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Hillsborough referendum calls for more sales taxes to support better roads, safer alternatives

Potholes, snail-paced rush hours, and conspicuously absent bike lanes form the narrative about the Tampa Bay Area transportation scene. Commuters, in particular, know that traffic can be especially bad during peak hours. Bicyclists and pedestrians no longer feel safe. And a lot of locals are fed up with the situation.

That could begin to change though come November, thanks to a citizen-led initiative called All for Transportation, which collected enough signatures to secure a spot on the Hillsborough County ballot for a transportation funding referendum. Voters will be asked on Nov. 6 to approve a one-penny county sales tax hike, from seven cents on the dollar to eight cents, for a 30-year period beginning in 2019.

The community-led effort exceeded the 49,000 signature threshold, says the Hillsborough Country Supervisor of Elections. More than 70,000 locals signed the All for Transportation petition, which launched seven weeks ago. The petition supports more funding for a variety of transportation and infrastructure projects to address issues like traffic congestion and safety.

“We want to fund a transportation system that saves time, saves money, and saves lives,” says Tyler Hudson, an All for Transportation chair. “Our underinvestment in transportation is affecting people in all corners of the county.”

The All for Transportation proposal will fund improvements in Tampa, Temple Terrace, Plant City and in unincorporated areas throughout Hillsborough County if a majority of voters approve the referendum on the ballot in November.

The improvements would include renovations to bridges and roads, more public transport options including more funding for additional HART buses and routes, and specific changes to decrease bottlenecks during rush hour. The initiative also calls for more sustainable measures like increasing walkability, bike safety, and investment into electric vehicles. The funds would be reviewed by an oversight committee and audited annually. 

Opposition to the proposed increased sales tax is expected to be led by Americans for Prosperity, which has helped kill similar efforts in other parts of the country.

Local education proponents who want to see taxes increased in support of public schools are also considering whether to support the transportation initiative.

Traffic safety has been on the minds of many people in Tampa since a mother and toddler were killed in a crash on Bayshore Boulevard in May. The City of Tampa soon after put into motion an improvement plan that includes renovations to crosswalks and bike lane buffers along the busy street.

Tell us what you think? Join the 83 Degrees Public Group on Facebook to answer this question: 
Do you support a 1
percent increase in sales tax to support better transportation services?

New Sparkman Wharf in Tampa to add biergarten, oyster bar, taqueria & more

Downtown Tampa is in the midst of a metamorphosis. The urban skyline is expanding, new developments are popping up from Port Tampa City to the Heights, and once struggling districts are being revitalized with billions of dollars in investment.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion neighborhood taking shape along the waterfront. 

Last month, Strategic Property Partners, the development firm behind the Water Street Tampa project, announced that the long-struggling retail center Channelside Bay Plaza would be rebuilt as Sparkman Wharf, a mixed-use venue combining loft-style office spaces, outdoor amenities, and dining options -- including 10 of Tampa’s top chefs and restauranteurs. The redevelopment will include 180,000 square feet of office space, 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and one acre of park-like outdoor space.

Sparkman Wharf’s food and drinks options will include a dining garden, with street-level food-oriented restaurant concepts packed into repurposed shipping containers, and Fermented Reality, a German-inspired biergarten.

Casey Cothran, assistant general manager at Fermented Reality, hopes the biergarten’s proximity to Amalie Arena and the Florida Aquarium will make it a go-to destination, “if not just for the fact that we'll have amazing local craft beers, all-natural craft sodas, amazing local wines on tap from Wine Stream … and incredible cold brew tea from TeBella Tea Company.” 

SPP's announced tenants for the dining garden include: Foundation CoffeeWhatever Pops (popsicles); a "tide-to-table" concept called Boat Run Oyster Company; Gallito, a taqueria backed by Ferrel Alvarez and Ty Rodriguez, respectively chef and restaurateur for Rooster & the Till; BT-in-a-Box to be operated by local Chef and restaurateur BT Nguyen of Restaurant -BT; Montados, and a Spanish tapas concept by Mise en Place’s Maryann Ferenc and Chef Marty Blitz.

Alongside the food and dining, Sparkman Wharf will also include a recreational lawn, stage, and large LED screen for concerts and screenings. SPP has teamed with Gasparilla Music Festival to manage its music program.

Big Ray's Fish Camp heads to Tampa Riverwalk

Nothing says “Florida” quite like a waterfront seafood shack, which is why Nick Cruz, Owner and Operator of Big Ray’s Fish Camp, is excited to see his restaurant expand to the Tampa Convention Center, right next to The Sail (formerly the Sail Pavilion).

Cruz recently signed a licensing agreement with Aramark, the food and beverage provider for the Tampa Convention Center, after the concession company’s representatives came and ate a meal at his Ballast Point establishment in South Tampa. As a part of the deal, Cruz will take a percentage of sales.

Opened in July 2015, Big Ray’s quickly became a favorite for locals in the mood for a delicious, no-frills seafood experience. Serving some of Tampa’s best grouper sandwiches from an unassuming spot on Interbay Boulevard, Big Ray’s was built in a tradition of Florida fish shacks from yesteryear. Its menu walks a fine line between traditional and daring, from conch fritters and peel-and-eat shrimp to succulent grouper cheeks and decadent lobster corndogs.

“What we're doing is what people did with fish shacks in the '50s and '60s,” says Cruz. “It's what we saw was lacking in Florida. We get fresh fish in when it’s available and have a lobster corndog, which nobody has ever seen before. We created that.”

The Cruz family has a long history in Tampa, tracing its roots back generations. Cruz himself cut his teeth in kitchens before stepping out on his own. 

“I'm a fifth-generation Tampanian,” says Cruz. “I started cooking throughout some kitchens here in South Tampa and opened a catering business about eight years ago. I just decided to open up a good seafood and grouper sandwich place.”

The menu at the convention center venue will mirror that of the original location. That means plenty of sandwiches -- including a grouper, Cuban, burger, and shrimp po’ boy -- and desserts like key lime pie, fried key lime pie, and fried oreos.

“At the Sail Pavilion, we're going to try to bring that feeling of Florida in the '70s and '60s," Cruz says. "That feeling of what it was like to go get a great grouper sandwich on the water."

New Humane Society building in West Tampa designed for people and pets

A trip to the Humane Society can be cause for joy or mourning -- a time when families welcome a new member or have to surrender a long-loved pet. For the pets living on-site, the Humane Society offers a shelter, hopefully temporary, where they await a new life.

To better cater to these various needs, the Humane Society Tampa is set to be rebuilt with three stories, separated into areas geared towards adoption or intake. The building will feature a central plaza, an elevated play area, and updated technology to ensure comfort for humans and animals alike.

“The current shelter is a hodgepodge of additions, portables, shanty shacks, and homemade enclosures,” says Jonathan Moore, president of InVision Advisors, who is serving as owners representation on the project. “God bless them for what they're able to do with the animals. It's a maze in there. The air-conditioning isn’t good. There's lots of exterior spaces that the animals are just too hot in. They've got fans blowing so it's clear they need a new building.”

Rather than tear down and rebuild in one fell swoop, construction on the new Humane Society will be done in stages, beginning with a new building built on the outdoor area, where the dogs currently play. 

In this way, construction will have “minimal impact on the existing shelter, so they can stay in operation,” Moore says. Once the new building is finished, the current building will be torn down to make room for the parking lot.

Elevated play yards, dog runs, and exterior spaces will be located on the second floor, sloping down toward the Hillsborough River. The intake wing will include new medical technology, a surgery suite, and an isolation space for animals with contagious diseases.

The new building was designed by Tampa-based architects Thomas Lamb and Kevin Hart. Building construction costs are estimated at $11 million. Moore credits the architects with bringing unique ideas to the development, designed to attract potential adopters while giving the animals a more comfortable stay. One of the ideas Lamb proposed would see a daily "running of puppies," when the pups are let loose to play with visitors around the central plaza.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year and finish one year later in 2019.

Improvements aim to make Bayshore Boulevard safer for pedestrians

After a mother pushing her toddler in a stroller were killed by a speeding car while trying to walk cross Bayshore Boulevard last month, public comments about the safety of the scenic roadway turned into an outcry that the City of Tampa should do more to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

As a result, the City has already reduced the speed limit on Bayshore to 35 mph, and is now expediting additional parts of an improvement plan along Bayshore Boulevard. The plan also includes reducing motorized traffic lane widths, as well as the addition of bike lane buffers and crosswalks equipped with flashing beacons. A number of cosmetic improvements will also be made to refresh painted markings along the road.

The city first held a public meeting to discuss its Safety Action Plan in February 2017. They heard so many differing opinions on the detail and extent of the improvements that Jean Duncan, the city's Transportation and Stormwater Services Director, says the city decided to revisit the issue with the public at a later date. 

But in the wake of the recent fatal crash, the city has decided to skip the public discussion and move forward with the latest improvement plan.

“We have put out a schedule and will expedite all the work to be done,” Duncan says. “We're not holding any more public meetings at this point. We are going to get the improvements put in and, in terms of the [crosswalk] beacons, if there are any issues with the locations, we can pick them up and relocate them [later].”

The Safety Action Plan includes replacing all speed limit signs with 35 mph signs, adding visible speed limit plaques, constructing new pedestrian crosswalks, reducing the width of lanes to 10 feet, and providing buffered bike lanes.

“Whenever we have narrower travel lanes, responsible drivers react to that by modifying their speed appropriately, so they can stay within their travel lane,” Duncan says. “That creates traffic calming. There’s lots of data out there that shows that for every 10-mile-per-hour reduction, there's an exponential improvement in pedestrian safety.”
 
A 2011 report by Brian Tefft, a researcher at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, shows how small changes in traffic speeds can greatly decrease fatality rates. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is 45 percent likely to be killed on average. At 35 mph, that rate decreases to 31 percent.

Still, many citizens think these efforts don't go far enough to make the busy boulevard safe. The popular boulevard along Hillsborough Bay is lined with luxury condos and private homes connecting downtown with MacDill Air Force Base, and includes what some claim is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 4.5 miles. At the time of this story's publication, nearly 5,200 people had signed a petition on change.org calling for 25 mph speed limits and heavier enforcement, with a long-term goal of closing Bayshore's waterfront lanes to motorized traffic, transitioning Bayshore Boulevard into a two-lane scenic route.

Implementing the Safety Action Plan will come at an estimated cost of $485,000 and will be completed in stages, with all work scheduled for completion by October 2018.

Construction starts on West Tampa senior housing development

With the opening of Riverfront Park, a brand new 25-acre waterfront park on the west bank of the Hillsborough River, and a slew of ground-breaking ceremonies across West Tampa, urban renewal and investment seems to be moving progressively westward from downtown Tampa.

A new project called the Renaissance at West River is the latest in a trend to redevelop West Tampa. Spearheaded by the Tampa Housing Authority, the Renaissance will bring a 160-unit senior housing building to the nascent neighborhood of West River. Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Tampa Housing Authority broke ground on the development on Thursday, May 10.

“The Renaissance at West River aligns with the agency’s goal of providing quality affordable housing for our elderly citizens and families,” Lillian Stringer, Director of Public Relations for the Tampa Housing Authority, tells 83 Degrees. “Its location at the corner of Main Street and Rome Avenue is considered to be the gateway to the overall West River Neighborhood with approximately 150 acres of land along the western banks of the Hillsborough River that will serve as a recreational waterway, with families from neighborhoods at all income levels being able to enjoy the river.”

At a cost of $46 million, the six-story Renaissance will help make the West River a focal point of the city’s continued redevelopment. At its completion, the $350 million West River redevelopment will feature nearly 1,250 market-rate apartments, 96 townhouses, and over 840 affordable housing homes. An additional 90,000 square feet of retail space and 70,000 square feet of office space will be available.

The Renaissance and much of the construction to take place at West River will be on the former site of North Boulevard Homes, a public housing project long plagued by crime and poverty. Residents who were displaced by its demolition will have first right of refusal to move back to West River via services like Section 8 subsidized housing.

Baker Barrios Architects, with offices in Orlando and Tampa, designed the buildings. 

New waterfront park opens on west bank of Hillsborough River

The City of Tampa is gearing up to celebrate the grand opening of the new Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in West Tampa this Mother’s Day weekend. Beginning with fitness activities on Saturday morning and ending with a fireworks show on Sunday night, Riverfront Rock! will include more than 24 hours-worth of events and entertainment.

As its name suggests, the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park occupies waterfront real estate along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, just south of I-275. The 25-acre park features an event space, boathouse, two dog parks, athletic courts, picnic shelters, and a small waterpark for kids under 12. The festival lawn boasts a capacity of 16,000, with an adjacent lawn designated for smaller groups. 

This weekend’s events include morning paddle boarding, dragonboat demonstrations, a mac and cheese cook-off hosted by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and two days of concerts headlined by Third Eye Blind. Food and beer will be available for purchase. Each day kicks off at 9 a.m. For a complete schedule, see the City of Tampa event page.

“This park truly has something for everyone,” Buckhorn says in a statement emailed to 83 Degrees. “We look forward to, decades from now, looking back on what will serve as the anchor for the West River Redevelopment and reminiscing on what will be a memorable weekend. So come out, bring your family and friends and enjoy two full days of activities in Tampa’s new Riverfront Park!”

Parking will be limited but the city has arranged free transportation options via water taxi, shuttle bus, and bike valets.

The $35.5 million project has been in the works for nearly two years, beginning in June 2016. The primary consultant on the park was urban design firm Civitas of Denver, CO, with sub-consultancy from W Architecture and Landscape Architecture out of Brooklyn, NY.

Modern townhouses come to North Hyde Park in Tampa

A series of geometric townhouses are being developed in West Tampa's North Hyde Park neighborhood, a few blocks west of the University of Tampa. Simply called Views at North Hyde Park, the buildings will feature straight-edged, modernist design and be developed using a land-recycling method called urban infill, which aims to build on undeveloped urban land. 

Spearheaded by Indianapolis-based company Onyx and East, the project will feature 37 units at 405 North Oregon Avenue. Saint Petersburg-based construction company Peregrine Construction Group broke ground on the project earlier this month. The townhouses were designed by Fieldstone Architecture and Engineering, a firm with offices in Tampa.

“Our focus…is to build urban communities for active homeowners in locations that are walkable or bike-able to great dining, shopping, and recreation,” John Bain, Executive VP for national operations at Onyx and East, tells 83 Degrees. “The Views at North Hyde Park is in the epicenter of Tampa’s dynamic urban core with close proximity to the Riverwalk, world famous Bayshore Boulevard, amazing dining, and the Julian B. Lane Park.” 

Two floor plans will be available for purchase: Gray and Fig. At 1,965 square-feet, Gray will feature three bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, and a two-car garage. The 1,697-square-feet Fig units will come with two bedrooms, an office, two-and-a-half baths, and a one-car garage. Each unit will feature private rooftop decks. Prices will start in the low $400,000s. 

“We wanted to do something slightly different than the market has seen and bring a fresh, modern design to the location," Bain said of the project’s geometric architecture. “It is a form of moderated modern where the massing contributes to the architecture.”

The property will be developed using principles of urban infill, an urban planning method that includes construction on undeveloped land in developed communities, tapping into existing infrastructure and limiting urban sprawl.

“Urban infill is creating new communities within old locations that have become more desirable for homeowners due to revitalization and redevelopment of areas,” Bain explained. “For us it is all about a lifestyle that is active and has access to things that people want to do.”

Views at North Hyde Park is slated for completion in two years.

St. Pete selects 3 artists to display in Pier District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ervnick's work is yet to be confirmed.

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

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

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

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

Yboy City welcomes new Center for Architecture and Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Bayshore high-rise would bring more luxury living to Tampa's waterfront

A new residential condominium has been proposed for the lot next to Fred Ball Park on Bayshore Boulevard, but the city isn't convinced by its development plan. Called The Sanctuary at Alexandra Place, the building joins a group of high-rises sprouting along the waterfront road, giving a 3D-rendered shape of things to come.

Bayshore Boulevard hosts some of Tampa Bay’s most coveted real estate, so it’s no wonder why developers have begun buying up old buildings with plans to erect high-rise residential towers in their place. The historic Colonnade Restaurant was purchased in 2016 for $6.2 million to make room for the Virage Bayshore, a 24-story, 71-unit condominium. Half-a-mile north at Bay-to-Bay Boulevard, construction is underway on a 15-floor, 32-unit condo called the Aquatica on Bayshore.

The Sanctuary will be built two blocks north of the Aquatica. Offering just 15 units -- one on each floor -- The Sanctuary is designed for luxury. Seamless glass on all four sides will give residents sweeping views of Hillsborough Bay. Polished porcelain tiles will occupy the floors, Gaggenau appliances will be fitted in the kitchen and Rohl plumbing fixtures in the bathrooms. Units will start at $2.3 million.

“[We] recognized that the residences that were selling fastest and in most demand were those that had a direct view of the water, of Bayshore, and the ones that were penthouses,” Brian Taub, whose company, Taub Entities, is leading developing, tells 83 Degrees. “So we decided to do nothing but essentially all penthouses. It will be the only building that is exclusive in so much as it's one unit per floor, glass on all four sides, and it's a small boutique building meaning you're not sharing an elevator with a lot of people.”

Before Taub and his partners can break ground on the building, they’ll have to convince the city to grant them approval on their current development plan. The developers have made a rezoning request to PD (planned development), a category that offers more flexibility in construction. Prior to its construction, the Aquatica also rezoned to PD.

“When you build your site plan according to what your zoning code, then you have to build to the very specific requirements that apply to that zoning code,” Thomas Snelling, Director of the Planning and Development Department for the City of Tampa, says. “With a PD you have the ability to craft regulations that will apply to you.”

The city has identified two inconsistencies with development code in The Sanctuary's rezoning request, including the removal of a non-hazardous grand oak tree.

“Grand trees are very large and they're very important to the city and the neighborhoods and communities,” Snelling says.

A representative for The Sanctuary will have a chance to argue their case at a public hearing at 6pm Thursday, April 26. 

Downtown Tampa gets two more eye-catching developments

The facelift continues for Tampa’s downtown waterfront district, as two new development projects are announced this week — Riverwalk Place and a Marriott Edition hotel, both within walking distance of the Tampa Convention Center. The projects help give shape to the district’s continued redevelopment and cement the layout of tomorrow's downtown.

Rising more than 50 stories, Riverwalk Place may become the tallest tower on Florida’s west coast, with offices, restaurants, and luxury condominiums offered for between $600,000 and more than $2 million. The project, which is estimated to cost $350 million and employ over 50 workers during its construction phase, is spearheaded by Feldman Equities of Tampa and Two Roads Development of West Palm Beach.

“This will be the first new office skyscraper built in downtown Tampa in 30 years, and the first ever mixed-use tower,” Larry Feldman, President and Chief Executive of Feldman Equities, says in a statement. Feldman hopes the building becomes a social hub for downtown Tampa.

Riverwalk Place was designed by Gensler, the architectural firm responsible for the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower. Situated on the southeast corner of Ashley Drive and E Whiting Street, the building’s design was inspired by Tampa Bay’s maritime atmosphere. Its curved, sailboat-like shape will purportedly make it aerodynamic while offering most offices and residences a view of the Hillsborough River and Bay. 

“From the outset, our goal was to do more than just design another tall building,” says Shamim Ahmadzadegan, the Gensler architect behind the design. “We wanted the project to activate the Riverwalk, and contribute to the urban landscape of downtown Tampa.”

Just a couple blocks east, the planned 173-room Edition hotel could become Tampa’s first five-star resort and a gem in the crown of the proposed Water Street Tampa neighborhood. Lead by Strategic Property Partners (SPP), a partnership between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, Water Street Tampa will see 53 acres along the Ybor Chanel converted into a cultural hub, redeveloped with restaurants, green spaces, marinas, and hotels at an estimated cost of over $3 billion. 

The Edition will take a prominent position in a 26-story building across the street from Amalie Arena, at the northwest corner of Channelside Drive and Water Street. Upon its scheduled completion in 2021, it will join other hotels in the Water Street Tampa, including a 519-room JW Marriott, which is slated for completion the year prior, and the existing 727-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which has planned renovations by SPP.

Designed by New York-based architect, Morris Adjmi, in collaboration with Florida-based architecture and planning firm, Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, the tower will offer a rooftop pool, adjacent bar, restaurant, spa, and fitness center for guests and residents. Restaurants and retail shops will populate the ground floor.

Publix under construction at USF Tampa, across from The Hub

Residents of student dormitories and other housing at or near the University of South Florida’s main campus will soon have a new shopping venue. A Publix Supermarket is rising on Fletcher Avenue at USF Palm Drive on the northern edge of campus. It’s expected to open in the last quarter of 2018 or first quarter of 2019.

“This is a brand new store from the ground up,” says Brian West, Media and Community Relations Manager for Publix’s Central, Western, and Southwest Florida region, who indicates the store will not replace any of the supermarket’s existing operations.

The Publix will be less than 30,000-square-feet, roughly half the size of its regular stores and comparable to the Publix opened in downtown St. Petersburg in March 2017, he says. 

It will feature an outdoor seating area and a grab-and-go food section with prepared foods such as sandwiches and salads prepared daily.

Construction began in February as part of a new walkable village-concept area on the northeast corner of the USF campus that includes new dorms, a fitness center, a food court and outdoor gathering spaces.

While traditional stores staff around 120, the number and timeline wasn’t yet available for the new Publix. But the company typically prefers to transfer existing employees to their new stores initially.

“There’s a very small number that are brand new to the company that would start at a brand new store,” West says. “We transfer existing associates.”

That way new employees are surrounded by experienced ones, he explains.

Job candidates can apply at kiosks at existing stores, and their applications are available at surrounding stores. It takes about 45 minutes and applications will remain active for 30 days. After that, applications would need to be renewed.

“Surrounding stores are always hiring,” he says. “We’re in a fortunate position where we’re always hiring new help.”

The Lakeland-based grocery chain, founded in Winter Haven in 1930 by the late George W. Jenkins, has grown to more than 1,100 stores. The privately-held company, with stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee, ranked 47th among the 2018 FORTUNE “100 Best Companies to Work For.” It ranked first in the Tampa Bay region followed by the Clearwater-based Baycare Health System, the 65th.

The northern fringe of the campus is lined with housing and medical-related facilities. The grocery will be in close proximity to University Community Hospital, John Knox Village and the USF golf course, The Claw.

On the western side of campus, a luxury student housing complex is being constructed on the east side of University Mall. Called The Standard, the complex is expected to open for leasing in fall of 2019.


Surban trend: Affordable homes for millennials who don't mind the commute

In an era in which many potential homebuyers may feel priced out of the downtown and first tier suburbs, homebuilders in the Tampa Bay Area offer affordably priced homes within 20-to-35 miles of Tampa.

First-time homebuyers, millennials and GenXers, are gravitating toward housing developments that offer a surban (suburban+urban) living experience (think West Chase) close to major traffic arteries like Interstate 75, U.S. Highway 301 or U.S. Highway 41.

“They want a nice home,” says Sean Strickler, Division President of PulteGroup’s West Florida Division, which caters to first-time buyers through its Centex brand. “They are a little bit more willing to sacrifice commute time to ensure that they find a home that meets their budget.”

Wesley Chapel has been a popular area. “Pinellas is pretty much built out,” Strickler says. “We are looking to expand our footprint into Polk. As land prices continue to rise, we need to consider areas that are a little bit further out but still are along major thoroughfares.”

Pulte has secured 104 acres for a new Westbridge community in Wesley Chapel, which will feature 350 single-family homes priced in the mid- to high-$200,000s. “It’s a great location, but price-wise it’s still going to be very affordable.”

Situated on Wells Road across from Wesley Chapel Elementary School, Weightman Middle School and Wesley Chapel High School, the community offers easy access to Interstates 75 and 275, State Road 54, the 140-acre Wesley Chapel District Park, and shopping at Wiregrass and Premium Outlet Mall.

Groundbreaking is planned in late summer or fall, with construction on models beginning in early 2019.

“We’ll have our first new homeowners in the second part of 2019,” he says.

Wesley Chapel has been attractive because of the small town feel, parks and open spaces. “People like that it’s north of the 275-75 split,” he says. “Families are really drawn to it, simply because of the good schools.”

Those with deeper pockets are being attracted to the Wesley Chapel area Epperson, a master-planned community of 1,500 homes which is part of “The Connected City” especially built on a fiber network allowing gigabit Internet speeds. It also features the country’s first Crystal Lagoon, a 7.5-acre lagoon using a patented purifying and clarifying technology.

Several builders are involved along with Pulte, which is finishing land development for the second phase. “It’s a very, very popular community right now,” he says. “The lagoon is drawing such excitement.”

Another affordable community in development north of Tampa is Talavera in Hudson, off U.S. 41 and State Road 52. The company is pricing its 100 homes in the 700-home community in low $200,000s. “We’re actually decorating our models,” he says.

The other builder is MI Homes.

“The home sites up there are very large,” he says. “You definitely get more property with your home.”

For those who want a new home closer in, there also are infill developments. A 140-unit townhome community in Mango will be priced from the mid-$100,000s for 1,500 square feet. Pre-sales have begun at Rego Palms off of Williams Road north of Martin Luther King Boulevard, and the first move-ins are anticipated early this summer.

With a median home price of $207,000, Tampa Bay was listed third among 14 top sites in the nation where people can purchase a house on a $50,000-a-year salary. In an article published at Thrillist Travel online in summer 2017, Tampa was listed after Lexington, KY, and Boise, ID.

“Tampa has always been a more affordable geography than say for instance Chicago or Seattle, where land is much more difficult to come by,” Strickler says. “You have that opportunity to serve the buyers, particularly with interest rates as low as they are.”


More private rooms, new main entrance coming soon to St. Joseph's Hospital in West Tampa

It was a different era of health care back in the mid-1960s, when St. Joseph’s Hospital moved from its original home in Ybor City to its familiar location on Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard in West Tampa. Hospital rooms had at least two beds, often more, and communal showers were down the hall. That’s what patients expected. Private rooms were rare and for the wealthy.

In recent years hospitals across the country have been moving toward single-occupancy rooms. That’s the impetus behind a new six-story addition to the hospital that’s slated for completion in December of 2019.

“The reason we’re doing this is to respond to community need and to emphasize how important West Tampa is to us,” says St. Joseph’s President Kimberly Guy. “We really think of St. Joseph’s as an anchor for the West Tampa community. The sleek new tower will include 90 new private rooms for patients.

That will allow the hospital to convert some of its existing patient-care rooms into single-occupancy units.

Patients are more comfortable and content when they have a room to themselves, Guy says, but private rooms also improve patient outcomes. Patients get more rest, and the risk of contagion is lowered. St. Joseph's actually still has some areas where rooms don’t have their own showers. "We try not to use those for patients,'' Guy says.

But the new $126-million addition will be about more than private rooms. It will become the main entrance to the hospital, featuring a two-story lobby with a drive-up entrance, waiting rooms and on-call rooms. A pedestrian bridge will connect the new tower to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, on the south side of Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard.

St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz and St. Joseph’s Hospital-South in Riverview have also announced expansion plans, with new additions slated to open in 2019. The main St. Joseph’s campus has been a centerpiece of West Tampa since its founders, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, moved the hospital there a half-century ago.

Since then, the area around the hospital has become one of Tampa’s most important medical corridors.

The growth of nearby Hillsborough Community College, the building of Raymond James Stadium and the expansion of Interstate 275 over the past decades, along with the resurgence of West Tampa itself, have helped enhance the hospital’s visibility and importance to the Tampa Bay Area.

“I really think the sisters had some divine inspiration when they chose this location,” Guy says.
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