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Lake Mirror Park in Lakeland ranks among nation's top 10 public spaces

In the 1920s Lake Mirror Park was little more than its description -- a lake with a promenade.

But what New York landscape architect Charles Wellford Leavitt designed in Lakeland nearly 100 years ago is today one of the country's "10 Great Public Spaces" for 2014.

The American Planning Association recently announced its annual top 10 list of great public spaces. It is a designation Lakeland's planning department has been pursuing for at least two years, says Kevin Cook, the city's director of communications.

"It's a big honor," Cook says. "We pride ourselves on quality public spaces."

The park's ornate promenade was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. A master plan to restore the park and some of its original elements was completed nearly four years ago.

The park and lake are at the center of Lakeland's historic downtown. Among its landmarks are the Barnett Family Park, the Peggy Brown Center, Magnolia Building and the Hollis Gardens.

About 900 events are held at Lake Mirror Park annually including the Christmas parade and the Red, White and Kaboom celebration of Independence Day. Cook estimates as many as 20,000 to 30,000 people fill the park for some events.

Lake Mirror Park competed against more than 100 sites reviewed by an APA panel, says Jason Jordan, the APA's director of policy. 

"It is one of the best examples in the entire state, really nationally, of the 'city beautification' movement of the 1920s," Jordan says. "This is a prime example of a place that is physically beautiful but also has social and cultural elements as well."

In whittling down the list of great public spaces, Jordan says the planning agency's panel considers aesthetics, social, culture and economic factors.

"By highlighting some places that are successful it can be a spur to other communities," Jordan says.

16 Design Teams Offer Visions For St. Petersburg Pier

Design teams tasked with re-imagining the St. Petersburg Pier are split on whether to replace or renovate the pier and its iconic inverted, five-story pyramid built in the 1970s.

Of 16 teams submitting proposals by the city's Sept. 5 deadline, eight favor renovation, seven fall into the replacement column and one from New York-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture is "undetermined." 

While many local talents are represented, the chance at a high profile project also caught the attention of architects and designers in New York, Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and London. Some teams are partnerships pulled together specifically to compete for this project.

This is the second round of requested proposals following the rejection last year of the futuristic design by Michael Maltzan Architecture dubbed "The Lens." Maltzan's plan won in competition against an initial list of 23 design teams nearly two years ago but met with disapproval from many residents.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community," says Architect Yann Weymouth, design director of the newly created St. Pete Design Group. "Our generation will not get another shot at this."

The competition also includes Tampa Bay-based teams of Alfonso Architects, ahha! Design Group and Cooper Johnson Smith Architects & Town Planners, all with replacement proposals.  Fisher and Associates in Clearwater; Perkins+Will in Atlanta; and Ross Barney Architects in Chicago are among those proposing renovations.
 
The team at St. Pete Design Group, which announced their partnership two days before the proposal deadline, is pursuing a renovation of the pier. At this point the vision is ideas and sketches, says Weymouth.

High profile projects, and even pyramids, are nothing new for Weymouth. His talents are visible in the designs of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The glass Grand Pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris is another iconic design he worked on with famed architect and mentor, I.M. Pei. 

After more than a dozen years affiliated with HOK, Weymouth is stepping into a new role as design director of the St. Pete Design Group. HOK was one of the semi-finalists in the first call for pier re-designs.

This time, Weymouth is partnered with Wannemacher Jensen Architects, which will work on the uplands and the approach to the pier. Harvard Jolly Architecture, which designed the inverted pyramid in the 1970s, will design the centerpiece.

"We're cognizant of what went before but the controversy has had a good effect," says Weymouth. "The community knows better what it wants and what it doesn't want. Seeing it renovated and unique and special and a St. Petersburg landmark -- a beacon -- that would be very good for the city."

Details on the 16 proposals will be forthcoming in the next months.

A selection committee appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman will choose up to eight design teams by Oct. 3. Those teams then will have about 10 weeks to add specifics to their visions and submit a budget in mid-December. Each team will receive a stipend of $30,000.

Projects must not cost more than $46 million, including $33 million for construction. City officials will eliminate designs that don't meet specified qualifications.

The public will get to weigh in with their opinions, probably in January. City officials are considering options, such as an online survey or opinion poll, to gather comments.

Afterward, the selection committee will rank the plans and submit a list in February to city council. Once a team is approved, design work could begin by mid-2015 with construction in 2016 and completion by late 2017. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Yann Weymouth, St. Pete Design Group

Urban Charrette, CNU Tampa Bay Host Urbanism On Tap 4.1

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at PJ Dolan's Irish Pub & Grille, North of USF on September 9, 2014 starting at 5:45 p.m. 

Starting this fall, Urbanism on Tap organizers have moved north of Downtown Tampa to host a new Urbanism on Tap Series highlighting “The Role of Universities in Urban Design and Innovation’’ and engage the University of South Florida (USF) community in the conversation.  

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

Every event is open to the public, and 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 enhance our ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event, entitled “The USF Factor,” is the first discussion of a new three-part series focused on the relationship between University of South Florida and Tampa’s urban landscape. 

Typically, universities across the country are drivers of jobs, education, innovation and urban development as well as redevelopment. Attendees of the upcoming event will look at how this trend plays out in Tampa. 

The event will focus on how the university is important for Tampa’s local economy and politics and how it can play a critical role in creating vibrant urban environments that inspire innovation. The event will explore related issues, opportunities and challenges for a range of stakeholders, including the residents, the city and the university. 

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

Venue: PJ Dolan's Irish Pub & Grille, North of USF (2836 E Bearss Ave Tampa, FL 33613); 
Date and Time: September 9, 2014 from 5:45 p.m – 7:15 p.m

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

USF, All Children's Hospital Partner For Research Center

A research, education and training facility is now in the planning stages following a land transfer by the University of South Florida to the All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.

USF officials signed over 1.4 acres of land to the hospital as a gift. In return USF received $2.5 million in state funds as part of an overall agreement worked out among state officials, legislators and the governor's office. The land was deeded by the state to USF in April with the understanding that it would then be transferred to the hospital by late June.

The transferred land, at 601 Fourth St., is next to All Children's Outpatient Care Center and the Children's Research Institute.

The facility will focus on research and innovations in pediatric care and childhood diseases. In partnership with All Children's, USF officials anticipate opportunities for the university's medical students for training, pediatric residency and expanded education for health science undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows.

"This collaboration shows the sustained commitment of both organizations to provide the best training for USF Health medical students and all our residents and strengthen the USF Health pediatric residency program affiliation with All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine," says Jonathan Ellen, president and physician in chief as well as pediatrics professor and vice dean at All Children's.

State records regarding the land deal indicate plans for an approximately 300,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $65 million to $85 million, creation of about 400 design and construction jobs, and more than 20 staff and faculty positions.

But hospital officials say there are no details on the facility or a construction date as yet.

"You had a dream, you didn't want to start and it not happen," says Roy Adams, All Children's communications director. "It's like we're happy to be given the property so now we can start planning."

Nearly three years ago the private, not-for-profit All Children's Hospital became the first hospital outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area to join the prestigious Johns Hopkins Health System. A U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital ranked All Children's in the top 50 in three specialty areas.

The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jonathan Ellen and Roy Adams, All Children's Hospital-St. Petersburg

Virginia Pharmaceutical Company Moves Into Roskamp Institute In Florida

Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded firm working to develop medications for inflammatory conditions and neurological disorders, is relocating its headquarters to Manatee County's Roskamp Institute, a leading national research facility that specializes in Alzheimer's disease and other brain disorders.

The Bradenton EDC assisted the Glen Allen, VA based pharmaceutical firm in applying for rapid response permitting to facilitate the move into the 3,000-square-foot space at the Roskamp Institute in Tallevast in south Manatee County. Rock Creek also received a performance-based grant of $48,000 from the Manatee County government to help fund its relocation. To qualify for the incentive, Rock Creek has agreed to create 16 high-impact jobs over the next five years that provide an average wage that is twice the Manatee County annual average.

"The Sarasota-Bradenton area is becoming a new and growing hub for life sciences and bio-technology,'' says Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek's VP for Corporate Strategy and Development.

"If we're successful, we have the potential to grow a lot bigger. I think a 16 employee count is a conservative number,'' Jenkins adds.

Roskamp CEO Dr. Michael Mullan, who is also the CEO and chairman of Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals, worked alongside Roskamp President Dr. Fiona Crawford on the neurological science team that discovered the first-known genetic cause of Alzheimer's disease in 1992.

"The affiliation between the two organizations is poised to bring leading-edge therapies to the life sciences market,'' says Sharon Hillstrom, Bradenton EDC President and CEO, in a news release.

In recent years, Rock Creek (formerly Star Scientific, Inc.) discovered the anti-inflammatory components of anatabine, a minor alkaloid found in tobacco, while researching smoking-cessation alternatives for nicotine addicts. Jenkins says the firm is currently focused on creating FDA-approved drugs that will leverage anatabine's anti-inflammatory components to help with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, as well as diseases of the nervous system, behavioral disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

"We are increasingly finding out that numerous diseases out there have an inflammatory component,'' Jenkins says.

"I believe we have a very unique compound. It's seen extraordinary results in vitro, in vivo and in pre-clinical animal models. It shows great promise to address potential treatment for major inflammatory based diseases.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Ted Jenkins, Rock Creek Pharmaceuticals

Tampa Bay Innovation Center Opens TEC Garage

Up to 30 start-up businesses in science and other fields will be nurtured at TEC Garage, a new incubator opening in August on the campus of St. Petersburg College.

The venture is under the tutelage of the Largo-based Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses.

TEC Garage, which stands for Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of the college's Downtown Center at 244 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The new incubator will offer space for new businesses in science, technology, engineering, arts and digital media. Three clients have been signed: Toonari Media, which uses social media and online resources to conduct investigations,  Dock-n-Lock, which offers methods to reduce texting and other distractions while driving, and My OnCall Doc, which is an on-demand video provider for physician services.

The location is only the beginning of a broader vision for encouraging startups amid an explosion of business and residential growth in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It seems to be ... an entire renaissance, something bringing new growth to St. Petersburg and something very exciting," says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The anticipation is for 15 to 30 new businesses to settle into the TEC Garage. About 40 to 80 people can work there depending on how the space is designed.

“We want to give our local entrepreneurs every resource and tool they need to thrive, and believe this program will help create and keep jobs right here in our community," Elmore says.

There will be reserved office space for rent and coworking space. And Elmore says TEC Garage will offer something not every incubator provides -- coaching for individual clients.

The incubator will operate at the college for at least three to five years. The long-range goal is to move into a permanent downtown location in a much larger building of about 40,000 square feet. There could be opportunities for the college location to continue as a satellite office.

"This is a natural complement to the college's values of leadership, innovation and partnership," says Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College.  

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Tonya Elmore, Tampa Bay Innovation Center; Bill Law, St. Petersburg College

AT&T's Store Of The Future Opens In Tampa

AT&T's Store of the Future is open and showing off the newest technology in a sleek, cool store off Westshore Boulevard in the shopping center anchored by The Container Store..

The shop is the fourth of its kind in Florida and is modeled after a Chicago flagship store large enough to fit a car inside. Tampa's shop isn't nearly as large but customers can enjoy taking the latest technology for a spin in the care of friendly sales clerks who chat with you at white "learning" tables designed to mimic real life situations.

It is designed to encourage interaction and make the shopping experience fun and engaging whether you're an individual or bring your entire family.

Step over to the guitar display and try out headsets, speakers and the latest sound and streaming technology. Head to another table and find out how your phone can become a movie projector.

Or walk over to the white "kitchen island" and learn how a smartphone bolts a dead-lock at your house or sets the temperature controls. Have a pet to keep an eye on? There's a video gadget for that.

Want to monitor a fleet of trucks for your business including their top speeds? There's a device for that too.

The forward-looking store caters to the mobile lifestyle.

"We're trying to show the different applications available for customers," says Susan Boothe, merchandising manager for AT&T's Florida operations. But the story is deliberately "nice and comfortable and takes the intimidation factor out of it."

The store is at 1812 N. Westshore Blvd., in the new shopping center anchored by retail and restaurants such as The Container Store, Sleeping Mattress, Pei Wei Asian Dining and Olive Garden Restaurant.

The store's eco-friendly design is by architects at Callison, a global company whose clients include Starbucks, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Boothe, AT&T

SMARTstart Gets Second Business Incubator In New Port Richey

One success leads to another as the Pasco Economic Development Council prepares to open a second business incubator site for its SMARTstart program, this time in New Port Richey.
 
A May 1 opening for the new business center is planned inside a city-owned former post office building at 6347 Grand Blvd. City officials also are looking to open a city-operated "maker-space" program to encourage business creation.
 
The building had been unused for some time, says Krista Covey, SMARTstart's business incubator manager and PEDC's economic development manager. "They (New Port Richey) were trying to support entrepreneurship and spur business development in downtown New Port Richey," she says. "We obviously have had great success with the Smartstart program."
 
SMARTstart will occupy the largest share of the approximately 9,000-square-foot building. Covey says two potential start-up applicants are under review. "They have not been approved yet," she says.
 
About 40 volunteers pitched in to spruce up the building in April. Work crews are completing renovations, including painting and installation of an emergency exit.
 
The partnership of SMARTstart and the city's maker-space program is "a first that I'm aware of," says Mario Iezzino, New Port Richey's economic development director. "It's a really great marriage between two concepts that are able to help get viable new businesses started."
 
The city is awaiting funds for maker-space, probably in the fall, Iezzino says. The program is designed to give entrepeneurs the tools to turn ideas into businesses.
 
"It brings in a different kind of entrepreneur," he says. "We have a lot of tinkerers. It's another way people can bring their ideas out of the garage."
 
The new SMARTstart incubator will be modeled on the first one at the Dade City Business Center, which has five on-site start-up companies and two off-site companies. The start-ups are The Busy Buddy, Stephanie Reed Photography, Innovative Payroll Services, H.B. Whitaker, Arielle Management Group, Flying R Group LLC, and Computers Etc.

An open house is scheduled for the business center from noon to 3 p.m. Friday at 15000 Citrus Country Drive, Suite 103, Dade City.
 
SMARTstart offers resources and support for people starting a business, moving from a home-based business or re-establishing a business. Services include consulting and mentoring, one-on-one counseling, business plan development and marketing advice.
 
A network of agencies and organizations provide support including Saint Leo University whose faculty and students assist in developing business and marketing plans.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mario Iezzino, City of New Port Richey

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

Next Urbanism On Tap: 'Where Do You Come From?'

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at New World Brewery in Ybor City on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, starting at 5:30 p.m. This open mic format event is designed to generate constructive conversations about current ideas and trends that are shaping Tampa.

The event entitled "Where Do You Come From?'' is the third in a three-part series that started last fall. It will focus on understanding some critical questions such as: Why does one choose to live in a particular neighborhood? How do you know you are in your neighborhood? How should the neighborhood change and what should stay the same? Seeking answers to some of these key questions will help us understand the issues and challenges in our neighborhoods and the role these building blocks play in our City.

In the event, the organizers intend to engage attendees with innovative tools like preparing ''mind maps.'' Mind Maps are people's perception about their neighborhoods and the places they visit on a regular basis. It may be a rough hand drawn map or an image, or text, which conveys how one associates and perceives his or her neighborhood.

The organizers encourage people to share their photos and things they like about their neighborhood by visiting Urbanism on Tap's online Facebook page. People can also use apps available on smart phones to make mind maps and post it online.

Overall, the intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance the ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

Urbanism on Tap is an event focused on generating a dialogue within the community led by the Urban Charette and CNU Tampa Bay. Moderators and attendees can share their stories related to the topic of the day. Every event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend and share their views.

Following the event, everyone is encouraged to continue the conversation online through the Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page or website.

Venue: New World Brewery, Ybor City (1313 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605)
Date and Time: Tuesday, January 14, from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
For more information, email Ashly Anderson

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

South Tampa Boutique Hotel Opens To Guests

The long-awaited opening of the food-themed Epicurean Hotel on South Howard Avenue officially is two days after Christmas. But General Manager Tom Haines anticipates a "soft" opening with at least some rooms occupied by guests a few days sooner.
 
And gift cards are available for hotel stays, dining at the Élevage restaurant, hand-crafted cocktails at the roof-top bar EDGE, sweets at Chocolate Pi patisserie or culinary classes at the Epicurean Theatre.
 
"The response has been overwhelming," says Haines. "It seems to resonate with people."
 
The 137-room boutique hotel is in the Hyde Park historic district, across from landmark Bern's Steak House, founded more than 50 years ago by Gert and the late Bern Laxer. Their son, David Laxer, and Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are partners in the hotel project. Marriott Hotel International, Inc., will add the Epicurean to its Autograph Collection, a select group of hotels that are operated without the Marriott name but offers guests the perks that come with the Marriott brand.
 
Among unique features at the hotel are bicycles for touring Hyde Park and Bayshore Boulevard and evening wine samplings.

The hotel also will have Chocolate Pi, a French-style patisserie, Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits, and 5,200 square-foot flexible event room suitable for weddings, honeymoons, bar and bat mitzvahs.

In February a full-service luxury spa, Evangeline, will open.
 
The hotel is taking an innovative path and tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement with culinary classes for beginners and experienced cooks. World-known chefs and sommeliers will visit the state-of-the-art Epicurean Theatre for cooking demonstrations, wine exhibitions and special events.

And the hotel will participate in the annual Bern's WineFest.

"There are so many foodies out there," Haines says. "They are hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. The theater cements that for people."

The first culinary classes will begin Jan. 20 with Mastering Wine Aromas. Other early topics are History of the Cocktail and tea blending. Haines says classes will be held "about every day of the week."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tom Haines, Epicurean Hotel

USF Health Begins Construction Of New Heart Institute

The University of South Florida made a major investment in cardiovascular research with the groundbreaking today (Dec. 17, 2013) of the USF Health Heart Institute.
 
The $50 million, five-story, 100,000-square-foot facility will be the center of the university's medical research into risk factors and new treatments for heart disease and related diseases of stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. The research is expected to boost local investment in high-wage jobs, business partnerships, patents and technologies that could lead to spin-off businesses in and around Tampa and Hillsborough County.

“USF is working tirelessly to make heart disease less of a threat to the health and well-being of our community. Today, we take a huge step forward in our efforts as we begin work on building our new USF Health Heart Institute,” says USF President Judy Genshaft. “We’re creating the scientific infrastructure that will make Florida a world leader in combatting devastating diseases.”
 
The Heart Institute will create a synergy for "bench to bedside to bench" discoveries that aid health care patients, says Stephen Liggett, Vice Dean for Research at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Liggett is co-acting director for the Institute along with Arthur Labovitz, chairman of Morsani College's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.
 
Liggett describes the bench as the research that is translated into patient treatments at the bedside. In turn those treatments can reveal new avenues for additional productive research. The institute will focus on advanged diagnotics, clinical trials for new medicines, genetic and stem cell therapies and DNA tailored treatments based on a patient's genetic makeup.

USF Health recently began its first genomic trial in partnership with the American College of Cardiology by linking DNA analysis from blood samples to the cardiology college's heart disease database of millions of patients.

“The sharing of basic and clinical research data in both directions can lead to better outcomes,” he says.
 
Increased investment in research is intended to get to the root causes of heart disease. "Right now the pipeline for new drugs and new diagnostics is pretty dry," he says.
 
Heart disease among men and women is the leading cause of death and annually costs the United States more than $312 billion in health care costs, medicines and lost worker productivity, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Florida heart disease is second behind cancer as a cause of death.
 
The project is supported with nearly $22 million from the state and Hillsborough County. Another $30 million will be needed to complete construction. An opening date will be determined by how soon those funds are secured.
 
USF expects to invest as much as $25 million in faculty recruitment and resources for genomics-based medicine.
As the county's population ages, this type of research will become more important for the community, says Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. "It's an excellent investment," he says.
 
Among USF's partners at the Health Heart Institute are Florida Hospital and its Pepin Heart Institute, Florida Cardiovascular Institute and Tampa General Hospital.
 
The construction contractor is Whiting-Turner and the architect is HOK.
 
The Heart Institute will be in the center of the USF Health complex located at the northwest corner of Holly and Magnolia drives. Nearby are the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, Moffit Cancer Center and Morsani College of Medicine. There will be an auditorium, offices, laboratories and a clinical care center.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Stephen Liggett, USF Health; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County

USFSM Ushers In Scientific Renaissance With Mote Partnership, New Science Labs, Biology Major

The STEM curriculum is a rapidly evolving organism at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. On Oct. 17, USFSM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new science labs at Mote Marine Laboratories and announced that a new undergraduate major will be offered in biology at the university starting next fall.

Willis A. Smith Construction oversaw the development of a biology lab, chemistry lab and student teaching area in a pre-existing 4,600-square-foot research facility on the Mote Marine campus. Designed by Fawley-Bryant Architects, each lab includes 26 student stations that are served by laboratory gas and fume snorkels. An additional laboratory prep area serving both the biology and chemistry labs houses high-tech research tools including autoclaves, incubators, sub-zero freezers and student safety stations.

The $1.5 million project was funded by private donors, foundations and grants that covered the cost of construction as well as the purchase of lab equipment. Construction took place between the months of March and August, 2013, when the labs welcomed its first batch of undergraduate students.

Dr. Jane Rose,  Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USFSM, says that students will not only receive valuable hands-on access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, but they will also benefit from one-on-one face-time with world-class researchers and teaching scientists who partner with the university from 22 diverse research programs at Mote Marine.

"While the partnership was developed as a way for the university just to get into the sciences, it has enabled us to do so in very a special way, and to make a contribution to the whole state repertoire of science programs. Most importantly, it's a chance to really serve our students from the Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte County region,'' says Rose.

The new state-of-the-art laboratories at Mote Marine and B.S. Biology program for undergraduate students are integral elements in USFSM’s transition into a full four-year institution of higher learning, which began in August when the university welcomed its first class of incoming freshmen.

The biology program is in its pilot year at the university. The degree program does not officially launch until Fall 2014, but current students can declare a biology major and begin to pursue pre-requisite coursework in the biology field at any time. A small group of students began attending classes in the labs when the Fall 2013 semester commenced in August.

"Florida offers many undergraduate biology degrees, but none of them will be quite like ours. In most major universities, the research faculty generally delivers the lecture section to auditoriums filled with hundreds of students, but it's graduate students who are teaching the labs. Undergrad students don't get to know the real research faculty well until they've advanced in their degree or until they're graduate students, which comes down to a class size issue. Our classes will be intentionally small so that students have close working relationships with the research faculty as early as their freshman year,'' Rose says.

"Whether it's a Mote Marine researcher or our faculty leading the students, they will not only be delivering the lecture portion of the courses, but they will also be in the labs working with those students, which will make the labs much more significant. Many people would argue that where scientists really learn is in the lab components of their courses,'' Rose adds.

Rose says that prior to the introduction of the B.S. in biology program, there was no biology degree available for public university students in the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte region.

"These students will be be at an advantage because they have had so much meaningful lab experience right from the beginning of their college careers. They will be competitive in entry level lab jobs in medical field and in industrial research and development with their undergraduate degrees, but more importantly, most careers in the sciences do involved graduate study. Students working in our research labs will be well-prepared for that,'' Rose says.

"Now, not only can you stay here to get a biology degree, but you can stay here to get a biology degree to be envied.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jane Rose, USFSM

Love Your City? Participate In Local Tactical Urbanism Workshop

Urbanists from all over the Tampa Bay region are invited to participate in a Tactical Urbanism Movement workshop on Wednesday, October 23, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Beck Group, 220 West 7th Avenue, in Tampa.

Tactical Urbanism is a rapidly growing international movement of small-scale, temporary, low-cost, high-reward actions that lead to an immediate improvement in a community's public life, often followed by long-term urban interventions. Guerilla Gardening, Pavement-to-Parks or Reclaiming a Parking Space are some of the examples of Tactical Urbanism that are currently being applied by citizens in many U.S. cities.
 
The local Tactical Urbanism Workshop is coordinated by the Sun Coast Section of the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Congress for New Urbanism-Tampa Bay. Mike Lydon, an internationally recognized planner, writer and an advocate for livable cities, will lead the workshop.

"It will be exciting to be a part of this urban place-making movement that is currently sweeping our country's major cities,'' says Lauren Matzke, a Clearwater City Planner and the workshop's main coordinator.

As a part of the workshop, participants will get hands-on experience in planning and intervening on an actual site in Downtown Tampa. Apart from promising a fun planning experience, the workshop also intends to train the participants on how to plan, fund and carry out these projects throughout the Tampa Bay region.

The event is expected to draw a variety of participants such as engaged citizens, stakeholders, designers, engineers, urban planners, students, local leaders, government officials and other advocates who are passionate about their city and urban experiences. You can RSVP here.

Tactical Urbanism was named as one of the top trends in 2012 by the urban planning website Planetizen. Implementation of this movement in the Tampa Bay region is expected to inspire innovative planning ideas, urban interventions and collaborations.

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Lauren Matzke, City of Clearwater

Invision Tampa Discusses Community Feedback For West River Neighborhoods

The reintroduction of the street grid in the Tampa neighborhoods along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, intense development on Main Street and greater access to the river are among key recommendations emanating from the Invision Tampa process now underway.

A community briefing on July 18, 2013 shared feedback from surveys, research and workshops for the redevelopment of the West River area near downtown Tampa. Stakeholders gathered to hear the Invision Team report back initial ideas and strategies from the input given during the last design workshop in June.

The West River area includes the western bank of the Hillsborough River and its neighborhoods according to the Invision Tampa website. The briefing is a way to continue collaboration between the design team and community stakeholders.

"The process is like a funnel," says Brenda Dohring-Hicks of The Dohring Group who attended both the West River design workshop and the community briefing. "They gather all the ideas and then narrow them down to a concept with effective strategies."

"The event had a lot of people from the neighborhood, which showed how much they care about the future redevelopment," explains Dohring-Hicks. 

The West River area redevelopment "will have a positive impact on the historic neighborhood," says Dohring-Hicks.  “Its proximity to downtown and surrounding areas will make the project even more impactful.” 

Invision Team encourages community members to share feedback on its website and through social media.  You can view the InVision Tampa Plan online or at the AIA Tampa Bay Galleria at 200 North Ashley Suite 100, until August 1, 2013.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Brenda Dohring-Hicks, The Dohring Group
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