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7 potential routes identified for Tampa's streetcar expansion

After looking to the public for input at a series of open meetings, city officials have determined seven potential routes for addition to the Tampa Historic Streetcar System.

The study has identified the following potential expansions:

  • North/South Franklin – Eight stations along 2.67 miles of new track running north up Franklin Street to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights, where it circles around Water Works Park and heads back down Franklin.
  • North/South Tampa-Florida Couplet – 2.6 miles of new track with eight stations turning Florida Avenue and Tampa Street into a north-south extension.
  • East/West River-Ybor – 4.66 miles and 13 stations extending west from Ybor City along the north part of downtown, crossing the Cass Street bridge and running north to Blake High School.
  • East/West North Hyde Park-Channel District – 4.93 miles of new track with 13 stations running through the middle of downtown, across the Cass Street Bridge and into Hyde Park.
  • East/West North Hyde Park-Convention Center Couplet – Nine stations along 3.27 miles of new track that brings the streetcar across the Brorein Street Bridge from the convention center to Hyde Park.
  • Loop Downtown-Channel District – 2.46 miles and eight station running north on Franklin Street then east on Zack and Twiggs streets to the Channel District, creating a downtown loop.
  • Loop Downtown-Ybor – 4.12 miles with 12 stations creates a loop going north on Franklin Street then east on Seventh Avenue to Ybor City.

According to a poll of attendees at the May 2 meeting, the most popular routes are North/South Franklin, North/South Tampa-Florida Couplet and Loop Downtown-Ybor.

The planning effort has a budget of $1.6 million and is funded largely by $1 million contribution from the Florida Department of Transportation. The city has dedicated $677,390 to the effort. Lead consultant on the project is HDR Engineering.

Consultants for the city are continuing to figure out costs over the next month and are still interested in public comment. To learn more about the streetcar extension and provide feedback visit the project’s website.


Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik partners with Dreamit to promote urban tech in Tampa

Tampa could be poised to attract urban technology firms from around the globe as a result of a recent partnership between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the New York-based startup accelerator Dreamit.

The partnership will take advantage of the ongoing development efforts by Vinik's Strategic Property Partners to attract and incubate companies with technology solutions in the areas of real estate, infrastructure and urban living.

With SPP’s plans to invest $3 billion into the development of nine to 10 million square feet across nearly 55 acres in the next 10 years, the Tampa Bay area has a head start when it comes to becoming an urban tech magnet, Dreamit CEO and Managing Partner Avi Savar says.

 “That natural resource becomes kind of the chum in the water to attract startups from around the world that are investing their time, energy and attention to solving the challenges that are facing cities across the world,” he says.

According to a news release from Dreamit, record growth is occurring across the state and in the Tampa Bay area. Just last year, over 60,000 residents moved to the region -- emphasizing the need for urban technology when creating modern cities.

"As our city develops and prepares for a bright future, I am pleased to partner with Dreamit in this UrbanTech initiative," said Jeff Vinik in a news release. "I am confident we will identify and create avenues of success for startups dedicated to building and enriching cities."

As a business accelerator, Dreamit looks for companies with ideas that have already begun to be proven and are ready to progress beyond the startup phase. For its Tampa endeavor, Dreamit will be searching for businesses offering “anything that will help accelerate and innovate the city tomorrow,” Savar says.

The partnership with Vinik in Tampa creates a rare opportunity to build a totally new city with an emphasis on the latest technology in urban development.

“There are very few places in the world where you get to come in on the ground floor and help build a city,” Savar says.


ULI Summit slated for end of May in Tampa

At the 2017 Urban Land Institute Florida Summit, individuals connected to the state’s real estate and development fields will gather to discuss trends, network and learn from the experiences of colleagues.

The event, which runs from May 25 to 26 at the Tampa Marriot Waterside Hotel, is expected to bring together over 700 ULI members and non-members ranging from attorneys and architects to land use planners and public officials.

“All of whom come together to share thoughts, ideas and research with respect to creating better land use in the future,” says Jim Cloar, chair of ULI’s Tampa Bay District Council.

The summit begins with open registration and a networking reception on the evening of May 24 and will continue with a diverse range of programing throughout the day on May 25 and 26. Programming includes four general sessions, ten simultaneous sessions and optional offsite mobile tours.

Cloar says the sessions primarily cover topics that can be applied across the state, but one of the general sessions will specifically focus on the rapidly changing landscape of Tampa Bay through several key projects. Speakers on that panel, which takes place at 1:30 p.m. on May 25, include CEO of Strategic Property Partners James Nozar, CEO of Lakewood Ranch Rex Jensen and CEO of Wiregrass Ranch J.D. Porter.

“We try to make sure we have a variety of speakers,” Cloar says.

With no shortage of material to cover, the summit offers those in the real estate industry a way learn more about the latest trends and opportunities in one jam-packed weekend. One of the main advantages attendees have is the opportunity to learn from the completed projects of their associates.

“One of the things ULI has always emphasized is sharing your experiences with projects,” Cloar says. “ULI members have always been very good about sharing those lessons learned with their colleagues.”

It is also a great chance to meet new acquaintances and reconnect with old ones – maybe even do some business.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some deals done,” Cloar says.

For more information on the event or to register, visit ULI online.


CDC, lenders team up to open new affordable homes in East Tampa

The first three of 13 homes being constructed by the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa with affordable housing opportunities in mind are just weeks away from completion.

Frank Cornier, the CDC’s VP of real estate development, says the Beacon Homes project falls in line with his organization’s goal of supporting communities throughout Hillsborough County and improving quality of life for residents in East Tampa.

“Being able to create those affordable homeownership opportunities is key to what we do,” he says.

So far, CDC has seen no shortage of interest in the homes. One home is currently under contract while about six potential buyers are hoping to qualify for the other two, which are expected to be complete in the next two weeks.

Cornier says seven of the 13 homes, which are located along North 34th Street at East 28th Avenue, are for families who take home $47,350 or below annually – 80 percent of the area median income for a family of four. The next six will be for families who earn 120 percent of the area median income with $71,040 annual pay for the same-size family.

The first group of homes will sell for $165,000 but the cost of the second group might see an increase. Eligible buyers can receive up to just under $30,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.

“That enables someone to be able to purchase a home with about $3,000 out of their pocket,” says Cornier, noting how important that assistance is in furthering this project’s goal.

The total budget for the project, which is a joint effort with the city of Tampa and the Tampa Housing Authority, is between $2.5 and $2.8 million. Financing comes from the city and the Florida Minority Impact Housing Fund, designed to revitalize marginalized communities across the state.

For more information or if you are interested in purchasing a home, visit CDC online.


First retail shops coming to ENCORE! in downtown Tampa

The first retail location in ENCORE Tampa!, a downtown Tampa mixed-use development, is under construction and expected to be operational within the next 90 days.

Encore, a $425 million redevelopment of the former Central Park Village public housing area, will give a home to local foodie Michelle Faedo’s Tampanian Cuisine as the first of three retail operations in the project’s immediate future.

“We’re really happy,” says Leroy Moore of the Tampa Housing Authority. “It’s a major milestone for this site because Encore is all residential now and we have space on the ground floor of all those buildings for retail.”

The residential facilities at Encore now have a strong enough population to support development of retail facilities, Moore says. In addition to Faedo’s eatery, a barbershop and new Westshore Pizza location are under contract.

“It certainly brings conveniences to the site,” Moore says. “Encore has always been envisioned as a live, work, play location.”

Located in downtown Tampa near Interstate 4 and Interstate 275, the 28-acre development has plenty of room for additional growth, including a grocery, offices, a museum and more options. Moore says he is encouraged by the present interest and envisions Encore becoming a destination for workers exiting downtown.

The first three retail locations are being installed in the bottom floor of Ella, a senior living facility located within the redevelopment.

Now that the seven-story building is full of residents, the retail market has enough onsite support to get started. As Encore continues to grow, Moore is optimistic that more retailers will be interested in setting up shop, which in turn draws in more consumers.

“When the rest of the retail comes to this site, beyond the three we already have under contract, we think this could eventually be a destination location,” he says.


New studio space coming to St. Pete Warehouse Arts District

New studio space is coming to St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District and the community is invited to come take a peek at the progress on Thursday, April 27th.

At a “Hard Hat Celebration” and fundraiser, the St. Pete Warehouse Art District Association will showcase the ArtsxChange, a project that converts 50,000 square feet of space into affordable art studios as part of the association’s commitment to the local art community.

“It’s a chance to get people up to date on the project, which has been in the works for several years, let our sponsors and donors see where their money has gone and to really invite artists into the area to bear witness to our commitment to provide affordable space for them to create,” WADA Executive Director Mary Jane Park says.

The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and includes art by incoming ArtsXchange artists, live music, food and drinks, remarks from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman and more. The new studios, located at 515 22nd St. S, are currently under construction and attendees will have the opportunity to view progress. A $20 donation to WADA is suggested but the event is free to attend.

WADA has branded the ArtsxChange as a resource for the city, local artists and the community by creating “sustainable and affordable art studios and educational space.” The first phase of development began in March and is expected to conclude in mid-summer. It includes a 1,500-square-foot community space for art exhibitions and educational programing as well as 28 studios.

Smith and Associates CEO Bob Glaser says his business is sponsoring the ArtsxChange because it improves the community and adds opportunity for residents.

“It’s going to bring a lot of positive change to the market place,” he says.

For more information on the event, to register and to view a list of ArtsXchange sponsors visit WADA online.

Developer proposes micro apartments in downtown Tampa

A Tampa-based development firm is looking to bring an innovative type of living space to downtown Tampa.

Urban Core Holdings, LLC is currently under contract to purchase a 12-story downtown office facility with plans to create micro apartments – 300 to 400-square-foot living quarters that are designed to appeal to those who live and work in the area.

Starting at $850 a month and maxing out at $1,100 the apartments, located at 220 E. Madison St., will provide an alternative that is far cheaper than other downtown Tampa complexes, says Omar Garcia of Urban Core Holdings.

Among people under age 35, especially young professionals, Garcia notes there is substantial appeal for this type of living space, which facilitates proximity to high-paying jobs in the downtown area.

“We think there’s a solid six- to seven-thousand people who would be interested in this project,” he says.

One of the proposed complex’s main advantages is the opportunity for younger occupants to be able to acquire wealth in light of the lower rents and reduced living costs.

“It’s a wealth creation idea” Garcia says, noting that the residents would ideally be living near their workplace and would bypass the expense of owning a car as a result.

According to a news release from Urban Core Holdings, a study from AAA Shows that owning a car can cost upwards of $725 per month when all costs are factored.

And the 120 potential residents at 220 Madison will likely be required to not own a car.

Urban Core is currently negotiating with the city of Tampa to avoid a $3 million fee for not adding additional parking once the space is converted from mixed-use to multi-family residential.

Garcia says having to pay the fee would translate to higher rents, which doesn’t fall in line with the goal of the building.

“We’re willing to require our residents not to own a vehicle and therefore there is no parking impact,” he says.

Tampa Bay History Center grows up and out, stays on track with $11M expansion

The Tampa Bay History Center is experiencing smooth sailing so far on an expansion project that will bring the area’s pirate lore to life.

“Knocking on wood, everything is going well,” says C.J. Roberts, History Center President and CEO.

Roberts says construction crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the building expansion that will house the new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery -- an addition that includes a 60-foot replica of a sailing vessel as its centerpiece and will focus on the stories of Florida’s early explorers.

As construction continues, the Pinellas Park-based Creative Arts is working to design the exhibits and a theatre company out of Boston is writing an “immersive pirate theatre experience” to complement the new gallery, which should be complete before the end of the year.

The expansion is just one part of an $11 million capital campaign, which Roberts says he is hopeful will be completed successfully in another year or so.

The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $5 million for the new gallery and maintenance on the existing structure, $5 million for the center’s endowment -- which funds about 25 percent of operating costs annually -- and $1 million for the new Florida Center for Cartography, a joint effort with the University of South Florida.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million dollars to date,” says Roberts.“We’ve got good wind in our sails, and I am optimistic that we’re going to be successful in completing this campaign.”

The full-size ship included in the gallery aims to provide an immersive experience that will help dispel some myths or misconceptions about pirates while providing a unique chance to learn about navigation, engineering and mathematics.

“These stories of early navigation and maritime exploration really lend themselves very well to pulling out those kinds of educational opportunities,” Roberts says.

Roberts hopes this expansion will broaden the center’s reach by telling stories that go beyond our backyard in the Bay Area.

“This is not a Tampa or Hillsborough story, as many of our other exhibits are,” he says. “This really is a Florida story.”

The Tampa Bay History Center’s expansion project is just one part of a period of exciting growth for the downtown area and Roberts is eager for the next chapter in Tampa’s story.

“We’re excited about the contribution this will make to an already growing downtown,” he says. “I think that we’re in a good place, and the future for both downtown Tampa and the history center looks pretty bright.”

What's new in Westshore? Find out at upcoming development forum

Looking for an update on Tampa’s Westshore District? Be sure to attend this year’s 15th Annual Westshore Development Forum on April 11.

The event, hosted by the Westshore Alliance, brings together representatives from all of the district’s industries to discuss ongoing developments and market trends that are rapidly transforming the area.

“We’ll have different speakers from each industry,” says Heather Mackin, Westshore Alliance spokeswoman. “They’re there to give the scoop on what’s new and what’s happening in the Westshore District.”

According to Mackin, the Westshore District -- which starts at Tampa Bay, including parts of Rocky Point, runs east to Himes Avenue and is bordered to the north and south by Hillsborough Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard – has 12 million square feet of office space.

“Westshore has always been and still is the largest office submarket in the state of Florida,” she says.

But in recent years, the district has evolved into a “true live, work, play community,” boasting 15,000 residents, dining options, two retail shopping malls, entertainment venues and more.

“It’s really a place where you can enjoy it all,” Mackin says.

The forum’s presenters will discuss development highlights and trends in offices, retail locations, hotels, multifamily residential housing and Tampa International Airport. Transportation infrastructure and transit will also be covered.

Presenters include:
  • Mary Clare Codd, Managing Director of Office & Industrial Services, Colliers International
  • Patrick Berman; Senior Director Retail Leasing, Cushman & Wakefield of Florida
  • Lou Plasencia; Chief Executive Officer, The Plasencia Group
  • Casey Babb, First VP Investments, National Multi Housing Group Director, Marcus & Millichap
  • Randy Forister, Commercial Real Estate Director, Tampa International Airport
“Our presenters will be discussing what’s currently under construction, recently delivered and what’s to come in the district,” says Mackin, adding that having a panel of diverse industry representatives in the same room is a great way to tie different areas of development together.

The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon on April 11 and will take place at AMC Westshore 14, 210 Westshore Plaza.

Presentations will be given on the big screen and, yes, there will be popcorn.

Registration, which closes on April 7, costs $50 for members of the Westshore Alliance and $75 for nonmembers. For more information or to register visit Westshore Alliance’s website.

$130M Belleair development ramps up on site of historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel

Once the winter playground for wealthy northerners escaping the cold, the Belleview Biltmore Hotel first opened to the public in 1897. Thomas Edison, Babe Ruth, the Duke of Windsor, many U.S. presidents, and even singer Bob Dylan were among guests of the Clearwater hotel that enjoyed a reputation as the “White Queen of the Gulf [of Mexico].”

Built by railroad magnet Henry Plant, the hotel sat on the bluff overlooking Clearwater Harbor and had distinctive Victorian-era architecture with an iconic New England-style white wood exterior and green-sloped roof, Tiffany-era leaded glass and beautiful oak tongue and groove heart pine flooring.

According to JMC Communities, Plant built the hotel to increase tourist traffic to the area and promote future Florida real estate development, in which he had invested. The site not only had clear views of Clearwater’s harbor, but there was a freshwater spring nearby.

The original hotel had 145 rooms, each with a view of the Gulf, and was constructed with native Florida pine. A second building housed hotel employees during the “four month season.” The hotel was not occupied during the summer until the 1950s when air conditioning was added. Like many similar luxury hotels in the Tampa Bay region, it was occupied by troops during World War II.

After more than a century of activity, the hotel closed in 2009, and began a steady decline toward disrepair, due to age, lack of maintenance and neglect. Its future was uncertain and controversial, with many area residents fighting to see the building preserved and various developers considering its demolition.

In 2015, JMC Communities, led by CEO Mike Cheezem, bought the hotel and 20-acre property for $6.2 million with the vision of creating an upscale residential development of condos and townhomes.

In what Cheezem calls a “win-win” for the hotel’s legacy, JMC Communities invested another $13 million to rescue, relocate and renovate a 38,000-square-foot section of the hotel that included the lobby and 35 guest rooms.  

“The portion we decided to save was the most architecturally striking and had been there the longest and was the best built,” says Cheezem.

Today, the historic structure is part of the Belleview Inn, a new boutique hotel and amenity center that serves as the centerpiece of Belleview Place, JMC Communities new residential community built on the former Belleview Biltmore Hotel site.

“It was just so evident how important it was to preserve all the memories associated with the hotel,” says Cheezem.  This was a popular place for weddings, graduation parties and reunions, and it was certainly a landmark structure that stood out not only for the region but also the whole state of Florida.  

“Back in 1897 this area was just a wilderness and the hotel really was a catalyst for developing the west coast of Florida,” says Cheezem. “People were coming down in their own private railroad cars and staying for the season.”

Plans call for Belleview Place to have a total of 131 residences, a combination of 104 mid-rise condominiums and 28 two-story carriage homes/townhomes. Cheezem estimates the projected value of the new community to be around $130 million at completion.

The first of four condo buildings, the Allamanda, is now under construction and fully sold out, says Cheezem. Sales for the second building, Brightwater, started in March.  

The first residents are expected to move in by early 2018. Residents will have access to all of the amenities in the new development and to the adjacent Belleair Country Club, which features two championship golf courses, a marina, fitness center and resort pool, as well as restaurant and bar.

In addition to JMC Design & Development, key professionals involved in the community’s development include architects BSB Design; civil engineers Florida Design Consultants; and Phil Graham Landscape Architecture.  

Additional professionals include the Tamara Peacock Company, the designer and conceptual architect for the Belleview Inn; Decker Ross Interiors, interior design for the Belleview Place Carriage Homes; Kay Green Design, interior design for the condominiums; and Sims Patrick Studio, interior design for the Belleview Inn.

In a news release about the community, Cheezem says: “No other community in Florida boasts such a fascinating and treasured history and such a unique combination of amenities: a fabulous location on a Clearwater bluff, two championship golf courses and a restored, boutique inn that continues the legacy and elegance of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.”

BTI Partners to build new walkable community near Westshore, Gandy in South Tampa

Fort Lauderdale-based development firm BTI Partners will soon unveil Westshore Marina District, a new walkable planned community off Westshore Boulevard south of Gandy Boulevard in South Tampa.

The community is designed to offer an eclectic mix of residential, retail and restaurants in a marina setting on 51 acres. 

“This area [of South Tampa] has historically been industrial, so we knew we couldn’t just throw in new properties there,” says BTI Executive VP of Development Beck Daniel. “We’re adding new roadways, landscaping, utilities, and other infrastructure to create this new community and provide a sense of place.” 

The community will also include public park space and a recreational path that will eventually connect with the Tampa Friendship Trail. 

The 14-acre marina basin will anchor the new development. 

“The community will have the largest marina basin in the Tampa area,” Daniel says. “It will help establish the development as a boating community.”

The development is designed to include 1,750 residential units, 156,250 square feet of retail area, 83,750 square feet of office space, 200 hotel rooms, 185 to 240 marina slips, and a 1.5-mile waterfront park for public recreational enjoyment. 

Luxuries such as a convenient marina are certain to appeal to many new residents in the community, which will boast 396 rentals and special amenities on an 8.5-acre site along a waterfront park. 

The waterfront luxury rentals will be developed by Related Group, a Miami real estate development firm known to many in the Tampa area for its waterfront residential project on the site of the former Tampa Tribune headquarters. Daniel says an unnamed “Top-10 national builder” is also coming onboard to construct the community. Pricing for the residential units is yet to be determined. 

Daniel expects brisk development efforts on the Westshore Marina District.

“You’ll be surprised how quickly this moves,” he says. “We don’t have 1,750 of the same residential units -- we’re mixing it up to have townhomes, condo towers, retail and restaurants, so there will be demand for what we’re building.”

BTI Partners closed on the land deal in early February 2017 and expects to begin construction on the marina community soon. 

“People will be able to drive into the community and see landscaping within eight months,” Daniel says. “Construction begins on luxury rental units in early to mid 2018.” A build-out date is not specified, but Daniels says the community will be constructed in phases and is expected to reach completion quickly. 

“We’re hoping the growth expands into the surrounding area,” Daniel says. “We want this to be the first thing people see as they drive into Tampa along the Gandy Bridge from Pinellas County.” 

Tampa is a prime community with a fantastic waterfront, he says, but currently lacks abundant waterfront access. 

“It’s surprising given how much water surrounds the Tampa area and yet there aren’t as many places to enjoy it as you might expect,” he remarks. Daniel says Westshore Marina District will help provide more opportunities for locals to live, shop and play near the area’s beautiful bay shoreline. 

“We like Tampa very much,” he says, referring to BTI’s recent emergence in the Tampa Bay area. “We’re here to stay.” 

New Sulphur Springs Museum honors local history

Tampa history buffs will have a new place to explore when the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens on February 4. The new landmark, located at Mann-Wagnon Park in Sulphur Springs, will serve as a community hub for the re-emerging Central Tampa neighborhood. 

According to Norma Robinson, a co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, the grand opening of the new facility is slated for noon on the first Saturday of February. “We hope to have the ribbon cutting at 12,” she says. “We’ll have different activities throughout the day, including guided tours.” 

When the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens its doors, guests will find an array of things to see and do there. One of the headlining attractions is “Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy.” The permanent exhibit profiles the history of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood, which traces its roots back to the 1880s. The area flourished as a tourist destination in the early 20th century when developer Josiah Richardson oversaw the creation of a resort around the area’s springs, which were believed by many to have healing properties. The Sulphur Springs Arcade, the neighborhood’s iconic 214-foot-tall water tower, and Sulphur Springs Pool are just some of the historic landmarks honored at the museum. 

“Many students from the University of South Florida [http://www.usf.edu/ ](USF) did research,” Robinson says of the museum’s historical elements. Several images and other artifacts derive from the USF Tampa Library Special and Digital Collections and the Florida State Archive collection. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum also opens with “Water | Ways,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that will be open from February 4 through March 18, 2017. “We’re one of six cities in Florida chosen for the exhibit, which shows the different ways water affects our lives,” explains Robinson. “Water | Ways” explores the impact of water environmentally, culturally, and historically. 

The museum will also host Our Florida, Our History lecture series, which includes an array of slated speakers for February such as USF history professor Gary Mormino, Hillsborough Community College Dean of Associate of Arts Jim Wysong, and African American diaspora expert Anthony E. Dixon. The series continues into March with appearances by climate science author Dr. Mark R. Hafen and Florida culture author Craig Pittman. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is the culmination of many years of tireless effort by Norma Robinson and her husband, Joseph. When the couple moved from New York to Tampa in 1997, they chose Sulphur Springs as their new home. They have worked tirelessly for two decades to improve the community, which for years was known as one of Tampa’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Robinsons were honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as Community Heroes in 2015, when they received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation. Much of those funds were invested into building the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, which was a dream first envisioned more than a decade ago. 

Admission to the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is free, Robinson says, “but donations are strongly encouraged and welcomed!”

When and where 

What: Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center Grand Opening
When: February 4, 2017, noon to 4 p.m.
Things To Do: Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy history exhibit, Water | Ways Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, guided tours, food, drinks
Address: 1101 E. River Cove Street, Tampa, Florida 33604

Junior Achievement expands financial literacy training for teens

Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay has been teaching fifth graders about potential careers since 2005 through its JA BizTown program. Now, it’s making plans to expand its curriculum and teach eighth graders finances at a new facility slated to break ground in late February.
 
“JA Finance Park gives 8th grade students the rare opportunity to experience their personal financial futures firsthand,” says Richard George, President of JA Tampa Bay. “We’re going through permitting now. We’re hoping to be open probably in November [2017].”
 
While JA Biztown gives fifth graders a chance to work in a mock economy, JA Finance Park lets them explore personal finances. They’ll have to make spending choices based on their income and family needs. A Career Depot will help them understand the connection between careers, salaries, and the money they make.
 
“We’re exploring Tampa Bay opportunities, from trades to professional jobs, what it takes to get those positions and what it pays,” George says. “It’s going to be pretty innovative.”
 
The facility is officially named JA Finance Park presented by SunTrust Foundation, in recognition of SunTrust’s $1.7 million grant, which kicked off fundraising. The $4.6 miillion,18,000-square-foot building will be on Hillsborough County Public School property on North 22nd Street. JA still is attempting to raise $5 million to operate the facility for 10 years.
 
Construction is by EWI Construction, with architecture by FleischmanGarcia Architects, both of Tampa.
 
The ultimate goal of the park is to help students become leaders in their household and community, George says.
 
“JA Finance Park creates a real-life model which encourages students to focus on their life goals and complete their education,” he adds.
 
The new facility is expected to serve 180 students a day. Throughout the Tampa Bay region, Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay reached 98,662 students last year.
 
“JA Biztown has done pretty well,” he adds. “It’s been operating in the black since Day One.”
 
JA is supported by businesses represented in its facilities, including Publix, MacDonald’s and Kane’s Furniture, as well as donors like Pam and Les Muma and the Bill Poe family.

Florida DOT, Tampa celebrate new streetscape through Ybor City

Twenty-four years ago on Dec. 9, Richard Gonzmart was mourning the loss of his father. This year, though, that memory was likely softened with a happier one.

State and city officials came together in Ybor City that day to celebrate the completion of the 21st and 22nd Streets Urban Corridor Modification Project, as well as the banning of truck traffic on both streets.
 
"This is a dream that my father had back in the 80s," said Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group, at the celebration. "He envisioned the day there would be no trucks, and this would be the gateway, the entrance, to this historic, beautiful area."
 
When Interstate-4 was built in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets became the main routes to the Port of Tampa. As the port grew, truck traffic in Ybor City increased. So, the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Tampa collaborated to find solutions to the problem.
 
The first step was to build the Interstate-4/Lee Roy Selmon Expressway Connector to provide a safer, more-efficient route for truck traffic between the Port of Tampa and I-4. The $426 million connector has exclusive truck lanes for direct access to the port. 
 
The second part, which took nearly two years to complete and was celebrated Dec. 9, was the reconstruction of 21st and 22nd streets. It provides pedestrian and bike connectivity on 21st and 22nd streets between Adamo Drive and Hillsborough Avenue. Other major features include wider and scored sidewalks, on-street parking, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, outdoor street furniture, landscaping, iconic five-globe lampposts, a new water main, and repairs to the stormwater and sewer system. The city paid $2.5 million toward the total cost of $9.5 million.
 
During the Dec. 9 ceremony, an official sign honoring the partnership between FDOT and the City of Tampa, and announcing "no through truck traffic," was unveiled.
 
"With the completion of this project, trucks are now restricted from traveling through this section, which will allow this area to grow again," Paul Steinman, secretary of FDOT's District 7, said during the ceremony. "This project is an outstanding example of when the federal government, state and local governments work together with our community to find a balance between the growth of the state of Florida and our economy, and how we make our communities a better place to work, live and play."
 
Gonzmart said the day was a milestone because it represented a rebirth of Ybor City, and the beginning of the realization of his father's vision.
 
"You're going to see expansion to the east, to the south, to the north, creating job opportunities; for those that live and those that visit here, a place to call home once again like it was back in the early 1900s," he said during the celebration. "Our family has been so excited that we have five projects that will be announced over the next three months, all within 200 yards of what is the Columbia Restaurant because we know, we realize, the commitment the state of Florida, the City of Tampa have made, is going to make Ybor City and make Tampa a better place because of it."

Ava plans second restaurant location at The Heights Public Market

Joshua Hernandez, executive chef at Ava, is about to get a lot busier.
 
In early 2017, Ava will open its second location at The Heights Public Market, which is being developed by Tampa-based SoHo Capital. The market will be located inside the redeveloped Armature Works building, a 70,000-square-foot structure that once served as a storage and maintenance facility for Tampa’s streetcars.
 
Among the group of Ava investors behind the expansion are Michael Stewart, who runs the successful restaurants 717 in Tampa and The Lure in St. Petersburg, and Joe Maddon, manager of the world champion Chicago Cubs.
 
"We're super excited," Hernandez says. "When I found out that Chas (Bruck, a principle of the development company) and the folks at Soho Capital were interested in being a part, I was really pumped. I think it's a great opportunity to expand our business."
 
The menu at the new 440-square-foot Ava location will be a bit different from the original restaurant, which has been open for two years in South Tampa.
 
"The focus is going to be on pizza," Hernandez explains. "So, we'll have some of the favorites from Ava, and then there's going to be some pizzas that are only going to be available at The Heights location."
 
There will also be paninis that are exclusive to The Heights Public Market, as well as salads.
 
Hernandez says customers trying out the new restaurant for the first time should definitely order one of the new pizzas, although he's still working out the details of the pies that will be available and jokes that he's keeping people "in suspense for now."
 
"There might be pesto involved," he quips, "I'm not sure."
 
The ovens at both locations are made by Acunto, which Hernandez says is the most respected oven producer in Naples, Italy. But the oven at The Heights will have a 140-centimeter floor, which is 10 centimeters larger than the oven floor at the original location and can accommodate more pizzas.
 
"I'm excited to make an offering to people who might not have been to Ava before," Hernandez says. "And I'm also hoping that having some exclusivity at The Heights will bring some of our loyal customers out to the market."
 
Hernandez says the new Ava location and The Heights Public Market are important for the Tampa Bay community.
 
"I think the whole, sort of, rejuvenation with the Riverwalk is really exciting just kind of watching that part of town liven up," he explains. "Between Ulele and the new coffee shop is over there -- The Foundation -- and the brewery (Hidden Springs Ale Works), it's kind of cool watching the neighborhood and community get going."

"I think it's very important not to rest on your laurels," he adds. "Ava's doing very well in SoHo. From our perspective, that's all the more reason to test the waters in another area."
 
And if Ava's second location proves to be a success, there could be future locations in the works.
 
"We are going to take it one step at a time," Hernandez says. "The talk is there if it goes well, if it's a model that's feasible, we definitely have our heads in that game."
 
"From my end, I'm kind of using it as a pilot to see how the pizzeria concept goes."
 
Other partners that have been announced at The Heights Public Market include: Ichicoro Ramen, a mod casual authentic Ramen restaurant, serving soulful, delicious food and beverages; Union by Commune + Co, a local coffee company that has a fleet of trikes sharing the company’s flagship iced coffee product, Pressure Brew, at area events; Tailored Twig, a floral boutique that specializes in one-of-a-kind pieces for distinctive events; Chocolate Pi, a bakery focusing on pastries and cakes made in the European tradition with American creativity; Fine and Dandy, a cocktail emporium focusing on package sales, craft cocktail kits and classes; and Steelbach Ranch, a boutique butcher with charcuterie and artisan cheeses.
 
Two other restaurants will be located at The Heights Public Market, including Steelbach, a modern eatery that uses the best meats from the in-house butcher in the market, and Atlantic Beer & Oyster, an outdoor eatery that will showcase a rotation of East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast oysters, as well as fresh shrimp, smoked fish dip, its signature grouper sandwich, and local breweries.

The market will also feature an interactive kitchen, called Show + Tell, that will host educational cooking classes, corporate team-building activities and pop-up dinners in collaboration with market tenants. 

The market has space for three more tenants and plans to announce them soon.
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