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Luxury high-rise under construction in downtown St. Pete

Construction has begun on the $80 million Icon Central mixed-used development in downtown St. Petersburg, which will include an upscale 368-unit high-rise apartment complex and upgrade of the 1926 Union Trust Bank building.

Its 15-story luxury apartment complex at 801 Central Ave. will literally stand out amid the area’s existing mid-rises – inside and outside. It will feature amenities such as an outdoor movie lawn, a club lounge with game simulator room, and indoor Zen garden.

“We studied the market and we’ve included these top tier amenities that will appeal to both the baby boomers and the millennials," says Jessica Suarez, VP of development for the Miami-based Related Group, the project developer.

It will incorporate the arts through rotating art exhibits, local artist displays, an art and wine tasting room, plus art in the courtyard surrounding the pool, she adds.

“We’ve taken it to another level,” Suarez says. “The art element in St. Pete is significant.”

A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony, scheduled at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10, is expected to draw local officials and team members. 

Work began in December. “We’ve cleared the site and we’re doing foundations,” she says.

The project is the latest in The Related Group’s Icon brand, known for luxury highrise rentals. It includes Icon Harbor Island apartments in Tampa, plus Icon projects in Fort Lauderdale and Atlanta.

Icon Central will include studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units with monthly rents expected to range from $1600 to $4000; some on the top floors will have water views. Leasing is anticipated in mid-2019.

The high-rise, being built in a contemporary federal architecture style, also will include a spa with steam and sauna, a pool courtyard with a European-style heated pool, and a summer grilling kitchen.

The intimate, outdoor movie lawn will have a large screen on the side of the building, which can be used for movies or projections during outdoor classes.

Related seeks to create a community around activities for its residents. “That [Icon Central] is a community for us. We’re constantly involving them,” she says. “It’s different. You don’t see anything like that in St. Pete.”

The residential complex will be connected to the bank building with a multi-use building with retail, residential and parking space. The first two levels will be primarily cast stone, with tan stucco above. The bank is being renovated with stonework, cornices and other features reflecting the historical era.

What we envision there is more of a high-end -- boutique stores with lounge and meeting space, or a food hall,” she says.

The interior of the bank, as well as an 1980s addition, have been demolished. “As construction progresses, we will start marketing the retail,” she explains.

The retail space is expected to be completed around mid-2019.

What attracted the developer to St. Petersburg was the continued growth and development, similar to more successful areas in the Miami area that have been revitalized, she says.

Icon Central has been in the works for three years.

The Related Group is active in the Tampa market, where move-ins have begun at Icon Harbor Island, a 340-unit luxury development. Construction is continuing at River Manorwalk, an eight story, 400-unit complex being built on the site of the former Tampa Tribune downtown, with leasing and move-ins planned in mid-2019.

Related also is developing the 396-unit Town Westshore rental community and partnering with Tampa Housing Authority in its West River redevelopment involving 150 acres on the west bank of the Hillsborough River on the edges of downtown.


Market to anchor Downtown Clearwater Gateway revitalization

As plans to revitalize Clearwater’s waterfront and downtown move forward, focus has also turned toward the city’s Downtown Gateway.

In September, the Clearwater City Council approved conceptual plans for Mercado, a public market that will be developed on a triangular swath of land where Cleveland Street meets Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The plaza will include space where small businesses and other vendors can take root and an open area for community events, says Chuck Lane, Assistant Director, Economic Development & Housing.

“It’s going to be a space where people can interact with each other,” he says. This ranges from serving as a venue for farmer’s markets, art fairs and other public events to a space where individuals “can just sit down and read a newspaper.”

Mercado will also cater to the largely Hispanic population of the neighborhood, Lane adds. Around one-third of those living in the area are foreign born, “largely Hispanic,” he says. “Mercado is intended to embrace these individuals and be a space where people can feel comfortable in that environment.”

Gabe Parra, community redevelopment manager, says the conversation surrounding this project and property is seven-years in the making.

“We want to create a gathering space where the neighborhood can convene and feel like they belong,” he says.

The project will also build off a streetscape project designed to enhance Cleveland Street between Missouri Avenue and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. These improvements will transform Cleveland Street into a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly thoroughfare as development and interest in downtown Clearwater grows.

Over the past year, the city has worked with the Project for Public Spaces to determine the best look for Mercado, Lane says. The company, which led a feasibility study on the project, created a conceptual rendering of what the plaza might look like.

In “a good faith” move, AIT Consulting, the company behind the streetscape project, took these designs a step further, he adds. The company saw the need for improvements in the Downtown Gateway and added elements to the PPS design, including structures built utilizing storage containers. AIT has not been hired by the city for the project, Lane says.

Lane is working with “key players” in the area, including a number of local businesses, to create the final design for Mercado. He expects these conversations will match much of what was said in the initial public hearings.

The streetscape project will begin by March, he says. After that, construction can move forward on Mercado and he anticipates that this time next year, the community can expect to see the first events organized in the area.

From blank to swank: Gin Joint opens in Downtown Tampa

Perhaps the most exciting changes to our urban fabric come in the form of newly-established uses in brand new spaces, a.k.a. placemaking. Rather than swapping one bar for another in a given strip, it’s actual growth in our range of options -- for eating, drinking and entertaining each other. 

In Tampa, good examples of placemaking include Ulele, Fresh Kitchen and Le Meridien Hotel, among many others. All are now counted as focal points for our daily lives, in spots where there was minimal activity before.

CW’s Gin Joint joins that exclusive list by opening in the ground floor of The Franklin Exchange Building (633 North Franklin Street) in Downtown Tampa. Already it’s hopping, thanks to a retro/chic interior overhaul, significant list of craft cocktails, and impressive French-inspired menu, including an early favorite: portobello mushroom fries. 

Live piano performances 

“CW” is Carolyn Wilson, owner of The Wilson Company, a property management and development firm with 30 years of history in the region, including headline projects like The New York Yankees’ Legends Field.

And while contracts like managing the USF CAMLS building keep the business running, Wilson has bigger ideas for how to improve the urban landscape of Tampa, like turning The Vault into more than just a historic bank building.

As owner of most of the 600 block of Franklin Street, including The Vault, she is in the rare position to make decisions like curating events that attract activity, even if they’re not wildly profitable.

Every month, Second Screen Cult Cinema hosts its pop-up film series in The Vault, thanks in part to a sponsorship by The Wilson Company. For example, it was standing room only for a recent showing of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998).

Every Halloween season, The Vault of Souls opens to guests with the promise of “an elegant evening of fear,” though all bookings are finished for 2017.

CW’s Gin Joint is just the latest effort to enhance a sense of place (activity, life, engagement) where five or 10 years ago, little went on past 5 o’clock in downtown.

The quality and attention to detail inside is striking, and the drinks are delicious. After a movie at The Tampa Theatre or concert in Curtis Hixon Park, stop by for a classy cocktail and tip your hat to CW and her team for bringing something so charming and authentic to Downtown Tampa.

Sea Drift Ales & Lagers joins local brew scene

Five years after opening Largo’s Barley Mow Brewing Company, founders Jay and Colleen Dingman have launched a new beer brand -- Sea Drift Ales & Lagers.

“We are looking at a fresh start on the distribution end of things,” Jay Dingman says.

While Barley Mow and the company’s restaurant, The Raven, which also features a brewery, will continue to exist, Sea Drift is “basically a complete rebrand,” he adds.

The intention of Sea Drift is to distribute to a bigger market, he says. Though Barley Mow beers have been well-received, “the darker theme didn’t always translate well in the market.”

Sea Drift embodies the “Florida nautical lifestyle,” Dingman says. “They’re more water focused, beachy, and kind of light.” Initially it will offer three beers: Sea Drift Pills, All Hands IPA and Dark Harbor Mocha Stout.

“It’s much lower alcohol content, more approachable stuff than we’ve done in the past,” he says.

Dingman says they consider Sea Drift “kind of a do-over.” 

Barley Mow beers sold well throughout the county, but “the further away from home, the harder it is to sell beer.” He hopes Sea Drift will have a greater draw throughout Pinellas County, and eventually, beyond.

Since before Sea Drift Ales & Lagers launched, the companies have ceased brewing Barley Mow beers for distribution. But Barley Mow can still be purchased on draft at The Raven and the brewery in Largo. Because a developer bought that property last year, however, the brewery will be moving from its current location in April 2018, Dingman says. That’s when Barley Mow’s lease ends with no possibility for renewal.

Though, he’s uncertain where Barley Mow might go, the lease ending is a blessing in disguise. “We outgrew that property on West Bay three years ago,” he says. “A lot of people are worried that we might close. But that’s not the case. We’re definitely going to go somewhere else. Where we’re going? We don’t know.”

In the meantime, the focus is on Sea Drift. Dingman says the company will open a tasting room for its newest beers at its Largo production facility by the fourth quarter of this year.

“This is a new chapter for us,” he says. “It’s definitely been an adventure the last couple of years.”

World Market’s first Tampa Bay Area store opens in Clearwater

Cost Plus World Market is welcoming shoppers to its newest store at U.S. 19  and Sunset Point Road in Clearwater. 

The 10,000-square-feet shop took over the space of a former Publix supermarket in Sunset Point 19 plaza and features a variety of eclectic housewares, furniture, home décor and food from around the globe.

This is the chain’s first store in the Tampa Bay area. The company currently plans to open a second location in Wesley Chapel, says Kathy Sweet, store supervisor. It’s also one of the first new big box retailers to enter the Tampa market since the 2008 recession, she adds.

Currently, the Cost Plus World Market chain operates around 350 stores throughout the country, 12 of them in Florida, Sweet says. The flagship store is located in San Francisco, CA.

The Clearwater store held its grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony with local officials and Clearwater Chamber of Commerce members on August 3. Sweet says they were “slammed” those first few days, as well as the following weekend, when the store welcomed Nicole Curtis, blogger, author and host of HGTV’s Rehab Addict

“It was super busy. There were hundreds of people in line to see her. When I came in at 12:30 the line went all the way down to CVS,” Sweet says. “[Curtis] uses a lot of our items in her home design blog and on her show. So she’s a real World Market advocate.”

City Manager Michael Delk says the store “is a nice addition to the plaza.” 

He adds, “They’re a really good tenant. They’re new to the market and have a certain cache.”

Other tenants in the plaza include Barnes & Noble, Old Navy and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Sweet says a Hobby Lobby is moving into the shopping center down the road, as well as a Spirit Halloween shop this fall.
This bodes well for the plaza, which has seen tenants leave and a drop in shoppers in recent years, Delk says.

“If Hobby Lobby is coming in, that’s a really nice mix,” he says. “I’d consider that a shopping center landing on its feet. Those are Class A tenants.”

Sweet adds, “We’re getting a lot of thank yous from our neighbors for bringing in business.”

Inkwood Books gets ready to move to Tampa Heights, Tampa

Thanks to its new neighbor, Tampa Heights’ storied history just added another chapter -- endless chapters, actually. Inkwood Books, Tampa’s only independent book store for new books, is moving in to 1809 N. Tampa Street after more than 20 years at the corner of Armenia and Platt. It will be across the street from the Hall on Franklin, a restaurant collective set to open soon.

“We have loved our home, and we have gotten a lot of love here from the community,” says owner Stefani Beddingfield, who bought Inkwood in 2013. “But I think we are moving to a place where there is a passion for local things, where the love of local seems to be a little more viable and important to the people.”

Inkwood isn’t moving its inventory until January but will be holding events at the new site starting as early as September, when the store hosts author Leigh Bardugo, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Six Crows, Crooked Kingdom and the Grisha Trilogy. 

With a bigger, more open space and a location in the heart of reinvigorated urban area, Inkwood is hoping to attract many more intriguing authors to Tampa, building the city’s literary reputation in the publishing world as a sought-after destination. Lindsay Pingel, the store’s recently designated Events Coordinator, will be in charge of enhancing Inkwood’s national standing, but won’t be ignoring the surrounding area, working to foster relationships within the city limits as well as outside of them.

“Lindsey wants to reach out to the community to establish better connections here, locally, taking authors into the schools for example,” Beddingfield says. 

As the store makes its physical transition, Inkwood will be revamping its online presence too, offering a new website and outputting its newsletter on Tuesdays and Fridays in a modified format. In fact, the store just released its first edition under Shelf Awareness with the title: “Change is good, Inkreaders.”

What's next for downtown Clearwater? Craft breweries, winery, beer fest

As the City of Clearwater anticipates a waterfront revival thanks to the recent City Council approval of the Imagine Clearwater redevelopment project, Jay Polglaze, executive director of the Clearwater Downtown Partnership and former city councilor, says the downtown area could get an additional boost from an unexpected source: local craft brewers.

Over the past 15 years, the Tampa Bay Area has enjoyed the economic benefits of “the microbrewery craze,” he says. This movement has largely bypassed Clearwater, however, because of laws on the books that prohibited the manufacture and distribution of craft beer downtown. These laws were finally modified last year, when Polglaze was still on council, to pave the way for breweries to operate downtown.

Though he lost his re-election bid in March 2016, he immediately began working for the Clearwater Downtown Partnership, where he focuses on the economic vibrancy of the city’s downtown area. One of the major missing components that would help create a thriving downtown is craft beer, he says.

“My best advisors are my 27-year-old son and my 24-year-old daughter,” Polglaze says. “When I ask them what’s missing, they’re pretty specific: 'craft beer'.”

He recently attended an “inspiring” presentation on “craft urbanism” that featured Tampa Bay-area brewers, including Joey Redner, founder of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, and Mike Harding, founder of 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg.

“You can get this urban core reignited by creating this community of microbreweries,” Polglaze says.

He adds, “It works. Look at Dunedin, St. Petersburg, Tampa, all across the country. It’s a huge movement right now.”

This is why the Clearwater Downtown Partnership has partnered with the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency to launch the first annual Downtown Clearwater Craft Beer and Music Fest Saturday, May 20, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Cleveland Street between Fort Harrison and East Avenues.

The free event will feature more than 50 brewers from throughout the state, including 3 Daughters, Cigar City, Cycle Brewing, Big Storm Brewing Co., Hidden Springs Aleworks, MIA Brewing Company, and House of Beer Brewing, which is one of the co-producers of the event.

Eight musical acts will perform on two stages throughout the day. There will also be a variety of arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, and an activity area for children.

Polglaze says he expects the event to draw between 8,000 and 10,000 people. He also hopes that it will show visiting brewers the potential of downtown Clearwater. The city is actively “courting” local brewers, including the Dunedin-based House of Beer.
 
“We’re really close to being able to announce our first couple of breweries,” he says. He anticipates having contracts signed with local brewers and also a local winery by the end of June.

Looking north, Dunedin already has nine breweries within city limits, he says. “So the next logical expansion is Clearwater.”
He hopes to have an anchor brewery open on Cleveland Street with other brewers setting up shop on side streets.

The impending downtown renaissance, especially if it features local brewers, will build on what is already a popular tourist destination, he adds.

Polglaze says, “We want to create a great companion downtown to America’s number one beach. There’s a lot of great things going on in Clearwater. We’re getting a lot of movement right now. I really believe the beverage and food industry will be the spark plug that gets this thing going.”

ULI Summit slated for end of May in Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


First retail shops coming to ENCORE! in downtown Tampa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New studio space coming to St. Pete Warehouse Arts District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grab your food and stay to play concept coming to Seminole Heights, Tampa

Shuffleboard, a game that traces its lineage to 15th century England, was once associated mostly with aged retirees pushing oversized hockey pucks on harshly lit courts in Pinellas County.

Bocce ball conjures up its own images, thanks to movies like “Moonstruck,” in which middle-aged and older men of Italian descent roll a hard ball down an alley somewhere in Brooklyn or Queens.

These two casual sports, though centuries-old, are enjoying a revival of sorts, so much so that three Tampa entrepreneurs think they can cash in on their appeal at a new walk-up food and beer stand in Southeast Seminole Heights.

Ferrell Alvarez, Ty Rodriguez and Chon Nguyen plan to revamp the old Nebraska Mini-Mart, a former drive-through, quick-service store on Nebraska Avenue, just north of Osborne Avenue. Alvarez said the restaurant will feature fast, casual food along with craft beers and wine.

“The concept is fast-casual food where you walk up to get the food,” says Alvarez, who is partners with Rodriguez at the Rooster & the Till restaurant down the road.

“It will be the same quality as Rooster & the Till: sourced locally, doing everything fresh,” Alvarez says. “It will be global street food with emphasis on a great beer and wine selection.”

But the partners want customers to grab their food and stay. That’s where the shuffleboard and bocce ball come in.

Alvarez envisions leagues playing tournaments on nights and weekends. The 1.5-acre property will also have room for covered dining and a dog park. Special events like a July 4 pig roast will give consumers more reason to hang out. 

“It’s going to be a multiuse beer garden on steroids,” he says.

The owners are keeping the old Mini-Mart name because of its connection to the history of the surrounding neighborhood. The building will retain its mid-century architecture but with a steel roll-down door facing south. The west wall will be covered with reclaimed wood.

Alvarez says he had his eye on the corner for some time as a great spot for casual, walk-up fare. He had a loose design in mind that he firmed up with help from Junto Design Studio.

“They took our vision and ran with it and made it much better than I envisioned,” he says.

Other local businesses involved in the project include the Pep Rally Inc. creative studio and Trimar Construction.

The partners got the necessary zoning approval from Tampa City Council in December. They are now working with the city on permitting. Residents of the closely-knit neighborhood are eagerly anticipating the opening.

“What an improvement for this blighted area!” wrote Stan Lasater, President of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association, in a neighborhood blog posting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel expects brisk development efforts on the Westshore Marina District.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A peak inside: Safety Harbor Art & Music Center opens in northern Pinellas County

The Safety Harbor home of artists Todd Ramquist and Kiaralinda is hard to miss.

Some know the brightly painted and tiled cottage surrounded by yard sculptures as Whimzeyland. Others affectionately refer to it as “the bowling ball house” because of the rows of decorated bowling balls that adorn the home’s yard. For many, it’s a local landmark, and listed on numerous “roadside attraction” websites.

The couple also used their home to bring the arts to their community in other ways, hosting house concerts and local artists. As this grew, Kiaralinda realized they’d eventually need a bigger venue. “When you have 170 people in your gazebo and in your front yard listening to music, it’s kind of time to move it somewhere else,” she says.

Now, after five years of planning, raising funds and construction, their new venue, the Safety Harbor Art & Music Center (SHAM), has opened in the city’s downtown, at 706 Second St. N. The artistic hub for northern Pinellas County opened its doors over Thanksgiving weekend with a three-day celebration, SHAMsgiving. They followed this up with a 12 Days of Christmas holiday event. 

“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” Kiaralinda says. The new venue is a larger-scale version of their home. “There’s art everywhere.”

SHAMc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, became a possibility for the couple when they won a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant in 2011. Since the initial Pepsi grant, the project has been funded by a mix of donations, fundraisers and grants from the city. The plan was to create a center dedicated to all facets of the arts -- visual arts, music, literature, performing arts -- which is exactly what the venue is, Kiaralinda says. “We’re filling the calendar faster than we ever imagined we would, ever since we opened the doors,” she adds. 

Laura Kepner, founder of the Safety Harbor Writers & Poets, which now hosts its monthly open mics at SHAMc, says the local arts scene wouldn’t be what it is without Kiaralinda and Ramquist. 

“They support me with the open mic,” she says. “The really cool thing about [them] is if you want to do something with your art, whatever your art is, they’re probably going to cheer you on and say, how can we work together?”

The SHAM project transformed the Rigsby House, “a woodsy building” on the property when they purchased it, Kiaralinda says. “The old house was saved and resurrected. We did what we could to keep that alive.”

The original home is now called the ARTery, a space for workshops and to showcase local artwork. They also built a new two-story building called the ODDitorium, where the larger performances and events will take place.

Now, the folks behind SHAMc are planning their annual Safety Harbor SongFest, which is set for April 1 at Waterfront Park. The two-day music festival, which will feature artists including Magic Giant, Rising Appalachia, Charlie Mars and Joe Craven this year, will serve as a fundraiser for the new arts center.

Kiaralinda says SHAMc has a deep volunteer base of about 300 or so. “It’s been a really, really good ride, and we’ve had a lot of support,” she says, despite delays in funding and construction.

Though she and Ramquist have long been a staple of the Safety Harbor arts scene, she’s amazed by the response she’s received since SHAMc opened. “It’s crazy how many people walk through here and want to do things,” she says.

UNION72 opens in Wesley Chapel, plans second location a month later

Just four weeks after opening their barbecue restaurant, UNION72 in Wesley Chapel, owners Jeff Martin and Bharat Chhabria are already planning their second location.
 
"We are fortunate and blessed in that our business is already exceeding our expectations," Chhabria says. "We thank our loyal customers for that. We've had customers travel up to see us from as far south as Sarasota, so the thought of a second location came up rather quickly."
 
Martin, who also founded The Brass Tap, and Chhabria, a fellow restauranteur, opened UNION72 in mid-November at The Shops at Wiregrass in a 2,000-square-foot space located at 2000 Piazza Avenue, Suite 150. It's between Cantina Laredo and The Brass Tap.
 
The idea behind the restaurant is to create "an elevated barbecue experience," combining traditional barbecue techniques with modern culinary innovations. The menu emphasizes unique ingredients and fusions.
 
"The response has been extremely encouraging, and we have been very well received," Chhabria says. "A quick look at our Facebook reviews and Yelp reviews will show that 5-star reviews are the most common. Great feedback on both the food quality and service levels. Couldn't ask for more."
 
Yelp reviewer Sarah D., for example, says customers who try the restaurant won't be disappointed.
 
"If there is one thing that is hard to find in Tampa, it's great barbecue," she writes. "This new spot in wiregrass mall is just what the area needed. I love their long table with the site of their open kitchen. I think it's always great to see the staff of restaurants interact in the kitchen. While there we ordered the chopped brisket and pork and it was delish!!"
 
Prior to opening, Chhabria says the owners used social media -- Facebook and Instagram  -- to spread awareness of the restaurant. Now, word of mouth seems to be the strongest marketing tool.
 
"We've even spoken to customers at dinner that said they are here because their friends came in earlier in the day for lunch and loved the place. The same day," Chhabria says.
 
Although Chhabria says the pair can't disclose the exact locations they're looking at for their second restaurant because of ongoing negotiations, he explains that they've narrowed their sites to a couple of places in the greater Tampa Bay area.
 
" … we can say that these locations are based in strong communities like Wesley Chapel, which will allow us to participate as a local neighbor," he says, adding they'd like to be up and running with the second restaurant in 4-6 months and that it will be similar to the first location.
 
"We have something here that works, and our customers love it," he says. "We would like to keep our operating model the same -- high quality but different/innovative barbecue with superlative standards of service. We may learn a couple of things in the next few months that we can incorporate in the next location, but largely speaking, why fix something that's not broken?"
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