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Blocks of West Tampa experience investments, redevelopment

An abandoned shopping center in West Tampa is experiencing a rebirth as new retailers and a new restaurant make plans to call the neighborhood home. 

Ashley Furniture, Floor & Decor and Ker's Winghouse will all be going into a shopping center formerly anchored by K-Mart at  2915 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

“West Tampa is experiencing a renaissance,” says Dawn Hudson, president of the West Tampa Chamber of Commerce. “It is the perfect location for businesses to locate with easy access to all destinations, roadways and centers of influence around Tampa.”

Ashley Furniture and Floor & Decor are moving into the 60,000-plus square-feet space that K-Mart previously occupied. Ashley furniture, which has showrooms selling furniture for living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms and home offices, will be occupying over 43,000-square-feet of adjacent storefront. Floor & Decor sells a variety of tile, stone, wood and laminate options for floors and walls.

Outside of the stores where Miami Subs once stood, a two-story Ker's Winghouse will be opening.

This 6,000-square-foot location has an unusually large layout compared to other Ker's locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.

The West Tampa area will continue to see more redevelopment as the city of Tampa's community redevelopment plan (CRP) progresses. Initiatives in the plan include improvements to sidewalks and roadways to make the neighborhood more walkable, redeveloping parks and restoring historic sites.

“Our iconic watertower will be illuminated soon,” Hudson says. “The renaissance is happening.”
 

Popular Chicago-based restaurant coming to Brandon

Tampa Bay area visitors and residents will be able to get a taste of Chicago while still soaking up the Florida sun when Portillo’s opens this spring in Brandon.
 
The Chicago-based restaurant chain plans to open its new location in the growing suburb east of Tampa, which is the first site in Florida for the chain.
 
“Tampans have been peppering us for years with requests to come to Florida,” says Nick Scarpino, Director of Marketing for Portillo’s. “There are also a lot of former Chicagoans in the greater Tampa area who are already familiar with our brand. We found a great opportunity just outside of Tampa and we're excited to open our doors soon.”
 
Portillo’s has 39 restaurants, most of which are in the Chicago area. Other locations can be found in Arizona and California.
 
The new restaurant located at the northwest corner of State Road 60 and Lakewood Drive will be 9,000-square-feet. There will be outdoor seating, as well as a 1930’s prohibition theme complete with a 1930’s truck suspended above the dining room.
 
Aside from the unique décor, Scarpino says it is the food that really draws people in.
 
“We are best known for our Chicago-style hot dogs and our Italian beef sandwiches,” he says. “Of course, no meal is complete at Portillo's without our famous chocolate cake, which is made fresh every day inside the restaurant.”
 
Up to 200 jobs will be created as a result of the new restaurant, which is currently taking applications. The grand opening is scheduled for late March or early April.
 
For more information on Portillo’s visit their website

Downtown St. Petersburg residential boom continues

The residential real estate boom in downtown St. Petersburg is going strong as two new buildings get ready to rise along the ever growing skyline.

This month the NRP Group, which built Beacon 430 on Third Avenue, started construction on a nine-story residential building. Situated across the street from the Tampa Bay Times building, the new structure will have an internal parking garage for residents and 200 spots for Tampa Bay Times employees.  

“This will be a luxury residential building with 366 units,” says Kurt Kehoe, VP of the NRP Group, LLC.

Kehoe says the building, which has yet to be named, will have studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The units range from 570 square feet to over 1,550 square feet.

“There is very little property that can be developed in the business district of St. Petersburg, but we wanted to move on this as soon as possible,” he says. There is a lot of interest in downtown with the walkability so it made a lot of sense to move on this property when we did.”

 The building will have a rooftop pool with views facing East toward Tampa Bay, as well as a rooftop fitness area and club room adjacent to the pool.

“We did a secondary pool in the courtyard that will be ground level that will have large sitting areas, a lounge and another club area.”

Construction is expected to be completed in early 2018.

A few blocks away from the NRP project, another building is under construction, which is expected to be completed this year.

AER St. Petersburg is a luxury apartment tower with 18 stories and 358-units. The $85-million project features 600-square-foot studios to 1,500-square-foot three-bedroom units.

Amenities at AER include interactive audio visual and social media venues, fitness center, business center, pool, clubroom with exhibition kitchen, observation deck and on-site parking garage.

New restaurant, new homes help revitalize Sulphur Springs neighborhood in Tampa

A struggling neighborhood in Tampa sees a brighter future with city and private investments, including the opening of a new healthy food restaurant.

“The city of Tampa has undertaken several steps to improve the Sulphur Springs neighborhood,” says Bob McDonaugh, Economic Opportunity Administrator for the city of Tampa. “Sulphur Springs was a neighborhood particularly hard hit during the real estate crisis and had a large number of foreclosures which contributed to blight in the neighborhood. The city of Tampa is determined to assist this neighborhood to get back on its feet.”

Keith and Vanessa Malson also see the potential in the neighborhood, which is why a few months ago they opened the Sulphur Springs Sandwich Shop.

“We love the Sulphur Springs area. Its where we live and we wanted to bring some positive energy to the neighborhood,” Vanessa Malson says. “Currently there are mostly fast-food restaurants here, so we wanted to offer an alternate that is reasonable priced but also offers healthier options.”

The new restaurant features all homemade food, made from scratch daily.  
 
“We don't necessarily believe that food has to be expensive or organic to be good for you, we believe it just needs to be homemade,” she says.

This is the first restaurant the couple has opened. Between the two of them, they have 25 years of restaurant experience. With 800-square-feet of space in their new establishment, the duo serves lunch Monday through Saturday, and also takes carry-out orders.

In an effort to bring more businesses and residents to the Sulphur Springs neighborhood, the city has demolished abandoned homes, focused more attention on enforcement of rules regulating maintenance and upkeep of properties and trimmed back trees that were interfering with the effectiveness of street lights.
 
“As part of the citywide 'Bright Lights Safe Nights' initiative, the city, working with Tampa Electric, added 400 streetlights to the neighborhood,” McDonaugh says. “Studies show that increased illumination in neighborhoods lowers crime rates. In conjunction with efforts by the Tampa police department, Sulphur Springs has experienced a 20 percent reduction in crime.” 
 
McDonaugh goes on to say, that the vacant homes that were demolished by the city are in the process of being replaced by new homes.

“Home ownership tends to stabilize neighborhoods and to date, the city has invested $1.4-million building new homes in Sulphur Springs,'' says McDonaugh. "This will not be a short-term effort, but the city will continue its efforts to assist this historic neighborhood.”

Sarasota's historic DeMarcay to reopen as luxury condo tower

New life is coming to the historic DeMarcay Hotel in downtown Sarasota, which is currently under construction and will reopen as an 18-story luxury condo tower.
 
The 39-unit tower will have many amenities including a rooftop pool, outdoor kitchen, club room and fitness center high above the city on the 18th floor.
 
“No other condominium in downtown has an amenities level at the top of its building,” says Perry Corneau, New Development Manager with Sotheby’s International Realty, which is handling sales for the tower. “The building will also have valet service and an elevator system to bring the residents' cars to the parking levels on the second through sixth floors.”
 
Corneau goes on to say that the façade of the original historic building will be incorporated into the new structure.
 
Unit sizes at DeMarcay at 33 South Palm range from 1,100-square-feet to over 3,000-square-feet and each unit has a balcony with a gas grill. Prices range from $600,000 to over $3.1 million per unit.
 
While construction has yet to start, units have already been sold.
 
“To date 13 of the 39 units have been reserved,” Corneau says. “Total sellout of the 39 units is expected to be in excess of $50 million.”
 
Construction is expected to be completed by spring of 2017.

Downtown Clearwater: development brings residential, restaurants, retail

Walk the streets of downtown Clearwater and you will see cranes in the air, traffic cones lining the streets and the feeling that a lot of change is coming to the neighborhood.
 
“The city and the community redevelopment agency’s (CRA) redevelopment strategy emphasizes the creation of a significant residential concentration in and around the downtown core to create and support a retail and recreation destination environment,” says Geraldine Lopez, Director of Economic Development and Housing for the city of Clearwater.
 
According to Lopez, there are currently two residential projects in the works. The Nolen, a $34 million mixed-use building that includes 257 apartments and approximately 10,000-square-feet of retail space, with construction expected to be completed this fall.
 
The other project is the Skyview. Like the Nolen, it is a mixed-use space, with 40 condos and 10,000-square-feet for shops. Construction on Skyview is expected by the end of the year.
 
In addition to the residential properties, downtown Clearwater is also experiencing a development boom in the way of restaurants.
 
“The downtown area is seeing a cluster of ethnic restaurants that is adding diversity to the food scene,” Lopez says. The restaurants include:
 
La Fondita de Leo
 
This establishment opened in the summer of 2015, and serves authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. Staples like mashed plantains, shredded chicken and corn fritters are offered, along with more savory options like stuffed chicken breast filled with cream cheese and bacon, the traditional mofongo dish and skirt steak. La Fondita de Leo is open for lunch and dinner.
 
Basil Fusion Bistro
 
With its opening at the end of 2015, Basil Fusion Bistro serves popular Vietnamese dishes. Open for breakfast and lunch only. Items on the menu include pho, spring rolls and smoothies.
 
Fuku Japanese Café
 
With its grand opening just before the New Year, Fuku looks forward to delighting customers with its sushi, ramen and yakisoba. The café is the brainchild of sushi chef Pla Sriwaree and his wife Aja Sriwaree, Fuku is a longtime dream of theirs that has come true. Fuku Japanese Café is open for lunch and dinner.
 
Lopez says that the combination of residential and commercial development is part of the overall vision the city has for the downtown area’s future.

“The city is striving for a vibrant, waterfront downtown destination with a mix of retail, restaurants, residential, office and recreational opportunities that attracts residents and visitors alike.”

Historic Clearwater neighborhood petitions city for brick streets

A historic neighborhood in Clearwater may soon take drivers down memory lane as brick streets replace the paved roads. Harbor Oaks neighborhood, located just north of Morton Plant Hospital, is a 110-home community dating back to the early 1900s.

“Harbor Oaks is a very historic neighborhood, however, there is a myth that it once had brick streets,” says Mike Quillen, director of engineering for the city of Clearwater. “The truth is there have never been brick streets there, if the petition passes then the neighborhood will get brick streets for the first time.”

The petition Quillen refers to has been made by residents of the Harbor Oaks neighborhood, which is comprised of multi-million dollar homes, some residents have been waiting years for the brick streets to become a reality for the future.

“Over the last few years, we have been looking into different solutions for traffic calming in that neighborhood and brick is one solution,” Quillen says. “It also looks very nice, which would likely raise the property value on the homes.”

He goes on to say that the timing for this project is advantageous for those who support the cause because there is already an underground infrastructure project underway, so the pavement has to be removed regardless.

“To do the brick streets would be a $1.8 million project as it is, so if the residents want this now would be the time to do it.”

The city will not be footing the bill on the project. The city will be polling the residents affected by the project, and if at least 65-percent are in favor, the brick will be installed with a special assessment put on the homes to cover the cost.  

“We will know what the decision is in the next few weeks,” Quillen says. “If it is approved, work on the brick streets will start a year from now.”

In addition to being an innovative, yet expensive answer to traffic calming, it is also a unique solution.

“We have researched a lot of cities throughout the states and it is very unusual to find a neighborhood that desires brick roads, Quillen says. “These days it is more common to find cities replacing their brick roads with asphalt.”

Roads that could potentially become brick streets include parts of Druid Road West, and Druid Road South, Jasmine Way, Magnolia Drive, Lotus Path, Bay Avenue, and small areas of Orange and Oak Avenues.

USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute begins move to downtown Tampa

Tampa’s downtown revitalization continues to flourish as plans for the new USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute begin to take shape at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive.
 
The decision to place a facility in downtown was out of need and convenience.
 
“The current outdated medical school facilities were designed for a different era of medical teaching when large classroom instruction was the norm instead of today’s emphasis on smaller, active learning classrooms and on team-based, technologically intensive modes of learning,” says Dr. Charles Lockwood, Senior VP of USF Health and Dean of Morsani College of Medicine.  “Moreover, combining the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute into a single facility on the downtown site to be generously donated by Jeff Vinik will provide the university with an important competitive advantage in attracting the best and brightest students, the most talented young faculty and the country’s leading cardiovascular research scientists.”
 
While specifics of the building have yet to be determined, USF has already received an $18 million gift from Carol and Frank Morsani to assist with construction of the complex. Lockwood says it has been that kind of generous financial support from the community that led to the downtown plan.
 
“A series of events aligned, including our need for new facilities, Mr. Vinik’s visionary plan to develop the downtown Tampa waterfront, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford’s championing of the Heart Institute’s funding, and a new spirit of collaboration and cooperation between USF and Tampa General Hospital,” he says. “After careful review of our situation, we seized upon the unparalleled opportunity to make the downtown location a reality. “
 
Last June, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott supported plans for the new facility by including $17 million in the annual state budget.
 
“The move will be critical in placing both the medical school and future heart institute within five minutes of Tampa General Hospital, USF’s primary teaching hospital where our students do most of their clinical rotations and our clinical faculty admit most of their patients,” Lockwood says. “This downtown location is precisely where millennial medical students and young faculty want to be.”

Smart Gigabit Community coming to Pasco County, first in U.S.

A developing neighborhood in Pasco County will have the distinction of being the first planned “Smart Gigabit Community” in the United States to be built from the ground up.

Tampa-based Metro Development Group, which has developed planned communities that utilize the latest innovative technologies across the state of Florida since 2003, will drive planning and development for the new “Connected City Corridor.”

Innovation group US Ignite, which was established in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, designated the area a “Smart Gigabit Community.”

The nonprofit group will work with MDG, which has also developed a partnership with Pasco County, on the project.

Mike Lawson, Director of Land Development for MDG, praised the project for being “the first of its kind in the country.”

Lawson, who is working together with MDG VP of Operations Kartik Goyani to lead the “Connected City” team, “values the opportunity to work with US Ignite” to plan the project.

The “Connected City Corridor” will be located between Wesley Chapel and San Antonio in southeast Pasco County. Preliminary development work for the new community, located in a special planning area bordered by State Road 52, I-75, Curley Road and Overpass Road, began in late 2015.

Areas called Epperson Ranch, Cannon Ranch and Ashley Groves will be built up as residential developments part of the new community.

The Connected City project will be unique from the few other “Smart Gigabit Communities” in the U.S.  because those cities, such as Kansas City and Cleveland, were retrofitted with Gigabit Internet access; the new Florida community will be planned around a fiber network that provides Gigabit Internet access from the start.

“This project gives Metro Development and Pasco County the possibility to create a better future that will accommodate what's next in connectivity,” Lawson says.

Additionally, Lawson says, the Connected City Corridor is expected to “create economic development for the area, with new businesses and residents moving to the area.” 

Based on results in other connected cities, the area is poised to attract businesses, retailers and residents. Along with new services and Gigabit applications, US Ignite will work with MDG and Pasco County officials to make the new community visible to tech-savvy companies who may be looking for a new location.

“Gigabit technology is transforming the business landscape around the country, and this new community will be one of Florida’s top destinations for companies looking for the advantages this connectivity can provide,” Goyani said in a press release.

Hyde Park Village adds more retailers, new restaurant

Retailers and customers continue to flock to Hyde Park Village as the shopping center continues to grow. Three new retailers and an upscale restaurant will soon be calling Hyde Park Village home.  
 
In 2015, Hyde Park Village has become home to eight new retailers and restaurants. Gabby Soriano, who works on the development team for Hyde Park Village explains the draw for incoming establishments.
 
”Our location is very unique in that it’s not only a beautiful place to shop and dine, but we are also surrounded by a gorgeous neighborhood that is very community oriented,” she says. “We also have fantastic conversion rates. Our guests are quality customers that are more likely to shop than browse.”
 
The latest additions include Suit Supply, a Dutch retailer, which sells upscale suits for men (scheduled to open spring 2016), The Shade Store, a home décor company specializing in unique window treatments (scheduled to open spring 2016), Vineyard Vines, a clothing store selling items for men, women and children (scheduled to open summer 2016).
 
The restaurant that will be opening in 2017, Meat Market, will be an upscale contemporary steakhouse. With locations in Miami Beach, San Juan, Puerto Rico and Palm Beach Florida, this is the first location in the Tampa Bay area.  
 
Each of these additions have other locations throughout the U.S. or even around the globe, however, the location in Hyde Park will be each store's first appearance in the Tampa Bay area.
 
“Hyde Park Village has always offered beautiful and charming surroundings, which our guests appreciate and often prefer compared to the atmosphere you get in the mall,” Soriano says.  "Now, we have several local and first-market retailers and restaurants which will really excite and draw a lot of interest from the community.”
 
Soriano goes on to say that while the village does not keep track of how much traffic goes through Hyde Park Village daily, merchants have absolutely noticed an increase since the redevelopment started earlier this year.

Downtown New Port Richey begins anew on Main Street Landing Project

Current and future residents of downtown New Port Richey have a lot to look forward to with the latest development project, Main Street Landing. The project, which began several years ago was put on hold, but has been resurrected due to the improved economy.

“The project was originally a higher-end mixed-use project to support the urban core downtown but then with the collapse of the economy the developer got stuck and couldn’t move forward with it,” says Mario Iezzoni, Economic Development Director with the city of New Port Richey. “Recently, with the economy getting stronger, I got with the city manager and we decided it was time to move forward again with the plans.”

Those plans include three towers covering a city block. Iezzoni says the project calls for 93 residential units that are approximately 2,200-square-feet. The first tower will be a mixed-use building with commercial space on the first floor and 14 residential units above. Towers two and three will be residential only.

“We are already getting inquiries on the commercial space in tower one, which is really great,” Iezzoni says.

Downtown New Port Richey is experiencing quite a bit of redevelopment, in addition to the Main Street Landing project, renovations to the historic Hacienda Hotel and Sims Park are also underway.

As for the future of the Main Street Landing Project, Iezzoni is very optimistic.

“We are not sure whether the units will be condos or apartments, however, the developer we are working with has worked on very successful projects, we figure the development will completed in two to three years,” he says. “Downtown New Port Richey is a great place to live and we can’t wait for more people to discover it.”

Florida homebuilder plans 11 new communities by mid-2016

A Sarasota-based private home building company is finding great success, currently on track to beat an all-time company home sales record, with plans to build more communities in the Tampa Bay area.

Neal Communities, which is owned by Pat Neal, a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance and former state senator and house member, has overseen the growing company through its success.

With eight communities opening around the Tampa Bay area in 2015, and three slated to open in 2016, the future of the company continues to look bright, with several factors playing into this success.

“In the market, there are historically low interest rates and 40-percent of home buyers are paying cash,” says Leisa Weintraub of Neal Communities. “Plus a low unemployment rate equals a strong Southwest Florida market. We have grown our market coverage by building homes from Hillsborough south to Collier County.”

The new communities built in 2015 include: Woodland Trace in Sarasota, River Wind in Bradenton, South Fork in Riverview, Magnolia Point in Sarasota, Indigo in Lakewood Ranch, MiraBay in Apollo Beach, Waterset in Riverview, and Oaks of Estero in Estero.

Weintraub goes on to say that the company's “emphasis on style and architectural details, which are classical and timeless designed around the feel of being in Florida,” is what she attributes to the business’s success.

In 2016, Villa Amalfi and The Provence will open in Sarasota as well at The Ridge at Crossing Creek in Bradenton.

“Our homes are light and bright and reflect the lifestyles of our home buyers.”

For more information on the communities mentioned or other communities around the state built by Neal Communities, visit their website.

SPC receives funding for Bay Pines STEM Learning Center

With funding from the state in the amount of $2.5 million, St. Petersburg College (SPC) is building a new learning center for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math.

Last year, SPC received money to fund the new building from the Florida Legislature Public Education Capital Outlay to complete the college's Bay Pines STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Learning Center in the Madiera Beach area. It is close to both the Bay Pines VA Hospital and Madiera Beach Fundamental School.

The $4.7 million building will serve many purposes for the community.

“The center will have SPC classes, professional development activities for Pinellas County school teachers and others, community group activities, marine and environmental independent research being carried out by SPC students, secondary school students, and students from other colleges around the area,” says John Chapin, Dean of natural sciences at SPC. “It will also be the site for summer camps for various groups underserved in the STEM areas, and a site to partner with other colleges/universities in the area on STEM related projects.”

According to Chapin, SPC's Bay Pines STEM Learning Center will be 10,000-square-feet. It will have two multipurpose lab rooms each holding 24 students, three independent research areas and one large multipurpose room that will seat up to 100 people.

“The lab rooms are very flexible and will support both lab-based and classroom-based activities.”

The building is scheduled to undergo construction in December and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.

Foodie alert: cantina, brewery opening in Safety Harbor

Residents and visitors to downtown Safety Harbor are in for a treat as two new foodie establishments open this month. The downtown area of this small Pinellas County city is known for its quaintness and charm, which is why these new businesses should fit right in.

Coastal Cantina

Aaron Stewart, long-time resident of Safety Harbor and owner of the city’s popular Southern Fresh restaurant, will be opening Coastal Cantina at the end of November. The new restaurant will go where the former Harborita Cantina used to be.

“The cantina is about 2,500-square-feet, with a bar inside and outside,” he says. “The food will be Florida coastal with Latin fusion. We will also have flagship drinks from various countries on the menu and will be doing a lot of fun things with mixology. I think people will really enjoy it.”

Stewart, a graduate of Countryside High School, says unlike other chefs he chose to learn first-hand from chefs he worked under in the restaurant business as opposed to going to culinary school.

With the huge success of Southern Fresh, an old-Florida home turned kitchen serving southern favorites to a packed house for three years now, it seems he made the right choice.

Coastal Cantina will be located at 519 2nd Street South in downtown Safety Harbor.

Crooked Thumb Brewery

Off a winding road lined with oak trees off the beaten path of Main Street in downtown Safety Harbor is a large warehouse that used to be an auto body and paint shop, but will soon be home to Crooked Thumb Brewery.

The 6,000-square-foot space will house a 15 barrel brew system, tasting room, bar and garden.

Why the name? It is because the brewery is located in Pinellas County, which has been said to hang off the west coast of Florida like a crooked thumb.

The brewery will serve only beer, wine and cider; however, patrons are encouraged to order from local restaurants.

The grand opening has yet to be announced, and for now the Crooked Thumb is open on weekends only with limited hours.  For more information visit the brewery’s website.

Crooked Thumb Brewery is located at 555 10th Avenue South in Safety Harbor.

St. Pete College invests in St. Peterburg's midtown

The future looks brighter for the mid-town area of downtown St. Petersburg with the purchase of two large buildings by St. Petersburg College (SPC). The $1.2 million investment has been years in the making, and aims to help reinvigorate the struggling neighborhood by providing scholarships and economic opportunity to public housing residents.

“The purchases will help stabilize the neighborhood,” says Bill Law, President of SPC since 2010.

Law intends to turn both structures into community resources for the area, which is seeing a rebirth of economic activity. One of the buildings, currently known as the Cecil B. Keene Center for Achievement, is a 10,556-square-foot structure located at 22nd Street South; the other an 11,136-square-foot gymnasium at 1201 22nd Street South. Both were previously owned by the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.

As for plans for the future of the two buildings, that is still to be decided.

“People in mid-town have been waiting to get this done, so we can take the next steps,” says Law. “SPC will revisit the community dialogues it's been having with the midtown community. Our goal is to present our Board of Trustees with new ideas on next steps to support the community within the next 60 to 90 days.”

As part of the agreement to purchase the buildings from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority, SPC agreed to provide five students from public housing with $1,000 scholarships each per year for 30 years to enroll at SPC. The college also agreed to provide 10 $250 textbook scholarships per year for 30 years and five surplus computers per year for 30 years to public housing residents enrolled at SPC.
337 Neighborhoods Articles | Page: | Show All
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