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Florida homebuilder plans 11 new communities by mid-2016

A Sarasota-based private home building company is finding great success, currently on track to beat an all-time company home sales record, with plans to build more communities in the Tampa Bay area.

Neal Communities, which is owned by Pat Neal, a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and former state senator and house member, has overseen the growing company through its success.

With eight communities opening around the Tampa Bay area in 2015, and three slated to open in 2016, the future of the company continues to look bright, with several factors playing into this success.

“In the market, there are historically low interest rates and 40-percent of home buyers are paying cash,” says Leisa Weintraub of Neal Communities. “Plus a low unemployment rate equals a strong Southwest Florida market. We have grown our market coverage by building homes from Hillsborough south to Collier County.”

The new communities built in 2015 include: Woodland Trace in Sarasota, River Wind in Bradenton, South Fork in Riverview, Magnolia Point in Sarasota, Indigo in Lakewood Ranch, MiraBay in Apollo Beach, Waterset in Riverview, and Oaks of Estero in Estero.

Weintraub goes on to say that the company's “emphasis on style and architectural details, which are classical and timeless designed around the feel of being in Florida,” is what she attributes to the business’s success.

In 2016, Villa Amalfi and The Provence will open in Sarasota as well at The Ridge at Crossing Creek in Bradenton.

“Our homes are light and bright and reflect the lifestyles of our home buyers.”

For more information on the communities mentioned or other communities around the state built by Neal Communities, visit their website.

SPC receives funding for Bay Pines STEM Learning Center

With funding from the state in the amount of $2.5 million, St. Petersburg College (SPC) is building a new learning center for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

Last year, SPC received money to fund the new building from the Florida Legislature Public Education Capital Outlay to complete the college's Bay Pines STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Learning Center in the Madiera Beach area. It is close to both the Bay Pines VA Hospital and Madiera Beach Fundamental School.

The $4.7 million building will serve many purposes for the community.

“The center will have SPC classes, professional development activities for Pinellas County school teachers and others, community group activities, marine and environmental independent research being carried out by SPC students, secondary school students, and students from other colleges around the area,” says John Chapin, Dean of natural sciences at SPC. “It will also be the site for summer camps for various groups underserved in the STEM areas, and a site to partner with other colleges/universities in the area on STEM related projects.”

According to Chapin, SPC's Bay Pines STEM Learning Center will be 10,000-square-feet. It will have two multipurpose lab rooms each holding 24 students, three independent research areas and one large multipurpose room that will seat up to 100 people.

“The lab rooms are very flexible and will support both lab-based and classroom-based activities.”

The building is scheduled to undergo construction in December and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Reed at ENCORE! Tampa is completed, fully occupied

The Reed at ENCORE! Tampa, a new senior building between downtown Tampa and Ybor City, is now complete and fully occupied. 
The Reed is part of a larger designed community encompassing 28 acres and expected to cover 12 city blocks. Plans include a variety of housing for all ages, including low income as well as market rate rentals and sales. 
Though the near $30-million Reed at ENCORE building already houses more than 150 seniors, there are some final touches to be completed.
“There is a design element remaining to be installed, the maestro’s baton, which is a large public art element, which will grace the front entry way of the building,” says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority.
According to Moore, the Reed building has special significance to the area.
“Reed is our second senior building and the third building overall to open at ENCORE,” he says. ‘The building is named after Essie Mae Reed, a local pioneer in women’s rights and public housing, and Tampa’s first black female to qualify to run for city council.”
To honor the late-Essie Mae Reed, a bust was revealed at the ribbon cutting, which was attended by U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. During the event, Castor read a proclamation she read on the floor of Congress honoring Ms. Reed several years ago. The mayor shared memories of times he spent with the pioneer. The Reed family shared their emotional comments about how profoundly honored they feel to have such a remembrance of their family member.

Waterline: New resort coming to Anna Maria Island, Bradenton

Waterfront suites, water activities and signature restaurant are just a few luxuries that will be included in a new resort coming to Anna Maria Island just off the Gulf coast by Bradenton in Manatee County.

The Waterline Resort, which will open in fall 2016, is the latest project for the Mainsail Lodging & Development team. The team is also known for their work on the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.
This new project on Anna Maria Island, which is located just minutes from Bradenton, will offer guests both luxury and excitement.
“The resort will feature 37 stylish 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom suites with gourmet kitchens, says Joe Collier, President  of Mainsail Lodging & Development. “Waterline’s separate beach club will offer exclusive beach access with kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, lounge chairs, umbrellas, beach toys and a ‘desalination zone’ for guests to cool down and relax.”
Collier, a graduate of Florida State University, says the resort will also offer 2,000-square-feet of meeting space, a signature restaurant and bar and a 50-slip marina.
“The Waterline marina will be the center of aquatic activity at the resort with boat slips for guests who arrive by water, charter boats for family outings, eco-tours, guided fishing excursions, sailing adventures and daily sunset cruises,” he says.  
Collier also notes that Waterline has already formed a partnership with the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium.
“Based on a shared commitment to environmental stewardship, Waterline is looking forward to establishing a unique, strictly educational partnership with the world-renowned Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium,” he says. “The educational partnership is planned to include a variety of eco-experiences and will enhance and enrich the overall destination experience for Waterline guests and locals alike.”
The Waterline Resort will be located at 5325 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach on the East shore of Anna Maria Island. For more information, visit the resort’s website.

5 new restaurants pick Westshore area of Tampa to call home

Five new restaurants are about to be calling the Westshore area of Tampa home. Three of the restaurants are going into International Plaza, making for a night out for foodies a cinch if you want to try all three in one trip.
YO! Sushi
One of the most innovative concepts coming to International Plaza is YO! Sushi. The sushi joint has become popular and well-known for its unique ordering process.
“To make ordering fun and easy, dishes are served via the “kaiten” otherwise known as a conveyor belt, with color and price coded plates ranging from $3 to $7 dollars,” says Darren Wightman, VP of Operations for YO! Sushi.
In addition to ordering off the “kaiten,” guests can order other dishes using an airline style call button.
Wightman, who graduated with a degree in catering and hospitality from William Angliss College, with a certificate in wine studies from the UK Wine and Spirit Education Trust, says the restaurant serves a variety of sushi including sashimi, maki hand rolls, spicy tuna rolls and vegetarian options. Yo! Sushi also provides a variety of wine, beer and sake.
This will be the second location in the Tampa Bay area, with the other being located at The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota.
“We love the Florida market,” Wightman says.  “Due to our recent Sarasota opening and the positive response, the Tampa market was a natural next step for the brand. It is a vibrant market, with a diversity of cultures.”
Yo! Sushi will be having a grand opening celebration when they open October 28th.
Also located at International Plaza is TAPS, an upscale bar nestled in the heart of Bay Street across from Bar Louie and The Blue Martini. TAPS had its grand opening in September.
With flat screen televisions located both inside and outside the establishment, this is a great place to go to watch games and drink craft beer. In addition to the wide variety of beer, wine and spirits, the restaurant also has a reputation for great food. Known for their house-baked meatballs and Tuna Crudo, which is served at their other locations throughout Florida, it is a staple for the brasserie. Other menu items include short rib ragu, steak fritz and burgers.
Doc B’s
The third International Plaza newbie is Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen. Named in honor of the owner’s father, who always said ‘Everything in moderation,’ this restaurant is one of the healthier choices for foodies.
Options include kale salad, roasted chicken and salad -- all made from with ingredients from local farmers. There are also more indulgent offerings including burgers, crispy chicken sandwichs and filet-mignon. Remember what Doc B says? Everything in moderation.
Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen is scheduled to open in November.
 Lucky Dill
The former Boizao Steakhouse location at 4606 West Boy Scout Boulevard, will soon be transformed into the Lucky Dill Deli. Lucky Dill already runs a deli and bakery in Palm Harbor.  
Lucky Dill is a New York-style deli offering soups, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches and an array of entrees. Favorites include matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwich and Coney Island Potato Knish. The restaurant is also known for its breakfast menu and bakery, especially when the weekend rolls around.
Lucky Dill in Westshore is expected to open by end of 2015.
Thai Prime
Located in the MetWest retail and office complex across from the International Plaza mall you will soon find Thai Prime. The restaurant is a concept from the owners of Thai Samurai in Trinity. Like the established restaurant in Pasco County, Thai Prime will serve authentic Thai cuisine.
With 2,613-square-feet, the restaurant will also feature a full liquor bar and outdoor seating.
Thai Prime at MetWest is expected to open in December.

Moving to Tampa: New luxury apartments coming to Westshore

The Westshore area of Tampa, long known as a thriving business district, continues to grow as a residential community with the addition of The Westly, a new luxury apartment complex under construction. The 262-unit apartment complex joins other new developments including Grady Square and the Crescent, also under construction.

The Westly is a multimillion dollar project that the Framework Group is developing, and was formerly known as the 4310 Spruce project. The decision to build a complex on Spruce was a strategic one based on serving the needs of the existing Westshore area.

“We chose to build in Westshore because we wanted to target young professionals, and Westshore has the largest employment base in the Tampa region,” Framework President Phillip Smith says. “We also liked the proximity to retail and restaurants in the area.”  

Apartments range from approximately 600-square-feet for a studio to over 1,600-square-feet for a three-bedroom. Smith says what sets this project apart from other developments is the amenities.

“Apartments on the top floor feature ten-foot-high ceilings, each unit has high-end appliances, the bathrooms feature rain head showers, everything is high-end,” he says.

He goes on to say that the complex will also feature a clubhouse with a sauna and massage rooms, a pool and courtyards, and a gaming room with a golf simulator, multiple televisions, putting green, pool table and casual seating.

Smith, who received his master’s degree from Harvard and bachelor’s degree from Auburn, has several other projects in the works including a 21-story building on Harbour Island and a 220-unit development in downtown Sarasota.

Plans call for the first units at The Westly to be available in June of 2016.

Plans call for 800 new homes in west Hillsborough River neighborhood

More homes are being added to the plans for the West River redevelopment project being designed by the Tampa Housing Authority. Another 800 homes are now envisioned as part of the 1,600 already included in the $500 million redevelopment project.

The West River redevelopment project is part of the city of Tampa’s plans to transform a 194 acres of land along the Hillsborough River into a mixed-income neighborhood. The plan to add 800 new homes was made after re-evaluating the project.
After a more complete market study of the urban area affected, "it just made sense to add these additional homes,” says Leroy Moore, COO for the Tampa Housing Authority.  “The opportunity was there, and the market study showed that with the higher number of units being there, the market would support it.”

With the new plan, the 2,400 homes will be mixed-use, but also mixed-income meaning there will be a combination of public housing and market-rate units.

“This is a mixed-income project,” Moore says. “By mixed-income we mean housing that is affordable to persons below 80-percent area medium income being housed in the same building with units that are at market rent as well, so that the diversity of income is all within one building.”

As for when the units will be ready, Moore says it could take time depending on when funding comes through.

“It will be a phase development, which could mean it would be five to 10 years before the units are complete,” he says. “But we could have buildings starting as early as late next year. We are pursuing funding this year to try to get this project underway as soon as possible.”

New outlet mall opens in Wesley Chapel later this month

Tampa Premium Outlets is getting ready to open later this month in Wesley Chapel.

Simon Property Group, which operates 86 outlets around the world, designed and will manage the new Wesley Chapel mall.

“The Tampa outlet is beautiful,” says Les Morris, spokesman for Simon. “It has a Key West feel to it with palm trees and fountains. I think people are really going to enjoy the atmosphere, in addition to the many shops the outlet has to offer.”

With 90 stores opening, Morris offers a list of some of the store names including: Ann Taylor Factory Store, Bass Factory Outlet, Calvin Klein, Columbia Sportswear, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Vera Bradley.

The 441,000-square-foot shopping center will also feature a food pavilion with diverse dining options to choose from.

With the new outlet opening, hundreds of jobs have been created as well.

“Many of the jobs have been filled, but between part-time and full-time positions we expect to employ about 800 people,” Morris says. “That number doesn’t include the jobs that were created during the construction phase. This project has and will create a lot of jobs for the Tampa Bay area.”

Tampa Premium Outlets is scheduled to have its grand opening October 29th.  The grand opening will include a weekend of special activities and giveaways, along with a guest appearance by television personality Bethenny Frankel.

The new outlet is located at 2398 Grand Cypress Drive in Wesley Chapel. For a complete list of stores visit the outlet’s website

Contemporary townhomes rising in North Hyde Park

North Hyde Park will soon have some Cuban flavor as new townhomes are built with the inspiration of the small country less than 100 miles south of Florida. The Las Azoteas townhomes will be located at 405 North Oregon Avenue.

“We came up with the name Las Azoteas because loosely translated it means rooftop, or rooftop terrace, which these townhomes have,” says Michael Mincberg, president of Sight Real Estate. Sight teamed up with local entrepreneurs Renier and Michelle Gobea on the project. “I don’t know of any other townhome in Hyde Park that has a rooftop terrace, which is a shame because we live in Florida, and people should have the ability to enjoy some outdoor living space.”

There will be 39 units total when the project is completed at the end of 2016. Each unit is between 1,700-square-feet and 2,000-square-feet. There are two- and three-bedroom options, as well as one- or two-car attached garages.

“We wanted to provide ample living space for people who want to live in this part of town,” Mincberg says. “There is this urban renaissance going on, where people are moving back to the urban core, and North Hyde Park has more to offer when you look at other neighborhoods, such as the proximity to downtown, being within walking distance to great restaurants, even being zoned for Plant High School. People love that about North Hyde Park for the resale value, even if they don’t have kids.”

In addition to the location, Mincberg says he believes the townhomes will be a hit due to the price point, which will begin in the low $300,000s.

“It is very hard to find a product like this for a price point that low,” he says. “I think this is a product people are starving for, there is nothing like it in the area.”

Hacienda Hotel, Sims Park undergo renovations in downtown New Port Richey

An iconic hotel from yesteryear along with a popular park in downtown New Port Richey are both getting revitalized as the city focuses on making downtown a more livable and walkable area.

The Hacienda Hotel, built in 1929 in the center of downtown, most recently served as an assisted living facility, which closed in  2006. The once lively rooming quarters has been sitting vacant ever since.

“We plan to re-open the Hacienda as a historic boutique hotel,” says Mario Iezzoni, Economic Development Director for the city of New Port Richey. “Work on the hotel will begin in December, and is expected to be completed by April of next year.”

Iezzoni goes on to say that the city is looking at different plans for the 34,000-square-foot hotel, however, a 40-room layout seems to be ideal. What is of most importance is keeping the historic elements of the hotel intact, he says.

“There is a generational connection with the Hacienda Hotel,” he says. “Being built in the 1920s, people have moved in the area throughout the years, and many have a strong connection to the hotel. Whether they had their prom there, or they had a parent work there or even a loved one living in the nursing facility when it was used in that capacity, many of the residents have some kind of connection.”

Sims Park, which is located next to the Hacienda Hotel, is getting upgrades thanks to funds from Pennies for Pasco. The park, which hosts many events throughout the year, will have its renovations completed by the end of 2015.

Upgrades at the park include a new playground, splash pad and more walkways.

According to Iezzoni, the $2-million dollar project will is expected to pay off as its economic impact on the community will be great.

“We reached out the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council to help us with some analysis, and they told us on an annual average basis we would see a $4.5-million dollar economic impact to our urban downtown area per year,” he says. “It’s important we invest in these projects, because it really is the centerpiece of downtown.”

Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 Park undergoes renovation

Visit Clearwater Beach, and chances are you will see Pier 60 Park as it greets visitors arriving off the Memorial Bridge. The city of Clearwater is expanding the popular tourist destination in an effort to improve the flow of pedestrians and visitors, as well as maintain the continuity of the completed Beach Walk.

“We wanted to improve the aesthetics of the area so the look and feel of Beach Walk continued throughout the park area,” says Anna Hancock of the City of Clearwater. “The team also seeks to open up the recreational space giving more space for visitors to enjoy the park and improve the pedestrian traffic in the area.”

Specific plans include extending Beach Walk beyond Pier 60, removing nearby retaining walls, and installing benches around the playground area. Construction is expected to be completed by February 2016.

“The total cost of the project is $500,000, with this being the last phase of the overall project,” Hancock says.

The overall project included constructing a flag plaza featuring each branch of the military in the park, as well as improved lighting and construction of a new welcome sign.

Future plans for Clearwater Beach are also in the works, including renovating and increasing the number of restroom stalls in the Barefoot Beach House, which is expected to be completed by March 2016.

Westchase foodie alert: New restaurants opening

For all you foodies out there, the Westchase area is serving up two unique options to try the next time you dine out. One is a local favorite expanding and opening a second location in the Tampa Bay area, the other an innovative twist on a new trend.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Known for being one of the first craft breweries in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Bay Brewing Company  (TBBC) has had digs in Ybor City for nearly two decades. So it was time for the company to do what most of us do at some point in our lives and move to the suburbs.

The second location at 13937 Monroe’s Business Park, is a 17,400-square-foot beer haven with a brewing operation on-site, as well as 4,300-square-feet of restaurant space serving everything from typical pub fare to steak and salmon. The site also features a 3,500-square-foot patio with an outdoor bar and plenty of outdoor seating.

“We wanted to be on the west side of Tampa for our second location,” says Michael Doble, whose family founded TBBC and still runs the company today. “Westchase and the surrounding areas hit the target demographic we are looking for, we had to make some adjustments to the menu to compete with neighboring restaurants, but it’s a friendly competition.”

The restaurant and brewery opened in mid-August and offers brewery tours by reservation on Saturdays.  

 Fat Beet Farm

The farm-to-table trend has been growing rapidly as more people become conscious of not only what they are putting in their bodies, but where it comes from. But imagine actually seeing the farm from your restaurant table?

That is the innovative concept that co-founder of Bonefish Grill, Tim Curci, is bringing to Westchase. Fat Beet Farm, which has not announced an opening date yet, will be located at the intersection of Tampa and Racetrack Roads. Plans are underway for the property to be a nine-acre working farm that will supply two restaurants.

In addition to the restaurants, Fat Beet Farm will offer a Saturday Farmers Market, a commissary and Florida agriculture student internships with housing.

For more information on Fat Beet Farm, visit their website.

Downtown Temple Terrace redevelopment plans back on track, meeting on Sept. 17

Downtown Temple Terrace will have a new look in the future as plans to redevelop the area are underway, and the city wants feedback from the public as it proceeds with the project. A series of public meetings to educate residents on the city’s plans and receive input is scheduled for the evening of September 17th.

“There has been a master plan for the downtown area dating back to the 1920s that included row houses and alley ways, retail and generally a more walkable area,” says Grant Rimbey, City Councilman and Vice-Mayor for the city of Temple Terrace. “It was never carried out due to the depression, then other projects got funded over the years, and finally in 2005, we got a master plan. But then due to the economic downturn in 2007, again the project got put on hold.”

Rimbey says this time is different, the project is progressing under a timetable approved by the city council, and a request for proposals (RFP) document is expected to be issued in December.

“We are looking forward to getting the project back on the radar and start cranking it up again,” he says. “The current strip mall that exists doesn’t really tie in with the downtown area; we have a lot of ideas based off of the 1920s master plan that we can work with.”

According to Rimbey, those plans include a performing arts center, new multi-family housing units and small business retail.

The public meetings will be held on September 17th from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Temple Terrace City Hall, 11250 North 56th Street, inside the council chambers located on the first floor. There will be a total of four short presentations at 5:45, 6:15, 6:45 and 7:15 p.m.

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.


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.”
436 Construction Articles | Page: | Show All
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