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TECO to launch two new solar energy projects

Tampa Electric is preparing to launch two new solar projects in September, beginning with Balm Solar in Hillsborough County and Payne Creek Solar in Polk County.  

Once online, the 548-acre Balm Solar farm will have the capacity to generate 74.4 megawatts of electricity for some 12,000 homes.

Payne Creek Solar will generate 70.3 megawatts of electricity on 500 acres of land reclaimed from phosphate mining.

“We are excited to see these first two solar projects come online in September,” says Mark Ward, director of renewables for Tampa Electric. “They, along with the eight other solar projects we’re constructing over the next few years, will help minimize fuel costs for our customers.”

TECO invested $110 million in the Balm Solar project. By 2021, the utility plans to put a total of $850 million into solar energy projects, including 10 solar plants generating enough electricity to power over 100,000 homes in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk counties. 

The panels installed at the TECO farms are designed to track the sun through the sky throughout the day, generating maximum energy.

Although the solar projects are intended to prevent future utility rate hikes, the recent projects will come at an added cost to consumers of $1.85 to offset TECO’s construct costs, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The rate increase will take effect September through December 2018. Through the end of 2018, TECO expects its customers will save $3.3 million in fuels costs thanks to the utility’s increase in solar.

The utility faced criticism in March for a solar proposal farm proposal in Pasco County, according to the Times, as residents were worried that the project would detract from the area’s rural landscape. Ward said that the new projects have received community support.

“Balm Solar will be a good neighbor,” he says. “Solar projects produce no noise, no emissions and do not increase traffic.”

Tampa Bay Area transit forum highlights regional vision

Talk about transit is everywhere in the Tampa Bay Area, more so today than ever before. But how will all this talk result in a buildable transit plan for the region? This question will be discussed at length at the Tampa Bay Transit Forum scheduled for Friday, July 20, from 1-4 p.m. at the Tampa Airport Marriott.
 
The event, moderated by business columnist Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times, will feature discussion from local transit leaders and elected officials, including State Sen. Bill Galvano, along with a presentation by Marilee Utter of Denver-based Citiventure Associates, who will talk about best practices for transit-oriented development and how we can realize such development in the Tampa Bay area.
 
The summit, hosted by the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA), includes the following presentations and discussions:
 
  • “A Vision for the Tampa Bay Region” from State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.
  • “An Eye to the Future: Local Plans, Community Vision” with Florida Department of Transportation District 7 Secretary David Gwynn, Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman, Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch, and Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano.
  • “Where We Are Right Now: Plans in the Works.” Learn about how current transit efforts intersect, and listen to community leaders and transit users as they share personal stories on how transit impacts their lives. Among the panelists: Barry Shevlin, CEO of Vology; Gloria Lepik-Corrigan, a transit user and disability advocate; and Brant Peterson, a Tampa young professional.
  • “Stop and Grow: How Transit Stops Spur Economic Development” with Marilee Utter, a national-level expert on transit-oriented development through her work as President of Denver-based Citiventure Associates and her previous role as Executive Vice President for the Urban Land Institute.
    After the 1-4 p.m. session, attendees can attend an open house from 4-7 p.m., as area transportation officials will be on hand to talk about transit initiatives underway around the region. Also, attendees can take a tour of SkyConnect, Tampa International Airport’s new people mover.
The summit comes as the team developing the Regional Transit Feasibility Plan enters the final months of its public outreach efforts. Team members are asking the public their thoughts on the draft catalyst projects identified as the highest performers during the technical analysis phase. Feedback is currently being sought at a number of neighborhood events around the area, and interested residents can take an online survey.
 
The Forum is free and open to the public, including free parking (park in Tampa International Airport’s Short-Term Parking Garage and bring your parking ticket into the event to be validated). The event is also accessible by bus using PSTA’s Route 300X and HART’s Routes 30, 32, 35, 60LX, and 275LX.
 
Attendees interested in participating in the tour of Tampa International Airport’s new people mover, SkyConnect, and its new Rental Car Center and transit curb, along with a behind-the-scenes look at the new SkyConnect maintenance facility, should sign up ahead of time since space for the tours is limited.
 
For more information about the event and to sign up for the tour, follow this link

Kyle Parks is Principal at B2Communications of St. Petersburg. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Take a boat or ferry to tour historic Anclote Key Lighthouse for one day only in June

One of Tampa Bay’s most beautiful vantage points will be open to the public this month. On June 16, for one day only, visitors to Anclote Key Preserve State Park can climb the spiral staircase of its historic lighthouse and grab some of the most striking views of the Tampa Bay Area.

First built in 1887, the 110-foot Anclote Key Lighthouse remained manned for 65 years but gradually fell into disrepair. The Coast Guard decommissioned the structure in 1984. Vandals tagged its walls. Broken glass and trash scattered the ground. Vegetation reclaimed the grounds for the wild.

A $1.5 million restoration project brought the historic structure back to life in 2003, but five years ago the Florida Department of Environmental Protection closed the property completely due to contaminated soil.

Now, thanks to volunteers from the Friends of Anclote Key State Park and Lighthouse, the lighthouse will be periodically open to the public again. The Friends pitched in to clean up the grounds and, with the help of a $5,000 grant from the Florida Lighthouse Association, erected a fence to keep visitors on the sidewalk. 

On June 16, visitors will have a chance to climb the 127 internal stairs leading up to the top of the lighthouse.  

“It's very narrow spiral staircase,” Tod Cornell, resident park ranger at Anclote Key, tells 83 Degrees. “For that reason we can only allow seven or eight people to climb at a time.” Around 250 people showed up when the lighthouse was opened for a tour in February. “It can take a while and you'll have to be patient,” Cornell says. “But it's definitely worth the climb.”

When we spoke to Cornell, he was on his way to the island by boat. Situated a few miles offshore from Tarpon Springs, the 403-acre Anclote Key Preserve State Park is only accessible by water, so to get there you’ll have to do the same -- either paddling or motoring across the sound. Your best bet is probably to hitch a ride with Odyssey Cruise Lines, who’ll be operating a ferry for the occasion.

Once at the park, there’s a bit of a hike to the lighthouse. 

“It's a pretty good walk up a wooden boardwalk from where you anchor your boat up to the lighthouse,” Cornell says. “A a nice little climb up and down [the lighthouse stairs], and a nice little walk back. Flips flops are not a very good choice.”

There are no provisions on the island so be sure to bring your own water and supplies as well. Sunscreen and bug spray are highly recommended.

If you can’t make it this month, don’t fret. Another tour is scheduled for fall, when, Cornell points out, the heat and mosquitos will be less relentless.

For updates, visit the Friends of Anclote Key State Park and Lighthouse website

Public transit moves toward more on-demand services

Some public transit riders in Hillsborough County will need to find alternative transportation starting Sunday, Oct. 8, when 14 routes are eliminated to save some $6 million annually.

Other Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) bus riders will have better and more frequent service in the route redesign.

“There are winners and there frankly, unfortunately, are losers,” says Steve Feigenbaum, HART’s Director of Service Development. “There are going to be people who aren’t going to be positively affected. We’re trying to keep it to a minimum.”

HART attempts to streamline services making them more efficient, relying upon more innovative on-demand services to replace lower ridership circular routes. Its goals are in line with a survey revealing the public favors more frequent service, even if it takes longer to reach the bus stop.

“We’re trying to do this whole thing, based on the data, where we can get the best bang for our buck,” he explains. “The budget is not adequate to really serve the full needs.”

HART is beefing up transportation to Tampa International Airport, increasing it from one to three routes. It also is increasing the frequency of Route 34 to every 20 minutes on weekdays. Bus frequency also is increasing on Routes 1, 14 and Metro Rapid.

New routes make it easier to commute from Tampa International Airport to Brandon Mall, or from Downtown Tampa to MacDill Air Force Base.

Buses 2,4, 10, 18, 21LX, 22X, 27LX, 28X, 41, 47LX, 53LX, 57, 61LX and 200X are being cut.

HART will be relying on and expanding where possible its Hyperlink services, the country’s first transit-operated rideshare service providing door-to-door service, connecting riders with existing bus lines on demand. HARTPlus will continue to serve the handicapped within three quarters of a mile from the old routes.

The transit authority is in the midst of a massive public awareness campaign to reach riders along all affected routes. Orange bags were being placed at affected stops, notices were being posted in bus shelters, and HARTline personnel were riding the buses to inform riders about alternatives.

In general, public transit riders may want to consider vanpools, carpools, Hyperlink /(in the University, Temple Terrace and/or Brandon areas), HARTFlex, private on-demand services like Uber or Lyft, taxis or private rides to get to a bus route or their destination. Hillsborough County’s Sunshine Line offers door-to-door service and bus passes to elderly, low-income and disabled individuals without transportation, and is especially useful for medical appointments, aging services and food programs.

“A lot of people that have been on express routes have shifted to vanpool,” he says.

Additionally, some shelters will be moved to replace outmoded shelters in other locations.

The route changes can be found at HART’s website under the label Mission MAX, short for Modernizing and Aligning for Excellence. An interactive tool is provided through Google Maps.

On September 25, HART approved its long-range plan which maps out its efforts to improve services in the next decade. It includes expansion of the Hyperlink service to the SouthShore in 2020, to Palmetto Beach in 2021, to Riverview in 2023, to West Park and Big Bend in 2025, in Town ’n County and South Tampa in 2026, and to East Brandon, Citrus Park and Seffner/Mango in 2027.  

“It’s a higher frequency grid in the core area and more of the on-demand type service for lower densities on the perimeter,” Feigenbaum explains.

It combines both funded improvements where monies are expected through property taxes with a sort of wish list of enhancements that may be implemented if funds become available.

Feigenbaum says HART may possibly implement ridesharing services similar to an Uber or Lyft service to help get riders to the existing routes. It may begin with a pilot program that has not yet been developed. He’s hoping it will be available in 2018.

In Pinellas County

A similar program already is under use by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Its Direct Connect program uses Uber, United Taxi and apps to connect riders to its service grid. Handicapped riders can use Wheelchair Transportation Service (WTS).

Modern technology and innovative technology led PSTA to form what was the “first public-private partnership” to get people to the bus stop, PSTA officials say. Other transit systems have since taken a greater interest in emerging technology and alternative services.

Direct Connect began in two zones in 2016, then expanded in January to the current eight zones countywide. Plans call for expanding it further potentially in February of 2018, says PSTA Transit Planner Bonnie Epstein.

“The purpose of the program is to provide convenient first and last mile service to our core and frequent local routes,” explains Heather Sobush, PSTA Planning Manager. 

Another goal is to increase ridership on its 41 routes. “We just don’t have the funding to keep it at the frequency level that we’d like,” Epstein says. “So they run once an hour.”

Direct Connect can transport riders to the core system, where more frequent service is available, cutting transit time. Because of a $5 PSTA subsidy, riders pay no more than $1.

“Right now the county is divided into eight zones. Within your zone you can only travel to and from the Direct Connect in your zone,” Epstein says.

In February, they hope to remove the zones and allow more flexibility. “We expect a lot more growth,” Sobush says.

“We still want to provide that shared ride service,” she says. “We’re looking at ways to also have these innovative projects to be shared ride services as well.”


7 potential routes identified for Tampa's streetcar expansion

After looking to the public for input at a series of open meetings, city officials have determined seven potential routes for addition to the Tampa Historic Streetcar System.

The study has identified the following potential expansions:

  • North/South Franklin – Eight stations along 2.67 miles of new track running north up Franklin Street to Palm Avenue in Tampa Heights, where it circles around Water Works Park and heads back down Franklin.
  • North/South Tampa-Florida Couplet – 2.6 miles of new track with eight stations turning Florida Avenue and Tampa Street into a north-south extension.
  • East/West River-Ybor – 4.66 miles and 13 stations extending west from Ybor City along the north part of downtown, crossing the Cass Street bridge and running north to Blake High School.
  • East/West North Hyde Park-Channel District – 4.93 miles of new track with 13 stations running through the middle of downtown, across the Cass Street Bridge and into Hyde Park.
  • East/West North Hyde Park-Convention Center Couplet – Nine stations along 3.27 miles of new track that brings the streetcar across the Brorein Street Bridge from the convention center to Hyde Park.
  • Loop Downtown-Channel District – 2.46 miles and eight station running north on Franklin Street then east on Zack and Twiggs streets to the Channel District, creating a downtown loop.
  • Loop Downtown-Ybor – 4.12 miles with 12 stations creates a loop going north on Franklin Street then east on Seventh Avenue to Ybor City.

According to a poll of attendees at the May 2 meeting, the most popular routes are North/South Franklin, North/South Tampa-Florida Couplet and Loop Downtown-Ybor.

The planning effort has a budget of $1.6 million and is funded largely by $1 million contribution from the Florida Department of Transportation. The city has dedicated $677,390 to the effort. Lead consultant on the project is HDR Engineering.

Consultants for the city are continuing to figure out costs over the next month and are still interested in public comment. To learn more about the streetcar extension and provide feedback visit the project’s website.


Tampa Bay Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik partners with Dreamit to promote urban tech in Tampa

Tampa could be poised to attract urban technology firms from around the globe as a result of a recent partnership between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and the New York-based startup accelerator Dreamit.

The partnership will take advantage of the ongoing development efforts by Vinik's Strategic Property Partners to attract and incubate companies with technology solutions in the areas of real estate, infrastructure and urban living.

With SPP’s plans to invest $3 billion into the development of nine to 10 million square feet across nearly 55 acres in the next 10 years, the Tampa Bay area has a head start when it comes to becoming an urban tech magnet, Dreamit CEO and Managing Partner Avi Savar says.

 “That natural resource becomes kind of the chum in the water to attract startups from around the world that are investing their time, energy and attention to solving the challenges that are facing cities across the world,” he says.

According to a news release from Dreamit, record growth is occurring across the state and in the Tampa Bay area. Just last year, over 60,000 residents moved to the region -- emphasizing the need for urban technology when creating modern cities.

"As our city develops and prepares for a bright future, I am pleased to partner with Dreamit in this UrbanTech initiative," said Jeff Vinik in a news release. "I am confident we will identify and create avenues of success for startups dedicated to building and enriching cities."

As a business accelerator, Dreamit looks for companies with ideas that have already begun to be proven and are ready to progress beyond the startup phase. For its Tampa endeavor, Dreamit will be searching for businesses offering “anything that will help accelerate and innovate the city tomorrow,” Savar says.

The partnership with Vinik in Tampa creates a rare opportunity to build a totally new city with an emphasis on the latest technology in urban development.

“There are very few places in the world where you get to come in on the ground floor and help build a city,” Savar says.


Tampa Downtowner shows success in first 6 months

After celebrating the first six months of a partnership with Downtowner in April, the Tampa Downtown Partnership is confident in the ride service’s continued success.

“It has certainly met and exceeded what our performance expectations were,” says TDP spokeswoman Kelsy Van Camp. “Getting it started we knew it was going to fill a need, but we didn’t know quite how large that need was.”

The free ride service was launched toward the end of 2016 with the goal of enhancing first-mile/last-mile transportation for residents, workers and tourists in the downtown area. TDP entered into a two-year agreement with Downtowner to bring the idea to market and show off its potential in hopes of prompting further investment down the line.

According to TDP, by mid-April the Downtowner had served 86,146 passengers with 101,192 miles logged. The vehicles in Downtowner’s fleet are also 100 percent electric, meaning that the thousands of miles driven equates to 41 tons of carbon dioxide kept out of Tampa’s air.  

Van Camp says the two most popular pick-up and drop-off locations are the University of Tampa and the Marion Transit Center. The activity at UT goes to show that college-aged individuals are quick to take advantage of the convenience of these types of “on-demand” services,” she says.

Aside from TDP, key partners in the public-private funding of the service include Downtown Community Redevelopment Area, Channel District Community Redevelopment Area and the Florida Department of Transportation.

With the initial success witnessed in the first six months of service, Van Camp says she is confident the Downtowner will be able to attract additional funding in the future and continue to help meet first-mile/last-mile transportation needs.

“We’re hoping we can potentially expand the fleet first and then start looking to grow the service area,” she says.

For more information or to learn how to request a ride, visit Downtowner online.


Cross-Bay Ferry initial run exceeds expectations, likely to return in fall

As a sixth-month test period comes to a close, the Cross-Bay Ferry is scheduled to stop making runs on April 30.

But action taken by the Hillsborough County Commission indicates it will likely be back.

The commissioners directed county staff to find funds in the 2018 budget that could be invested in a seasonal ferry linking the downtowns of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Last year, Hillsborough allocated $350,000 to the pilot program, along with Pinellas County, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman says the county received somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 back on its initial investment and the ferry project is headed in the right direction.

“We’re knee deep in transportation issues right now and we’ve build a great case for a successful project,” she says.

Proponents of the ferry say it performed beyond expectations during the trial run, proving itself as a viable transportation option.

“It’s had good revenues, strong ridership and very strong corporate sponsorship,” says Ed Turanchik, project adviser.
According to Turanchik, ridership for April is on track to reach 10,000 people. In total, more than 36,000 passengers have boarded the ferry for a trip across the bay.

The 149-seat catamaran runs from downtown St. Pete’s waterfront to downtown Tampa near the convention center seven days a week with the heaviest ridership on weekends. The pilot program served as a demonstration of the non-commuter market, which accounts for the majority of travel.

“This really shows us there’s a strong market for non-work-based transit,” Turanchik says.

Now that it has some momentum, Turanchick is looking at the next phase for the ferry.

“Now it’s not a question of a pilot,” he says. “It’s using seasonal service to transition into permanent service and build the market.”

With public-private partnerships to fund the initial investment and operating costs of the new transportation system in the works, big things are possible ferries in the future of Tampa Bay. Champions include Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“I can readily envision there being a dozen to 16 ferries operating in the bay area when all these things finally are deployed,” Turanchik says. “There’s a market for this and it’s only going to grow.”

Beyond sustainability: Tiny homes, electric cars and more at HCC expo

As sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyles become increasingly popular, new, creative and sometimes tiny trends are taking hold.

Tiny houses, along with other unconventional domiciles, are the theme at this year’s Beyond Sustainability Expo sponsored by Hillsborough Community College’s Sustainability Council.

At the expo, attendees can check out tiny houses, buses converted into homes and gypsy wagons while learning how downsizing their living space can have a positive impact on quality of life, communities and the environment.

HCC spokeswoman Angela Walters says the trend has really emerged nationally in the last couple of years with popular TV shows about “alternative living structures” and “living tiny.” Recently, the idea has started to catch on in the Tampa Bay area and offers several unique benefits.

“As opposed to acquiring tangible things and materials, if you scale down you’re experiencing life and you’re creating more experiences,” says Walters.

Tiny homes are usually mobile, giving owners the opportunity to travel and experience multiple communities. They also may help heighten environmental awareness.

“If you have a tiny structure, you’re being more cognizant of the waste you produce,” says Walters. “You’re not buying as many material things because you don’t have as much space to store them.”

The United Tiny House Association will join HCC at the event to display tiny houses and help demonstrate the perks of downsizing. Electric cars, a maggot composting system, interactive exhibits, panel discussions and more will also be featured.

To the students at HCC, the environmental awareness promoted by the Beyond Sustainability Expo is an important part of protecting their future.

“We see directly that this is something they are passionate about and that they adamantly want these activities within the college,” says Walters.

The expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 8 at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus near Raymond James Stadium. There is no charge for attendance but donations will be accepted.

For more information visit HCC’s website.

If you attend:

What: Hillsborough Community College’s 2017 Beyond Sustainability Expo - Sustainable Lifestyles: Living Tiny and Leaving a Tiny Footprint 
When: April 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa, Florida 33614

Coast Bike Share rolls out 20 new hubs with 200 rentable bicycles in downtown St. Pete

Hopping on two wheels for bike ride through the 'burg just became easier than ever: Coast Bike Share celebrated its official launch in St. Pete on Feb. 4 with a community ride, led by Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, through the downtown streets and along the waterfront. 

Approximately 100 riders participated in the launch, including members of Shift St. Pete, the St. Pete Bike Co-op, and Hillsborough and Pinellas bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees. The launch party culminated in a "ride-through" style ribbon-cutting at the fourth annual Localtopia celebration.

"The city is so ready for it," says Eric Trull, Regional Director of Coast Bike Share and St. Petersburg resident.

"With the culture here -- between the arts community, the food, and the breweries -- the demographic here is all about the bikes. The biggest question we received during the launch was not 'What is the bike share?' but 'Why did it take so long to get one here?'" says Trull. 

The official Coast Bike Share launch brings a total of 20 new bike share stations with 200 new bicycles to downtown St. Pete this month. Coast Bike Share introduced a demo bike share system to St. Pete in November to coincide with the Cross-Bay Ferry launch -- celebrating a growing culture of diverse multimodal transportation options in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The November demo-release rolled out 100 bikes at 10 bicycle hubs around downtown St. Pete, offering a variety of bike rental rates: pay-as-you-go for $8 per hour, $15 for a monthly membership that includes 60 minutes of daily ride time, or $79 for an annual membership ($59 for students) with 60 minute of daily ride time. For a limited time, St. Pete residents can also sign up for the 'Founding Plan' -- a $99 annual membership that offers 90 minutes of daily ride time. Riders can reserve a bike on location by signing up online and using the bike hub keypad to enter their own unique pin code, or by using the Social Bicycles smartphone app.

The St. Pete bike fleet is the second Coast Bike Share program in the region. It joins the Tampa fleet, which launched in 2014 with 300 rentable bicycles at 30 hubs throughout downtown, the Channel District, Hyde Park, Davis Island, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the Tampa Riverwalk and Ybor City.

Trull says that Coast Bike Share aims to improve access to downtown St. Pete and its surrounding districts by strategically placing bike share hubs throughout the region. Coast Bike Share St. Pete hubs are located in the Grand Central District, Old Northeast and the waterfront, the Edge District, the Innovation District, and the emerging Deuces Live District.

"We're trying to make sure we hit as many neighborhoods as we can to connect everybody to downtown," Trull says.

Coast Bike Share cycles are relatively lightweight three-speed cruisers -- weighing in at just under 40 lbs, and come equipped with a basket and a GPS-enabled lock that enables riders to rent-and-ride -- and conveniently drop bikes off at the nearest available bike share station. The bikes also calculate the distance traveled and calories burned by riders.

Trull says Coast Bike Share system was proud to reach its cumulative 300,000 mile mark during the St. Pete pilot -- with 4% of the program's total mileage clocked in St. Pete during the pilot period alone. 

In its first 90 days, Coast Bike Share reports that St. Pete pedalers biked over 12,000 miles in 4,400 trips -- meaning that those who chose to ride rather than drive burned a combined 480,000 calories and contributed to a 10,560 lb reduction in carbon waste. 

Learn more about cruising around Tampa and St. Petersburg on two wheels by visiting the Coast Bikes website

City of Clearwater wants you to reimagine what waterfront could be #design

Clearwater’s downtown waterfront is closer than ever to receiving a much-needed facelift, says Seth Taylor, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency director.

Imagine Clearwater, a community-focused visioning and master planning effort to revitalize the waterfront and bluff, will present its new vision for the area at two public workshops set for Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Countryside Library, 2642 Sabal Springs Dr., and Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Clearwater Main Library, 100 North Osceola Ave.

New York City-based HR&A Advisors, which specializes in urban development, and Sasaki, an international architecture firm, has been hired by the city as consultants for the redevelopment project. The city has set aside $400,000 for consultation alone, Taylor says.

HR&A and Sasaki have been “working to create a new vision for our downtown waterfront, which is one of our biggest assets in Clearwater and certainly in downtown Clearwater,” he says.

The area, which includes around 50 acres, runs from Drew Street north to Court Street and from the waterfront west to Osceola Avenue.

Taylor says two factions have risen up in the community: those who desire “a natural, passive open space” for the waterfront and residents who wish to see “a more active, intensively programmed space.”

He adds, “We’re trying to strike a balance between the two. Ultimately, it’s about getting people to visit downtown Clearwater and enjoy their time there.”

Currently, the area is underutilized, he says, adding that while it is home to Coachman Park, which hosts a number of events throughout the year, there are more possibilities for the space.

While Imagine Clearwater’s vision will include commercial uses, green space and activities for children, the community should also expect to see a suggested residential component, Taylor says. 

“The key to revitalization is we need more housing downtown, we need more people who live and work there,” he says. “So there will be a recommendation for more housing along the waterfront and bluff.”

There is no timeframe or budget set for the project yet. Both will be determined by the final version of the project approved by the City Council down the road, Taylor says.

“But the will is there to implement this plan both from the elected leaders and the civic and community groups,” he says.

Those interested in learning more about the project should follow this link to the Imagine Clearwater website.

How you can help decrease traffic fatalities in Hillsborough County through Vision Zero?

The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is working to make the county's roads safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, and it wants you to help.
 
On Oct. 25, the MPO will host a workshop, 9-11 a.m., at Ragan Park Community Center, 1200 E. Lake Ave. in Tampa, to get input for a community action plan called Vision Zero.
 
The initiative started in Sweden as a road traffic safety project in 1997. Since then, it's been picked up by many cities around the world, including the United States, according to Gena Torres, executive planner for Hillsborough's MPO.
 
"The whole premise of it is even one traffic fatality is too many," Torres says.
 
Hillsborough County has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in Florida. As of Oct. 12, there have been 142 traffic crashes with fatalities this year, including 27 pedestrian fatalities and 10 bicyclist fatalities, according to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
 
The Hillsborough MPO had a Vision Zero kickoff in June with community and business leaders, as well as bicycle and pedestrian activists, and got an idea of the direction it should take with the initiative, Torres explains. The result is a total of four workshops, with the first in October. Future workshops will take place in January, April and July.
 
At each event, attendees will brainstorm steps the county can take to reduce traffic fatalities. Topics include: how to get or keep limited resources focused on key locations with safety issues; how to reach target audiences; how to insist on good behavior in the rights of way; and how to avoid re-creating the problems that the county currently experiences as new areas are built or roads are reconstructed.
 
The ideas will become part of the action plan.
 
"The goal of the action plan is to be a 1- or 2-year implementable thing," Torres says.
 
To register for the first workshop, call Torres at 813-273-3774, extension 357, or email her here.
 
"People who really are passionate: Come on," Torres says. "We want to have everybody."

New nature-preserving neighborhood in Parrish sells out

A suburban community built in Parrish in Manatee County with an eye toward nature conservation sold out in September.
 
Forest Creek is a gated community between Tampa and Bradenton, near Sun City Center and Ruskin. It's owned and operated by private builder Neal Communities. It opened in 2005, offering 464 single-family homes ranging from 1,162 to 2,504 square feet.
 
Neal Communities has built more than 10,000 homes in southwest Florida with the goal of integrating houses peacefully with the environment.
 
"We have a policy at Neal to take our sites and to preserve more land, preserve important and significant natural features, preserve habitat, and we think that helps the people, we think it's part of our brand at Neal, and we think overall, it creates a better living environment for the people that live here, and also habitat for the endangered species," says Pat Neal, CEO of Neal Communities, in a video about Forest Creek.
 
The company set aside 45 percent of the community's acreage for conservation space. It also worked to preserve a large oak tree, moving a road to accommodate it.
 
"We then spent quite a lot of time and money making sure that Mr. Oak was healthy," Neal says in the video. "We've trimmed it, we've given some special fertilizer, some biological treatments, and it's much healthier today."
 
Forest Creek features a 1-acre bird rookery, observation deck, gazebo, nature trails, community pool, spa and fitness center, and an 18-acre lake for water-based recreation.
 
“Forest Creek is a classic example of how Neal integrates and takes into consideration the natural elements of a piece of land when we create a community,” says Leisa Weintraub, VP of Marketing and Creative Director at Neal Communities, in a prepared statement.
 
Realtor Jan Swift has lived at Forest Creek for more than two years and calls the community a "masterpiece."
 
"Once the gates open and I drive through, sometimes I say to myself, 'I can’t believe I live here,'" Swift says in the statement.
 
Neal Communities has neighborhoods throughout southwest Florida, including in Tampa, Bradenton, Sarasota and beyond.

MOSI working on move to Channelside District

MOSI could be moving to downtown Tampa.

Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) is in the process of developing a task force to plan, design and raise funds for a new science center in downtown. The task force will be comprised of community partners, land use experts, philanthropists, museum master planners, scientists and educators. This news follows a vote at the museum's board of directors meeting earlier this month, which looked at a feasibility study to rebuild a new science center around Amalie Arena.

The move to downtown is part of Jeff Vinik's redevelopment plan for the Channelside District.

“One year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik invited MOSI to consider becoming a centerpiece cultural institution in the new $2 billion development his company is creating in the Channelside District,” says Grayson Kamm of the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

Vinik has pledged financial support through his company Strategic Property Partners.

While it is still early in the planning stages, the downtown museum is described by Kamm as a “new, world-class, future-focused science center.” He goes on to say that the new site will also be environmentally friendly.

“The feasibility study called our current 300,000-square-foot campus on Fowler Avenue overbuilt, with countless inefficiencies,” he says. “Our new facility will be appropriately sized for our market and built with environmental sustainability in mind.”
 
If everything goes as planned and a new museum is built in downtown, the MOSI site at Fowler Ave would be closed and re-purposed by the county.

“Our current 74-acre site along Fowler Avenue is in the heart of Hillsborough County’s Innovation District, and there is potential to redevelop the land into something that could contribute greatly to the economic prosperity of the county and the entire region,” Kamm says. “Hillsborough County has not laid out any specific plans for the land.”

Local restaurants, shops emerge in Tampa airport's redevelopment

The next time you fly out of Tampa International Airport you may notice some new shops to peruse and restaurants to grab a bite or have a drink. As part of the airport’s $953-million master plan, there will be 65 new shops and restaurants opening at the airport.
 
The first two establishments are already open in Airside A: Bay Coffee & Tea and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
 
Bay Coffee & Tea is a locally-based organic coffee shop. This innovative company uses solar energy to dry their coffee beans. More local shops and restaurants will be represented in the airport as construction continues.
 
“Roughly 40-percent of the food and beverage options are local, featuring such staples as Columbia, Cigar City, RumFish Grill, Buddy Brew and the Café by Mise en Place,” says Danny Valentine with Tampa International Airport.
 
The 65 new shops and restaurants will be spread throughout the airport including the main terminal. Thirty of the storefronts and restaurants are set to open this year.
 
Other local brands to look for include:
  • Shop HSN where live remote shows will be broadcast from the store, and Tampa Life featuring gifts from the Dali Museum can be found in the Main Terminal.
  • Ducky’s, partially owned by Tampa Bay Rays player Evan Longoria, will be modeled after the South Tampa Sports Bar in Airside A. Like the South Tampa location known for its duck pin bowling, the airport restaurant will offer a table top version of the bowling game.
  • Fitlife Foods known for its convenient but healthy meals and Goody Goody burgers are being brought back to life after a 10-year-plus hiatus in Airside C.
  • Tampa Bay Times storefront with grab-and-go food by Alessi Bakery, Four Green Fields, which will be a replica of the Tampa bar and restaurant complete with a similar thatched roof and Air Essentials, a news and convenience store featuring food from La Segunda Bakery, CaterMeFit and Amici’s Catered Cuisine  in Airside E.
  • For those in need of some liquid courage before their flight, there is The Gasparilla Bar, a Captain Morgan bar in the shape of a pirate ship, and Bay to Bay News, a news and convenience store featuring food from La Segunda Bakery, CaterMeFit and Amici’s Catered Cuisine in Airside F.
“Our redevelopment program will give our guests and passengers access to more choices than ever before,” Valentine says. “We are putting more options near gates where passengers want them most. Overall, we are enhancing passenger experience.”
 
Total construction is set to be completed by late 2017.
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