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

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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

New Trail Along Courtney Campbell Will Be For Bicycling, Walking

The Courtney Campbell Causeway connecting Tampa and Clearwater is undergoing resurfacing improvements and enhancements, including the addition of new pedestrian and bicycle trails physically separated from the road.

The overall $23 million project along State Road 60 is being built by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), FDOT received $14.6 million in federal funding, which is dedicated for walking and biking infrastructure, to build the nine-mile trail.

A 12-foot-wide, multiuse pedestrian trail on the south side of the Causeway is expected to be completed in October 2013.  The north side of the Causeway will host a five-foot sidewalk, which is scheduled to open in 2014. 

"The idea for the trail was generated by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee," says Michelle Ogilvie of the Hillsborough Planning Commission.  "The committee worked with the local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and FDOT toward producing a feasibility study for the trail concept in 2008."

The sea level Courtney Campbell Causeway received the Scenic Highway Corridor Designation in 2005. It provides a picturesque and vital link across the body of water called Old Tampa Bay. 

"It’s our brand, our identity and the trail will provide a safe place to enjoy this link," says Ogilvie. "The trail will strengthen the relationship between the counties, ecotourism will expand, and the trail will help forge a regional identity and economy."

The Courtney Campbell Trail will connect existing trail developments on both sides of the Bay, serving as a resource to the region.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Source: Michelle Ogilvie. Hillsborough Planning Commission

Grants Encourage Street Scene In Downtown Tampa

Downtown Tampa's public realm has seen vast improvements over the past few years. New parks, restaurants, museums, well-planned events and Riverwalk improvements are generating activity in public spaces like never before.   

Now the Tampa Downtown Partnership is offering businesses grants up to $2,500 to help make the urban street scene even livelier.

The Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program supports enhancements to exterior, ground floor storefront properties.

"The purpose of the Tampa Downtown Storefront and Sidewalk Cafe Grant Program is to create a more attractive pedestrian atmosphere, and commercially vibrant environment through street level storefront improvements and inviting sidewalk cafe settings," says Shaun Drinkard, Director of Placemaking for the Tampa Downtown Partnership. "The program began in March of this year and the applications are seeking improvements that are engaging and pedestrian oriented.''

Kurdi's Fresh Mediterranean Grill, located on the corner of Tampa Street and Polk Street at Skypoint, is one of the first storefront businesses to qualify for program funding. The restaurant, which offers a healthy and unique fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine used the reimbursable grant "to expand their available seating to the outside through cafe tables, and planters were used to create an inviting experience for their patrons and passersby," says Adam Fritz, an urban designer with Baker Barrios Architects and grant chair. Duckweed Urban Market, Taps and the CI Group have also been approved.  

The maximum amount a storefront improvement project can receive is 50 percent of the total project budget, up to $2,500. The grant may be used for design, labor, materials or permitting fees related to façade improvements, cafe furniture, landscaping, signage, lighting and more. 

"The greater the connection between the life of the street and the activity at the base [of buildings], the more inviting the street and hence the more memorable experience of the city," Fritz says.

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Shaun Drinkard, Tampa Downtown Partnership; Adam Fritz, Baker Barrios Architects

Tampa Heights Riverfront Adds Restaurant, Park

The Tampa Heights neighborhood will soon be home to a much talked about new restaurant, Ulele and the city’s next special events destination, Waterworks Park. The historic Waterworks building and park will work together, integrate with the neighborhood and connect to the Riverwalk. 

The new Ulele Restaurant will emerge from the renovated city Water Works Building. The Gonzmart family, which owns the Columbia Restaurant, is expected to open Ulele in the winter of 2014. The name comes from the bubbling spring that flows into the Hillsborough River in Tampa Heights, and was once Tampa’s first source of drinking water. Ulule Spring is undergoing restoration as part of the Waterworks Park renovation.

The design of the park is "a modern interpretation that is respectful of the historic Waterworks Building and other park structures," explains Angela Hendershot, an architect with Rowe Architects, Inc.  Rowe Architects is part of the Design Build Team for the Waterworks Park renovation with Biltmore Construction

"The series of contemporary park structures have folded roof plains in which the geometry is a takeoff of the historic Waterworks Building roof pitch," describes Principal Rick Rowe of Rowe Architects.

The park will include play space for children, a playground, interactive water features, pavilions, docks, a kayak launch and stage and "will serve as an anchor and terminus of the Riverwalk," says Hendershot.

Special markers will draw attention to Tampa historic features, such as the Scottish Chief, a Civil War era vessel that sank at the southern end of Waterworks Park, and the Clara Frye Garden.  Clara Frye was a nurse who opened the first, free African-American Hospital in Tampa on the site now occupied by Blake High School which will be in view from the garden and Riverwalk. 

"Importantly, both projects will enhace the waterfront and you will be able to access the park and Ulele from the water," says Rowe.

Waterworks Park and Ulele will bring an important sense of history to the city and will share it with the Tampa Heights adding to the neighborhood’s character, revitalization and economic vitality.   

Writer: Taryn Sabia
Sources: Angela Hendershot and Rick Rowe, Rowe Architects

Adamo Drive Mural Nears Completion, Ybor City

After two years of fundraising efforts and months of work, the Adamo Drive Mural project is making progress toward completion.

The approximately $30,000 project is expected to enhance the appeal of the Ybor City Historic District, transforming industrial weather-beaten portions of Adamo Drive into a work of art representing the culture, heritage and vitality of both Ybor City and Tampa; the mural covers the rear exterior of a 370-by-35-foot space on the 12,000-square-foot Fabricated Products Building at 17th Street and Adamo Drive.

“Art projects such as these not only help to illustrate a rich history and bring students, artists and residents together, but they can stimulate a renewal of energy in urban areas,” says Dave Scott, the project's organizer. “Recently, several major cities such as Omaha, Nebraska and Chattanooga, Tennessee have embraced similar art projects as a smart investment to attract potential investors, visitors and residents. I hope this mural is the spark that helps ignite a greater spirit of renewal in Ybor and the downtown area.”

Spanning two blocks, project organizers believe the Adamo Drive Mural to be one of the largest outdoor murals in the state of Florida. Designed by local artist Mike Parker, the mural depicts the vitality of Ybor City, focusing on the people and families that continue to make the neighborhood what it is today: One continuously welcoming and embracing new ideas, businesses and faces.

“The mural is a tribute to the history of Ybor City. It even reflects the character of the neighborhood today; it’s bright, interesting, and forward-looking,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Public art projects like this are an important economic driver and help us define Ybor as a creative place.”

As part of the preplanning process for the project, Parker taught a class at  Hillsborough Community College where students immersed themselves into the history, heritage and current feel of the Ybor City neighborhood. Through research of the neighborhood and interviews with residents, Parker and the HCC students were able to integrate the results into a mural that tells the story of Ybor City.

“We too often forget that Tampa has one of the greatest examples of people embracing the 'American Dream',” Scott says. “The mural can be an inspiration to all of us to make the most of our talent and potential -- an important perspective for the renaissance of Ybor and the growth of the Tampa Bay area.”

An on-site dedication by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and local community leaders is planned for the community-driven project on Tuesday, May 21st at 2 p.m.

In addition to the City of Tampa and Ybor City Development Corporation, the project has been supported by local businesses including the Columbia Restaurant, Rotary International, Kimmins Contracting Corp., Vykin Corp., Actsoft Inc., Hoffman Porges Gallery, Fabricated Products, Ybor City Round Table, Protective Coating Solutions, Inc., Safway Scaffolding and Acccess Solutions, Corrosion Specialties, Inc., Sherwin-Willliams, Ring Power's Cat Rental Store, Glendale Painting Corp., Empire Paint, Brandon School of Dance Arts, Salem Enterprise Solutions, Radiant Oil, Bad Monkey Ybor, Special Forces Motorcycle Club, Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club and La Gaceta.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Dave Scott, Adamo Drive Mural; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

HART MetroRapid North-South To Begin Services In Hillsborough

A new HART system aims to speed up connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.

HART's MetroRapid will begin operations on Tuesday, May 28th, improving travel along selected service corridors, increasing service reliability and speed of transit. HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia says the system will make transit use easier for Hillsborough County residents.

“Added features like ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board,” Mejia says. “Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly.”

In addition to ticket vending machines, some of the system's new features include fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown neighborhoods and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.

According to Mejia, several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned, showing that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity.

Construction began on the North-South MetroRapid project in August 2013, totaling approximately $31 million, while the traffic signal priority project is cost an estimated $2 million. HART reported that the project came in under budget by $5.7 million, which will be reallocated back into Hillsborough County for infrastructure needs, if desired.

Both projects were paid for by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years," Mejia says. "With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county."

Currently, HART is continuing to make progress and expand the MetroRapid services, including the the East-West project which will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Police Department To Get New $3.5 M Shooting Range, Tampa

The Tampa Police Department is getting a new shooting range for police training.

The new $3.5 million project, funded by the City of Tampa law enforcement trust fund, will be located behind the city's McKay Bay trash incinerator off of 34th Street.

Plans call for the new facility to include two shooting ranges, a training building and a control tower. Baffle concrete walls to reduce noise are among some of the project's planned features.

“It's hard to replicate what goes on out there in the street, but to the extent that we can make it as realistic as possible, the better off they are and the safer they are,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “That's why facilities like this are so important for us and for them.”

The project is expected to take approximately 18 months to two years to complete, with groundbreaking slated by the end of 2013.

Tampa officials have issued an invitation to companies interested in designing and building the range; responses are due by May 9th.

For years, Tampa law enforcement -- nearly 1,000 sworn officers -- have used the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office shooting range in Lithia, where yearly state qualification standards are met. Last year, approximately $265,000 was spent for Tampa officers to train at the Sherrif's Office range.

In addition to saving money, Buckhorn sees several advantages to having the new range in Tampa.

“The closer they are to the range, the more they can practice,” he says. “I want them to be able to practice as much as they need to.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Makerspace Project Brings Public Creative Spaces To Tampa Bay

Bringing together residents, organizations, businesses and agencies interested in changing culture through the creation of accessible, sustainable and enduring creative public spaces throughout the Tampa Bay area, non-profit education group Learning is for Everyone (LI4E) is heading the LI4E Makerspace Project, providing places where everyone can learn, innovate, manufacture and create locally.

Promoting personally fulfilling and economically productive ways, the Makerspace Project's first project has been donated by local South Tampa homeowner Terre Tulsiak; Tulsiak says she wants to give people the chance to feel capable and be capable to learn more if they want, giving them a place and chance to do so.

“Because then they'll want to,” Tulsiak says.

It will be more than six months before Tulsiak's donation of her home and property will become operational as LI4E currently gathers information on the cost of finishing the interior of the home, zoning issues and potential collaborative partners.

“I think this location is fabulous because it's urban, residential, accessible and inclusive-- all the things a public creative space should be,” says LI4E Founder and President Terri Willingham. “The size of the home, large yard and community where the home is located all lend itself to our small scale, light-use educational and environmental sustainability focus.”

Tulsiak and Willingham plan to create a space where skills can be learned, honed and advanced; ideas incubated and tested; and an agrarian-self-supporting venture developed, with the home potentially becoming a catalyst for people to refine sustainable businesses.

Specifically, Tulsiak is looking to work with LI4E's Makerspace Project to explore creating “a collaborative, stimulating, encouraging place for people to come to together to learn how to think more clearly, more expansively and more productively,” she says.

Ultimately, both Tulsiak and Willingham see the South Tampa home becoming a “health club for the mind,” featuring a community garden, laboratory for sustainability and entrepreneurial efforts, small-scale workshop for 3D printing and prototyping and classroom space.

“This is a beautiful, useful and collaborative community project. The house is a blank canvas, and the community is the collective artist,” Willingham says. “Makerspaces provide culture-changing opportunity to move from passive consumption to active creation. They're good for individuals and neighborhoods, providing community-enhancing ways to repurpose unused or abandoned spaces, becoming community gathering places by putting capacity building and resource development into the hands of area residents who need it most.”

Willingham hopes this project will kick start a flurry of makerspace projects, empowering local, ordinary people to become extraordinary makers of both their personal futures, as well as the Tampa Bay area's, as a whole.

Apart from the South Tampa project, LI4E has been working with Pasco County libraries to help create makerspaces in their public library system. Keep an eye out for more makerspace projects throughout the Tampa Bay area and get involved by contacting LI4E at info@learningis4everyone.org or (813) 728-2822.

Check out the Tampa Bay Makers Consortium Directory and Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire website to learn more about similar efforts going on in the area.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Terri Willingham, Learning is for Everyone
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