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 Rogers Park Golf Course and the Hillborough River from above. - Julie Branaman
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Diversity : Development News

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

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

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

New Hindu Temple To Be Built In Tampa Heights

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

Building Boom: An Open Mic Night About Urban Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Encore Tampa Breaks Ground On New Tempo

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

Artist Chosen For Public Art Project At Perry Harvey Sr. Park

Pittsburgh artist James Simon will bring his signature larger-than-life sculptures to a proposed redesign of Perry Harvey Sr. Park, a multiyear project  that will honor Tampa's black community and its musical heritage.
 
His work includes Liberty Avenue Musicians,  three 15-foot musicians installed in historical downtown Pittsburgh. There is also a Chattanooga fiddler in Tennessee, and a 16-foot tall Buckeye Trumpet Man in Cleveland, Ohio, in a former parking lot that is now a plaza and the home of the Buckeye Jazz Festival.
 
Tampa City Council last week approved a $15,000 contract for Simon to design artwork for Perry Harvey Sr. Park's southern gateway. He competed against 160 applicants who submitted proposals to the city's Arts Program Division.
 
In a competitive review where artists' names were kept secret, Simon's art stood out.
 
"He seemed like he got the right feel," says Robin Nigh, the city's arts manager. "We wanted something fun, celebratory, something that driving by had a 'wow' factor and really captured the specialness of the park because it's a landmark opportunity."
 
Simon's submitted design is preliminary. Nigh says the final design likely will be available in March or April.
 
Public art is planned for the park and also for Encore, a $425 million mixed-income housing and retail complex being built by Tampa Housing Authority adjacent to Perry Harvey park.  Encore will replace the former Central Park Village public housing complex which was torn down several years ago.
 
The park and Encore are part of a major effort to revitalize the once-vibrant neighborhood north of downtown once known as the Scrub. The area was founded after the Civil War by freed slaves. It also was the scene of a thriving black business and entertainment district which was decimated in the 1960s and '70s by highway widening projects and urban renewal.
 
Musical legends Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Hank Ballard and James Brown were among those who performed at clubs on Central Avenue.
 
Other artists have been identified for additional public art projects at Perry Harvey. Massachusetts-based artist and filmmaker Rufus Butler Seder submitted a proposal for the park's history walk which will feature notable events and people in the neighborhood's history.  Local muralist Mike Parker is slated for artwork to honor community and national leaders.
 
An artist also is being sought to create a statue of the late Perry Harvey Sr., a civil rights leader and founder of Tampa's first black union, the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1402.

The city currently is seeking photographs or home movies from individuals or institutions regarding Tampa's black neighborhoods including the Central Avenue business district, the Scrub and Dobyville. Images will be used for a public art installation and should be submitted by Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. For information, visit the City of Tampa's website or call 813-274-8531.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Robin Nigh, City of Tampa

Major Donations Fund Arts And Sciences At Berkeley Prep

Berkeley Preparatory School is the benefactor of major donations that will fund the construction of a 75,000-square-foot arts and science building on its Town 'N Country campus.
 
More than $4 million of the total undisclosed amount is a gift from Bob Gries Jr., president of Gries Investment Funds and the former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm arena football team. Other significant donations are from Dan Doyle, Jr, president of  DEX Imaging, and members of Doyle's family.
 
"It's about our children. Our children are our future," says Gries, whose daughter is a student at Berkeley Prep. "I believe this is a very strong statement that Berkeley is a wonderful and outstanding institution. This is an opportunity to take an exceptional school to the next level to become one of the finest educational institutions in the country."
 
School officials say they hope to open the Gries Center for the Arts and Sciences by the start of the 2015-16 school year.  Berkeley Prep is a private school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, and is located at 4811 Kelly Road.
 
Funding for the center is nearly 75 percent complete, says school spokesman Jeremy Canody. The recent donations will provide the center with an endowment fund as well as help with construction, he says.
 
The center will offer state-of-the-art technology and opportunities for students to work independently and in groups. There will be college-level laboratory space, performance studios, an art gallery, recital hall, study areas and meeting areas.
 
"This building will have math, science and arts under the same roof," says Nicole Ackerson, chairwoman of the science department. "I can interact with those departments in a way that I haven't been able to before, and find out where we can collaborate to teach children in new, interdisciplinary ways."
 
The arts and science center is part of a master plan to address future needs of faculty and its 1,300 students. The plan is supported with a $50 million capital campaign, which already has funded the Straz Family Field House and the Berkeley Cafe, a state-of-the-art dining facility. In addition, the funds have paid for campus infrastructure improvements to the Touchton Family Clock Tower and the surrounding Quad.
 
Above and Beyond: The Campaign for Berkeley Preparatory School is the largest fund raising effort in the school's history.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jeremy Canody, Berkeley Prep; Bob Gries, Jr., Gries Investment Funds

City Of Tampa To Build New Homes In Sulphur Springs

After months of tearing down abandoned and derelict homes in Sulphur Springs, a building spree is about to get under way.
 
The construction activity is the next step in the city's Nehemiah Project to revitalize one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Work began almost one year ago when Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopped onto a bulldozer to begin knocking down the first of dozens of houses slated for demolition. Most are in Sulphur Springs; some are in the North Tampa area.
 
About $1.4 million in federal housing dollars will fund construction of 12 single-family residences close to Sulphur Springs Elementary School and the Springhill Community Center. The first contract for four houses has been awarded to general contractor, Alexander Inc. of Tampa Bay. The city owns a total of 25 lots.
 
"We are going to rebuild this neighborhood, and we are going to do it right," Buckhorn says. "We are going to make this a place where people are proud to live."
 
Reeshemah Green hopes she and her 4-year-old daughter, Legacy Green, will benefit from the new homes. Green bought her brand-new Sulphur Springs home in 2005 at the height of the real estate boom believing that it was a long-term investment. Her house is across the street from where the first house was torn down.
 
"They are building up around my home," she says. "I believe I can look forward to (property) values going up again."
 
Work will be parceled out in blocks of four houses at a time to bid-winning contractors who will complete construction in about 120 days.
 
Nine companies are qualified for the project: All State Homes, Framework Construction, Michael Angelo Construction, Nelson Priede Construction, Manuel Lanz Construction, Florida Home Partnership, Richard Stenholm Construction, Mourer & Mourer, and Alexander Inc. 
 
Estimated cost of construction is about $100,000 per house. Within the next weeks the city will hire a real estate brokerage firm to handle the sales transactions and aid city officials in staging open houses.
 
Sales prices for the homes will be market rate and set through appraisals, says Thom Snelling, the city's director of planning and development. The city might lose money initially but Snelling says, "The hope is as we get four new houses in here, we'll have new comparables." And that may bolster future values as more homes are sold, he says.
 
Any profit made on sales will be re-invested in building more houses.
 
Some down payment assistance through city programs is possible for home buyers, Snelling says
 
Workshops and counseling also will be provided to prospective buyers, says Sylvia Alvarez, executive director of Housing & Education Alliance. "It's needed," she says.  "It has to happen. If not, we'll end up in the same shape as before the housing crisis."
 
The Nehemiah Project is named for the biblical figure responsible for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem within two months. 
 
This latest effort to revitalize Sulphur Springs is being embraced by long time activists who have struggled for years to overcome the drugs, crime and prostitution that dragged the neighborhood down. In its heydays in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, Sulphur Springs was a tourist mecca where people came to enjoy its healthy sulphur waters, spring-fed swimming pool and lively commercial district anchored by an arcade of shops.
 
There are signs Sulphur Springs is making a comeback. Tampa police report crime is down 20 percent. Over the last year, 150 tons of debris has been removed. Tampa Electric Company has installed more than 400 new street lights. Other bright spots have been the opening of Springhill Community Center and Layla's House, which offers childhood and parenting programs to Sulphur Springs' families.
 
Layla's House is one of several projects supported by the Neighborhood of Promise Initiative founded more than six years ago by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA. Among its partners are the United Way Suncoast and the Children's Board of Hillsborough County.
 
"It's a good feeling. It's like 100 percent of 100," says Joseph Robinson, president of the Sulphur Springs Action League. "It's going to allow people to say, 'If they can do this, I can do this,' even if it's just flowers or mulch added to the yard. It's like a domino effect spreading to the next block."
 
The more home owners in the neighborhood, the stronger the neighborhood will be, Robinson says. "We have the beginnings of stabilization. We're looking forward to all the new homes."
 
Lifting a shovel and holding on to Legacy Green, Buckhorn tossed dirt for the symbolic groundbreaking. "It's ironic," he says of Legacy's name. "That is exactly what we are leaving to her, a legacy." 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bob Buckhorn and Thom Snellling, City of Tampa; Joseph Robinson, Sulphur Springs Action League; Syliva Alvarez, Housing & Education Alliance; Reeshemah Green, Sulphur Spring

Walmart Plans Super Center On East Hillsborough In Tampa

A long vacated auto dealership on Hillsborough Avenue in East Tampa is about to get a new tenant -- a brand new Walmart Super Center.
 
The store will be under construction at 1720 E. Hillsborough Ave. by spring, according to Walmart representatives. Based on an estimated construction schedule of 10 to 12 months, the Super Center is expected to open by the middle of 2015.
 
The approximately 120,000-square-foot discount store will be built on the site of the former Abraham Chevrolet auto dealership, which closed several years ago. What would be next for the approximately 12-acre parcel has been the subject of much speculation among neighborhood residents in East Tampa and Seminole Heights.
 
Residents initially learned of Walmart's plans last year when the company sent letters to the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association.
 
In December Walmart representatives met with residents at the monthly meeting of the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership. The volunteer group works with city planners to craft strategies to end blight within the East Tampa redevelopment area that is bordered by Hillsborough, Interstates 4 and 275 and the city limits.
 
The store falls within an overlay district that has design guidelines, unique to Seminole Heights, to govern new construction. As a result the store's traditional look will be tweaked.
 
Instead of a sea of pavement for parking in the front, the new building will be situated closer to the street. Customers will park along the side and rear of the Super Center. Other features will include a  "living wall" of trees and other landscaping along Hillsborough. Residents also were told the store's facade will have double-paned windows with opportunities for showcased merchandise similar to traditional window displays at department stores.
 
Prior to construction, the old auto showroom and dealership service bays will be torn down. 
 
The new store will be smaller than most Super Centers, which generally are about 180,000 square feet, according to Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz. Customers will be able to shop for groceries, including fresh produce, meats, deli items and bakery goods, plus merchandise typically sold at the discount chain store. There also will be a pharmacy with a drive-up window.

There will be no garden center and no tire and lube express.
 
Wertz anticipates the store will provide employment for about 200 people.
 
The store's property stretches from 15th Street next to Harris Veterinary Hospital to 19th Street across from McDonald's restaurant. Walmart plans to install a traffic signal at Hillsborough and 19th. The Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees the state road, recently gave its approval for the traffic light.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bill Wertz, Walmart

Historic Figures Take Their Places Along Tampa Riverwalk

For the second year, six bronze busts of people who made a difference in Tampa's history have been added to the Tampa Riverwalk by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and members of the nonprofit Friends of the Riverwalk.

The latest honorees are Newspaper Publisher C. Blythe Andrews, Attorney Cody Fowler, Civic Leader Kate Jackson, Attorney Peter O. Knight, Cuban Civil Rights Leader Paulina Pedroso and Businessman G. D. Rogers. Their likenesses will be added to the six already installed last year on the city's Historical Monument Trail at the Riverwalk. Eventually city officials anticipate more than 30 people will be recognized for their historical contributions.

"The whole concept is to make a trail to honor as many of the people as possible who made Tampa what it is today," says Attorney Steven Anderson, president of the Friends of the Riverwalk. "It's just a great program. People love the monuments."

A 9-member committee makes selections each year looking back over 150 years of Tampa's history. It costs about $120,000 annually to finish and install the busts, Anderson says.

Most of the funds are privately donated. Hillsborough County provided a matching grant based on the project's historical preservation mission.

Last year's honorees were the Mound Builder Indians, who were the first settlers 10,000 years ago; cigar magnate Vicente Martinez-Ybor; shipping tycoon James McKay; nurse Clara Frye; railroad trailblazer Henry B. Plant; and suffragist Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain. Anderson said the committee has begun selecting next year's six honorees.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Steven Anderson, Friends of the Riverwalk

New Clearwater Apartments Target Homeless Veterans

Providing a place of healing and sanctuary for military veterans experiencing the aftereffects of war, Tampa Bay's Homeless Emergency Project recently celebrated the opening of a new housing development, HEP West Apartment Community.

As one of the largest providers of housing services for veterans in the area, HEP opened its new 3-acre, 32-apartment community with a focus on getting both male and female veterans "all the way home.'' HEP's target population includes 20- and 30-somethings returning back to the states from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to provide homeless and very low income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and the support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life,'' says HEP Director of Marketing Ashley Chango. "Our goal is to help people help themselves.''

Klar & Klar of Clearwater acted as architect on the project and Bradley Construction of Clearwater as general contractor. Funding for HEP West was made possible through a combination of government and private foundation grants, as well as private and corporate donors.

Rated four stars by Charity Navigator, the organization is located on an 8-acre campus in Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood and currently serves about 400 men, women and children on a daily basis.

In 2012, the local organization served 1,689 people, including 660 veterans, 63 families and 143 children, according to Chango.

"Our vision is to be the last shelter any individual, family or veteran ever has to enter,'' she says. "With an 87 percent success rate of HEP residents obtaining independent housing the community upon discharge of our program, we're well on our way.''

And the new West Community will aid HEP in making strides towards its goal.

Located in the heart of Clearwater, the community features 32 brand new 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment homes. Fully furnished, each unit includes a private bedroom, bath, central HVAC, storage and kitchen with new appliances.

The landscaped grounds encourage residents to relax, socialize and exercise in a tranquil, park-like setting featuring a 2,300-square-foot club house. A 24-hour security team will be featured on-site, as well as case managers and five full-time addiction and mental health counselors funded by a federal grant.

HEP also provides round-trip transportation to St. Pete's Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

"We're the only service agency of its kind,'' Chango says. "Our program is truly one-of-a-kind, and HEP West is just a part of the homeless population that we serve. We won't consider out work to be done until we can end homelessness for good.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Chango, Homeless Emergency Project

Urban Land Institute Visit Examines Pasco County's Growth

Pasco County should redouble efforts to encourage development along north-south U.S. Highway 19 in West Pasco and abandon the idea of building an elevated tollway along the east-west State Road 54/56 corridor, according to preliminary recommendations by a panel of urban experts visiting under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute. 

ULI experts were in Pasco from Oct 7 to Oct 11. The panel was invited by the County to help evaluate its planning efforts since 2008, ULI's last visit.

Much of the ULI panel's visit to Pasco, the county immediately north of more urban Pinellas (Clearwater-St. Pete) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties was dedicated to private interviews and discussions with the local community, business leaders, county staff and other stakeholders.

The ULI Panel acknowledged that the County has made significant strides since 2008 with the adoption of the Market Areas, Urban Services Areas, the County's Strategic Plan and other improvements. Although the ULI Panel applauded the County's recent planning efforts, it also cautioned Pasco County on several aspects of development.

"Pasco County has approved over 300,000 units for construction, adequate to meet the supply for next 75 years,'' says ULI Panelist Dan Conway. Because approved growth far exceeds market demand, the County should guide new development into designated Urban Service Areas on highways 19 and 54.

Redevelopment efforts along the U.S. 19 corridor should focus on creating Business Improvement Districts, providing redevelopment incentives and seek public-private partnerships to establish a "Corridor Lifestyle'' characterized by high-density mixed-use development within walkable distances from transit stops.

Panelist April Anderson Lamoureux recommends growing the health care sector and small business expansion. The County also should "embrace Eco-Tourism as one of its key development opportunity,'' adds Anderson-Lamoureux.

The ULI Panel recommended against plans to build an elevated tollway on the State Roads 54/56 corridor, connecting U.S. 19 to East Pasco.

"All around the Country there are at least 12 efforts to take down elevated highway structures since the community said they don't want them,'' says Pat Hawley, one of the ULI Panelists, referring to notable projects in cities that are turning highways into vibrant parks.

"You might have the potential to build the tollway but it would in fact impede the County's efforts of creating place making,'' concludes Hawley.

ULI Panelist Dan Slone suggested the County look at the "Highways to Boulevards'' initiative by the Congress for New Urbanism.
 
Lastly, the Panel asked Pasco County to embrace its diversity and cautioned against applying the same design standards throughout the county. The Panel is expected to give a full report within the next 90 days.
 
"ULI's recommendations validate our efforts to make Pasco a premier county,'' says John Hagen, President of Pasco Economic Development Council.
"The Panel may have just pointed us to the true North. I think we need to re-examine the elevated tollway.''

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Urban Land Institute, is a nonprofit global education and research institute, which provides Advisory Services to communities for solving planning and policy issues.

The panel included economic development, real estate and urban planning experts, both from public and private sectors. On the final day of their visit, panel members presented their initial findings and recommendations at the West Pasco Government Center to a large gathering of nearly 100 people.
   
Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

New Saunders Library To Be Built In Tampa In 2014

The old Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library near Ybor City will be torn down starting in December to make way for a new library at the same location. Plans call for the new library to be built in 2014 and open in 2015.

Construction on the $4.5 million, 25,000-square-foot library is expected to begin in January and will replace the nearly 45-year-old building currently located at 1505 N. Nebraska Ave. The new library construction continues the City's effort to invest in and improve neighborhoods just north of downtown Tampa.

"This will be marvelous for the community with Encore across the street with direct access to the library,'' says City Councilman Frank Reddick. "It's a project that many people have worked on for a lot of years.''

The existing library was built in the late 1960s and named for civil rights leader Robert W. Saunders Sr. Once known as The Scrub, the area was settled in the early 1900s by freed slaves after the Civil War.

The new two-story library will preserve the legacy of its namesake with a bust of Saunders in the existing library's reading area, and an African-American Research Library will become the central archive for historic documents and artifacts from notable local African American leaders and organizations. The Research Library will chronicle the history of the area and, according to Sells, will house numerous special collections.

"We're highlighting a lot of African-American history in Tampa,'' says Chief Library Renelda Sells.

Additionally, the new library will feature a bookstore, a recording room, a children's section and a 350-seat multipurpose room slated to include a portable stage for plays, concerts and banquets.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School students are expected to take advantage of these new spaces during school hours; a walkway currently connects the school building with the existing 7,300-square-foot, single-story library.

The current Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library will close on Sunday, December 1st, with new construction expected to see completion by anticipated by early 2015.

"We have been waiting a long time for this,'' says Fred Hearns, President of the Robert W. Saunders Foundation.

During construction, library patrons are encouraged to take advantage of the John F. Germany Public Library at 900 N. Ashley Dr., the C. Blythe Andrews Jr. Public Library at 2607 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and the Seminole Heights Public Library at 4711 N. Central Ave.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Frank Reddick and Renelda Sells, City of Tampa; Fred Hearns, Robert W. Saunders Foundation

WalMart Announces New Store in South St. Petersburg

Walmart plans to open a new store in the recently vacated Sweetbay grocery at the Tangerine Plaza in the Midtown neighborhood of St. Petersburg in early 2014.
 
St. Petersburg city officials and Urban Development Solutions say Walmart will be occupying the existing 39,000-square-foot store as a neighborhood market store.

Introduced in 1998, Walmart's Neighborhood Market format is one-quarter of the size of a typical Walmart Supercenter. With a floor area of about 40,000 square feet,  market stores are smaller and cater to a limited catchment area such as a neighborhood or a group of neighborhoods.

"Since Sweetbay left, the surrounding neighborhood did not have any full service grocery store within walking distance, making it extremely inconvenient for its residents,'' says Beth Herendeen, City of St. Petersburg Communications Director.

Located at 22nd St. S. and 18th Ave. S., the proposed Midtown store will attract customers from adjoining residential areas. According to Herendeen, the store will roughly serve a population of 14,750 to 35,600 within a three- to five-minute drive-time distance.

The store's small size and its location will enable residents of the surrounding neighborhoods to walk to get their groceries.

The concept of Neighborhood Market Stores was introduced by Walmart in response to changes in urban demographics and economic priorities. A small-scale store fits well in urban neighborhoods and is more convenient in heavily populated areas. Walmart Supercenters with large parking lots fit better in suburbs. A smaller store is designed to enable customers to park easily and enjoy less crowded aisles and quicker checkouts.

Since Sweetbay closed at Tangerine Plaza, the city who had earlier assembled the land at $3.1 million and started looking for potential partners, including Walmart. "Since the City is a financial stakeholder in the land, the City took an active role in bringing in Walmart,'' says Herendeen.

The neighborhood store at the Tangerine Plaza will have a full grocery, including produce and a pharmacy. It will employ 95 associates, for whom a temporary hiring center has been opened at the store. Interested applicants can also apply online.

"With Walmart's neighborhood market store, the residents will once again have access to fresh food and pharmacy, which is critical for maintaining a healthy community,'' says Herendeen.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Beth Herendeen, Communications Director, City of St.Petersburg

City Of Tampa Launches Neighborhood University

Neighborhood Association leaders and others in Tampa now have a chance to build leadership skills and learn more about city government.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn recently launched a Neighborhood University program with the goal of encouraging civic association leaders while creating ambassadors for the City.

"It’s a great way for people to learn more about what’s going on in the City of Tampa and feel more a part of what’s happening," says Jake Slater, neighborhood empowerment administrator for the City of Tampa. "Most people only know what they see on the news and read in the paper. Now they will see the folks behind the scenes making it happen."

The city has more than 90 neighborhood associations tasked with maintaining or improving the quality of life and sense of community. Activities include historic preservation, crime watch and maintaining open lines of communication with city government.

The 12-session class kicks off September 10 and includes behind the scenes information about budgeting, Tampa Police and Fire Rescue and utilities as well as information about using social media. Participants will learn skills to help establish and maintain overall successful neighborhood organizations, as well as experience the inner workings of the City of Tampa administration.

The 65 participants selected from more than 150 applicants come from a variety of backgrounds, ages and occupations from attorneys to retired military to pastors.

"Tampa is moving very quickly," says Slater. "There’s a new energy, lots of things going on in downtown, Sulfur Springs, South Tampa," citing this as possible reasons for the high interest in the new program. "You go to downtown Tampa on the weekends, and it’s alive! It’s hard to find a place to park."

Next steps include finetuning the program with input from members as well as sharing it with other cities, who are already asking for more information.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jake Slater, City of Tampa

Tempo Picks Up As Encore! Rises Near Downtown Tampa

Construction is expected to begin in January on the Tempo, an apartment building designed for families with children as well as singles, in the growing Encore! project between downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

The Tempo is a 203-unit building with multipurpose room, a swimming pool, a theater, a parking garage and commercial space on the ground floor.

It will follow the Ella, the TRIO and the Reed as the fourth building out of the ground in the music-themed project that pays tribute to Tampa's rich musical and performance history.

The Encore! planned community is a collaborative effort by the Tampa Housing Authority and Banc of America Community Development to build mixed-use developments for mixed-income families, young professionals and seniors in an affordable urban environment. The 29-acre project will eventually include a school, outdoor recreation spaces, urban gardens, trees and sidewalks designed to encourage neighborliness and pride in community.

The Housing Authority also is looking at options for replacing North Boulevard Homes, a public housing complex on North Boulevard just west of downtown. The Authority is expected to seek federal funding through HUD to make it happen.

The investment in rebuilding and replacing the city's public housing complexes with mixed-use housing, retail and commercial is a multiyear commitment that aims to create urban neighborhoods that are more attractive, affordable and safer for moderate income households.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: LeRoy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority
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