay, but it is the State of Florida's largest office market,” says Todd Fabbri, Executive VP for the Richman Group of Florida, Inc. “We believe Westshore will continue to see healthy employment growth over the next several years. In addition to employment, our site enjoys close proximity to the best shopping options in the region, [including] International Plaza, just one mile west of the property.”

As construction continues on the project, Fabbri says there will be more job creation in the district.

“We estimate about 316 construction jobs will be created in the construction phase,” he says. “This does not account for any indirect jobs that would be created as well.”

Once the complex opens in summer 2016, Fabbri anticipates approximately seven to eight full-time positions will be created at the complex.

Construction begins on redesign of historic downtown Tampa park

Historical culture meets the future at the new Perry Harvey Park being constructed near ENCORE! Tampa just north of downtown at the intersection of Harrison Street and Central Avenue.

The $6.95 million project is being funded through a federal Choice Neighborhood Grant obtained by the Tampa Housing Authority for redeveloping the neighborhood.

“The $30 million dollar choice neighborhood implementation grant included a $2 million allocation for the renovation of Perry Harvey Park because the neighborhood lacked adequate recreational amenities to support the planned ENCORE! and surrounding community,” says LeRoy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority. “Parks and recreational amenities are essential to good community planning and promote wellness, cultural awareness and community building.”
 
The park's design celebrates the history of Central Avenue and its culture. The area was settled after the Civil War, when freed slaves were relocated to an area northeast of downtown Tampa. As time went on, the area became a successful African- American residential and business community. Many legendary artists, including Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown, were drawn there to perform to growing audiences.

“After the public participation process of three public meetings, an advisory committee of community leaders was appointed to develop the program for park elements to ensure the park reflected the historical culture,” says Brad Suder, Superintendent in the city of Tampa’s planning design natural resources division. “This included granddaughters of Perry Harvey, Sr. and descendants of business leaders who grew up in the community. The idea was to capture important milestones, events and facts. The city selected four different artists to showcase the cultural history in different parts of the park, including a southern gateway into the park, a leaders row, a history walk and a statue of Perry Harvey, Sr.”

In addition to the artwork, the park will feature an interactive fountain, concert/festival space, improvements to the basketball courts, picnic shelters and a skate park.

Construction on the park is expected to be completed in winter 2016.

Pinellas County plans to replace aging bridges

Many of us drive across the local bridges on a daily basis, whether going to work, school or leisure, without a second thought to when they were built or what condition they might be in today. Pinellas County government, however, is taking into consideration the aging infrastructure of local bridges and working toward a solution for improvement.

“We have a systematic rating for bridges in Pinellas County, which we monitor pretty closely,” says Mary Burrell, Public Information Manager for Pinellas County.

Burrell says two bridges in particular are on the county’s radar: San Martin Boulevard Bridge in St. Petersburg, and the Dunedin Causeway. Both bridges were built in the early 1960s, with  life expectancy of about 50 years. Now that time is running out, it is time to address the aging spans.

“The San Martin bridge has some structural rating deficiencies that warrant it being evaluated for future considerations, she says. “It has been rehabilitated over the years and now it is time to decide whether rehab or replacement is warranted.”

Burrell goes on to say that while there are rating deficiencies, construction on the bridge would be no sooner than 2018 due to a lack of funding.

“We are in the study phase, it’s an 18-month study, and the purpose of that is to seek funding from the highway administration. We currently have what could be considered matching funds from ‘Penny from Pinellas’ county funding for fiscal year 2018 and 2019, which is very much predicated on our ability to obtain matching funds from federal highway administrations.”

As for the Dunedin Causeway, it is going through the same process, although Burrell says it is moving approximately six months ahead.

“With the new technology available today, we are shooting for a life expectancy of about 75 years, compared to 50 as when these bridges were built,” she says. “The bridges are safe, there are just some ratings that warrant it to be in our radar, and make sure we have funding in place when timing is appropriate.”
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