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A new facelift for historic Downtown Tampa landmark

Downtown Tampa’s only “elaborate movie palace” is undergoing a much-anticipated upgrade: wider, cushier seats and a more modern concessions stand for attendees to enjoy, as well as significant infrastructural improvements to protect the 1926 building from extreme weather.

The $6 million Phase 1 scope of work at Tampa Theatre addresses both the integrity of the building and the superior audience experience; seating has long been a gripe of even the venue’s biggest fans. The 1970s-era lobby concession counter is inefficient for rapid service and out of step with the original Mediterranean design. Both will be addressed with work starting today.

Authenticity is key in this process, and so even the new paint will be forensically matched to what was used 91 years ago.

While the mainstream model for cinema is changing thanks to streaming services and dinner-bar-theater hybrids, the Tampa Theatre’s charm is its ambiance and urban setting, surrounded by bars, restaurants and modern residential highrises.

Attendees enjoy a regular lineup of unique independent films and documentaries, seasonal classics (horror around Halloween, holiday from now until the new year -- to be shown outside during Winter Village at Curtis Hixon Park, and participation in film festivals like TIGLFF and GIFF.

Tampa City Council member Guido Maniscalco recalled a friend telling him, ahead of this morning’s media briefing: “I proposed to my wife there!”

When you attend a movie screening at The Tampa Theatre, you get one of the rare glimpses into prewar life in Tampa -- a distant past of gilded opulence. A time when streetcars ran up and down Franklin Street and ushers showed dressed-up moviegoers to their assigned seats before a film.

In 1976, the Tampa Theatre was saved from demolition through a coalition of impassioned community and civic leaders, including former Tampa Mayor Bill Poe, Sr. In 1978, it was selected to be part of the National Register of Historic Places, making it eligible for federal preservation tax credits and incentives.

Today, individual donations, sponsorships and partnerships, and philanthropic businesses support its continued operation and improvement. This morning, realty brokerage Smith & Associates’ CEO Bob Glaser presented Tampa Theatre CEO John Bell with a check for $250,000, generosity that will help speed the restoration work.

So where are all those old seats going? Head to Schiller’s Architectural and Design Salvage in North Hyde Park to purchase a piece of the theatre’s history.

Renovation work will wrap up by the end of December in time for a film screening on the 22nd and New Years Eve party to ring in 2018! Exact date of completion is T-B-A.


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.

Popular Clearwater Beach restaurant sports new look, new name

Iconic eatery Crabby’s Dockside, formerly Crabby Bill’s, now boasts a new name -- Bill’s was dropped after a partner left the group -- and a fresh look that matches the slate of modern hotels that have popped up along Clearwater Beach over the last two years.

The original restaurant, which stood at 37 Causeway Blvd. for 17 years, was demolished after spring break 2016 to make way for the new three-story structure that now includes a first-floor outside bar and sidewalk seating, and an open-air rooftop seating area.

The most “stunning” features of the new restaurant are the unobstructed, panoramic views, says Greg Powers, CEO and co-Founder. “You have a 360-degree view of Clearwater Beach from the rooftop.” Floor-to-ceiling second-floor windows also provide “gorgeous views” to indoor diners.

About two years ago, Clearwater officials decided that the restaurant, which sits on city-owned property next to Clearwater Beach Marina, needed an upgrade. The city put out a request for proposals and Crabby’s Dockside won the bid, paving the way for the $4.4 million project.
 
Powers says he worked closely with Klar and Klar Architects and city staff to create “a new vision for the restaurant that was part our style, and part based on what the city is looking for and what the beach is becoming.”

The design of Crabby’s Dockside “is representative of a new beach,” says Principal Architect Steve Klar. “It’s modern. It’s contemporary.”

He predicts that other shops and restaurants along the beach will slowly adopt a similar look. 

“Clearwater Beach is not trying to be some small, little, sleepy area,” he says. “We’re not trying to replicate or recreate an Old Key West. This new look is different and contemporary. We like the trend and we like where it’s going. Modern architecture stands the test of time.”

Upscale Hyatt brand arrives in downtown St. Pete

The first upscale Hyatt hotel will be coming to the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.

The 15-story, 175-room Hyatt Place St. Petersburg Downtown officially cuts the ribbon on Tuesday, Sept. 26.  

The hotel will be located in the same block as the 41-story luxury high-rise condo ONE and across the street from the James Wildlife and Western Art Museum, which is expected to open in early 2018.

Director of Sales Ryan Tarrant hopes the hotel will become the “connector” between St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive waterfront arts district with restaurants and museums, and the more eclectic Central Avenue shops, galleries and cafes.

Tarrant is a co-Executive Director for the Suncoast Film Festival and a former St. Petersburg Area Chamber Member of the Year. He and his wife Heather also own Cinema Squatch, a cinema event company known for its free outdoor movies at the Museum of Fine Arts, Williams Park and similar venues.

Tarrant says he hopes to develop the Hyatt Place to be “very St. Petersburg-centric with a focus on everything that makes the city unique, especially local artisans and entrepreneurs.”  The hotel will be partnering with St. Petersburg Distillery and local craft brewers, as well as Black Crow Coffee Co.

He is also working with local artist Ya La’ford to create a custom mural to add to the city’s growing collection of urban art murals on downtown buildings. In addition, The Body Electric http://thebodyelectricyoga.com/ will be offering yoga at the hotel’s rooftop pool, which will feature limited engagements open to the public, including the possibility of “dive-in” movies, says Tarrant.

The hotel is being developed and managed by Kolter Hospitality and will feature a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and sidewalk café; and 4,500 square feet of event space, including a 2,700-square-foot ballroom and three conference rooms. There are also two full-service bars on the first floor and a 5,500-square-foot rooftop pool deck and bar. Tarrant hopes to offer live entertainment two or three nights a week.

The hotel will be part of the World of Hyatt loyalty program, in which members earn points and exchange them for rewards when they stay at one of the Hyatt hotels worldwide. 

“There will finally be a Hyatt product in St. Petersburg, which is something World of Hyatt Rewards travelers have been waiting for, for quite some time,” said General Manager David Cuadra in a news release.

Local restaurants Rococo Steak, Urban Comfort and Orange Blossom Catering, will provide catering services for special events and weddings.

Locals rejoice over Channel District dog park that honors fallen sheriff’s deputy

A new dog park in Channelside memorializes the life of a deputy who was killed in the line of duty in March of last year.

Deputy John Kotfila, Jr. was hit and killed by a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway. Kotfila intentionally swerved into the path of the wrong-way vehicle to protect another car from being struck. 

The Deputy Kotfila Memorial Dog Park was dedicated on Saturday, June 24, to honor Kotfila’s close relationship with his German Shepherd, Dexter. 

“His dog was his life. He loved his family and all that, but the dog was a big part of his life, and everyone who knew him knew that he would show up here and there -- Home Depot, Chick-fil-A - and he would have the dog with him. Everywhere, Dexter went,” says John Kotfila, Sr. 

Around 300 residents attended the opening with their furry friends.

“It’s comforting to have a new memory that will bring lots of joy to other people and other dogs,” says Theresa Kotfila, Deputy Kotfila’s mother.

Local pet boutique owners Ben and Lisa Prakobkit were in attendance passing out free dog treats from their store The Modern Paws, located in Duckweed Grocery in Channelside. 

“The dog park is a nice way to commemorate the deputy who lost his life,” says Ben Prakobkit. “I always remember [Tampa] Mayor Bob Buckhorn saying that we can gauge how much a city is growing by the number of people out walking their pets. This makes the community a much more dog friendly place.”

Channelside gym owner Brad Stevens of Viking Fitness was also in attendance with his four-legged companion. 

“This memorial is a great addition to the area, and a nice way for residents to stay active with their pets,” says Stevens. “It’s great to see the great turnout from the community today.”

The dog park is located under the shade of the Selmon Expressway at 705 Raymond St., Tampa, FL 33606, just behind Bell Channelside Apartments. When Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) heard about the death of Deputy Kotfila, they knew they wanted to do something to honor his legacy. After months of planning, the new park is completed, complete with canine turf that is safe for dog paws and requires little maintenance, and a memorial monument at the entrance commemorating the deputy.

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.


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.”

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.”

Tampa Bay History Center grows up and out, stays on track with $11M expansion

The Tampa Bay History Center is experiencing smooth sailing so far on an expansion project that will bring the area’s pirate lore to life.

“Knocking on wood, everything is going well,” says C.J. Roberts, History Center President and CEO.

Roberts says construction crews are slightly ahead of schedule on the building expansion that will house the new “Treasure Seekers: Conquistadors, Pirates & Shipwrecks” gallery -- an addition that includes a 60-foot replica of a sailing vessel as its centerpiece and will focus on the stories of Florida’s early explorers.

As construction continues, the Pinellas Park-based Creative Arts is working to design the exhibits and a theatre company out of Boston is writing an “immersive pirate theatre experience” to complement the new gallery, which should be complete before the end of the year.

The expansion is just one part of an $11 million capital campaign, which Roberts says he is hopeful will be completed successfully in another year or so.

The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $5 million for the new gallery and maintenance on the existing structure, $5 million for the center’s endowment -- which funds about 25 percent of operating costs annually -- and $1 million for the new Florida Center for Cartography, a joint effort with the University of South Florida.

“We’ve raised $7.5 million dollars to date,” says Roberts.“We’ve got good wind in our sails, and I am optimistic that we’re going to be successful in completing this campaign.”

The full-size ship included in the gallery aims to provide an immersive experience that will help dispel some myths or misconceptions about pirates while providing a unique chance to learn about navigation, engineering and mathematics.

“These stories of early navigation and maritime exploration really lend themselves very well to pulling out those kinds of educational opportunities,” Roberts says.

Roberts hopes this expansion will broaden the center’s reach by telling stories that go beyond our backyard in the Bay Area.

“This is not a Tampa or Hillsborough story, as many of our other exhibits are,” he says. “This really is a Florida story.”

The Tampa Bay History Center’s expansion project is just one part of a period of exciting growth for the downtown area and Roberts is eager for the next chapter in Tampa’s story.

“We’re excited about the contribution this will make to an already growing downtown,” he says. “I think that we’re in a good place, and the future for both downtown Tampa and the history center looks pretty bright.”

City of Tampa invites public input on streetcar route extension

The City of Tampa is looking for input from residents as it continues the first phase of a project that aims to update and extend the Tampa Historic Streetcar System.

At a series of public meetings, city officials have discussed the project while surveying attendees. The most recent “brainstorm session” took place on April 4 and focused on evaluating corridor options for potential additions to the streetcar line.

City Director of Transportation and Stormwater Services Jean Duncan began the meeting by saying that the decisions made in updating the streetcar system must reflect the ongoing development of downtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

“We want to make sure that our transportation decisions are supporting those near-term and long-term land development plans,” she says.

So far, the city has received about 800 comments during phase one of the two-phase InVision: Tampa Streetcar project and Duncan says it is looking forward to receiving more.

“That is valuable information for us to take into consideration,” she says.

According to the city’s website, the planning effort is being funding largely by a $1 million contribution from the Florida Department of Transportation. The city has dedicated $677,390 to the effort.

The first phase of the project will establish options for extensions of the line and seek to open the door to federal funding before proceeding with a more detailed second phase. Lead consultant on the project is HDR Engineering.

At the April 4 meeting, Steve Schukraft of HDR said right now his team is looking for feedback on what areas are best suited for potential extensions.

“We’re trying to understand different corridors downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods that have the characteristics that might support transit,” he says.

An important factor in determining if a corridor is viable is whether or not it can generate enough ridership to justify an investment, Schukraft adds.

The final public meeting will focus on results gathered at the previous two sessions and is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on May 2 at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor City Campus.

For more information or to submit a comment on the project, visit the city’s website.

Time to get outdoors to play: Springtime spawns local art festivals

As part of its efforts to revive Station Square Park, the city of Clearwater is holding the first in a series of paint parties/art bazaars at the Cleveland Street Park. Painting in the Park - Art Bazaar at Station Square Park kicks off from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 1, and continues on the first and third Saturdays through June.

“It’s going to be a real active event with lots of art and live music, an open-air painting class,” says Jennie Pearl, the event coordinator, an artist who will teach the $35 painting class. “It’s going to grow. So far we’ve had such a wonderful response.”

The free event sponsored by the city of Clearwater’s Community Redevelopment Agency and Parks and Recreation Department, also features live music by Sal Belloise (known as Guitar Sal), art by Kelly Strong, beer and wine tasting, body/face painting and unique vendors offering items like Hawaiian Island soaps and wearable-art clothing.

A muralist, Pearl still is recruiting for the upcoming events. “I’m looking for comedians, jugglers, hoola hoopers, massage therapists,” says Pearl, who won the 2016 Clearwater’s Downtown Gateway Art Project. “It’s all the arts."

Plans developed after visitors were polled at a grand reopening of the park in February. “They wanted art, they wanted music and entertainment,” says Laura Canary, Community Redevelopment Coordinator. “They also wanted … some type of adult component, some kind of nightlife in the park as well.”

Meanwhile in Tampa, the 6th Annual International Cuban Sandwich Art and Food Festival is underway from noon until 6 p.m. Saturday, April 1, at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Saturday’s agenda? Trying to make the largest Cuban sandwich. The event continues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, with competitors worldwide competing for awards.

The Safety Harbor Songfest is taking place April 1 and 2 at Safety Harbor Music and Art Center and Waterfront Park, featuring the Wood Brothers, Rising Appalachia, and more. It supports the nonprofit art center’s events; music begins at 11 a.m. both days.

The Tampa Bay Blues Festival is coming to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg April 7, 8, and 9.  The event kicks off with Dennis Gruenling at 12:30 p.m. Friday, and includes The Rides with Stephen Stills, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Barry Goldberg Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Organizers of the free, two-day Mainsail Art Festival April 22 and 23, who are expecting to draw some 100,000, also are gearing up for the juried art competition at Vinoy Park. Some $60,000 will be awarded to prize winners at the festival, which began in 1976 when the city’s Bicentennial Committee, the St, Petersburg Recreation Department and St. Petersburg Arts Commission collaborated on a sidewalk arts and colonial crafts festival.

“It wasn’t a juried show. Now it’s one of the top in the country,” says Lisa Wells, who chairs the all-volunteer planning committee. “The prize money’s grown, everything’s grown. ... The quality has gotten better.”

The event, sponsored by the city, Junior League of St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay Times, was among the top 20 best shows by Wisconsin-based Sunshine Artist magazine in 2016.

The festival, which draws more than 250 exhibiting artists, runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 22 and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23. The lineup includes Jah Movement Reggae Band at noon April 22,  Souliz at 4:30 p.m. April 22, and singer-songwriter-instrumenalist Damon Fowler at 3:45 p.m. April 23.

The city is seeking volunteers, who can signup online.

Here are some other art-related events planned in the Tampa Bay area during April.

Broad Comedy, a benefit for Planned Parenthood, is slated from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 6 at Ybor’s CL Space, 1911 N. 13th St. It features standup comics Robin Savage and Becca Childs, along with writers Lori Shannon and Cathy Salustri.

• Coffee lovers can check out the Tampa Bay Coffee and Art Festival from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. April 8 at The Noise Box, 1310 John Moore Road, Brandon. The festival features craft coffee roasters from Florida and local artists, food trucks and desserts.

• The Latin Music Festival is slated April 8 at 5730 Shore Blvd. S., Gulfport. The concert, on Boca Ciega Bay from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., will include recording artists Orchestra Fuego, The Latin Jazz Knights, Freddy Montez, Victor J. Moreno with Esther Suarez, and Eddie Garrido. It is the first of a series of annual Latin Music Festivals. Admission is $15; children under 10 are free.

• Gulfport’s annual Springfest Garden Art and Faerie Festival is slated from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 14 and 15 at Clymer Park at 5501 27th Ave. S. Renaissance-era characters will roam at the event featuring a Good Friday Fish Fry, May Pole dances, a costume contest, and live music. Admission is free; complimentary parking is offered. More information is available at Springfest's Facebook page or 727-322-5217.

The SunLit Festival kicks off with a party from 7 to 9 p.m. April 6 at the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. The third annual event runs April 10 through 25, bringing together literary organizations and others.

• The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, in its 36th year, is slated April 21 to April 23 at St. Petersburg Coliseum. The fair is a mecca for book lovers, offering books on just about any topic.


New historic marker honors Temple Terrace orange grove history

Even many Temple Terrace residents may not know that their charming little city surrounded by Tampa was named after an orange.

A 5,000-acre temple orange grove planted in the 1920s gave birth to the city named Temple Terrace. The grove, which included land now occupied by Busch Gardens, the University of South Florida and parts of Temple Terrace, was proclaimed the largest orange grove in the world.

Now city leaders and historical preservationists are honoring the orange grove with an historical marker at the corner of Gillette Avenue and East 113th Ave., next to the Greco Middle School track. A ceremony in early February also celebrated a “mini-grove” of temple oranges planted by Greco students.

Elisabeth Leib, a board member of the Temple Terrace Preservation Society, is also involved with Greco’s Farm 2 School program and helped initiate the mini-grove project.

“We had this large orange grove and our mission is to advocate for local history,” says Tim Lancaster, President of the preservation society. “So, at the same time we dedicate this marker, we’re kind of reliving that history by putting these new orange trees in the ground.”

This will be the fifth marker the preservation society has placed around the city of 22,000.

Temples are regarded by many orange enthusiasts as the tastiest variety around. The orange has a soft and spongy exterior with a shiny, pocked peeling that’s easily removed. The segmented fruit is loaded with juice and has a slightly tart taste that explodes on the palate.
 
A variety of a tangor -- a cross between the mandarin orange and the sweet orange -- the Temple is believed to have come to Florida from the West Indies early in the 20th century, according to an article in the New York Times. The orange was named for William Chase Temple, a prominent grower and owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lancaster says D. Collin Gillette, one of the original developers of Temple Terrace and its first mayor, was heavily involved in the citrus industry in the 20s. To attract investors, the mayor’s company allowed people who bought property in the city to buy shares in the orange grove.

“You could use proceeds from the orange grove to pay of your real estate investment,” Lancaster says.

The World’s Largest Orange Grove marker is Temple Terrace’s 5th. Others include Spanish Exploration of Temple Terrace at Riverhills Park, Bertha Palmer at Woodmont Clubhouse, Billy Graham at Billy Graham Park, and Sutton Hall (original clubhouse of Temple Terrace Country Club) at Florida College.

New Sulphur Springs Museum honors local history

Tampa history buffs will have a new place to explore when the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens on February 4. The new landmark, located at Mann-Wagnon Park in Sulphur Springs, will serve as a community hub for the re-emerging Central Tampa neighborhood. 

According to Norma Robinson, a co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, the grand opening of the new facility is slated for noon on the first Saturday of February. “We hope to have the ribbon cutting at 12,” she says. “We’ll have different activities throughout the day, including guided tours.” 

When the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center opens its doors, guests will find an array of things to see and do there. One of the headlining attractions is “Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy.” The permanent exhibit profiles the history of the Sulphur Springs neighborhood, which traces its roots back to the 1880s. The area flourished as a tourist destination in the early 20th century when developer Josiah Richardson oversaw the creation of a resort around the area’s springs, which were believed by many to have healing properties. The Sulphur Springs Arcade, the neighborhood’s iconic 214-foot-tall water tower, and Sulphur Springs Pool are just some of the historic landmarks honored at the museum. 

“Many students from the University of South Florida [http://www.usf.edu/ ](USF) did research,” Robinson says of the museum’s historical elements. Several images and other artifacts derive from the USF Tampa Library Special and Digital Collections and the Florida State Archive collection. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum also opens with “Water | Ways,” a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit that will be open from February 4 through March 18, 2017. “We’re one of six cities in Florida chosen for the exhibit, which shows the different ways water affects our lives,” explains Robinson. “Water | Ways” explores the impact of water environmentally, culturally, and historically. 

The museum will also host Our Florida, Our History lecture series, which includes an array of slated speakers for February such as USF history professor Gary Mormino, Hillsborough Community College Dean of Associate of Arts Jim Wysong, and African American diaspora expert Anthony E. Dixon. The series continues into March with appearances by climate science author Dr. Mark R. Hafen and Florida culture author Craig Pittman. 

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is the culmination of many years of tireless effort by Norma Robinson and her husband, Joseph. When the couple moved from New York to Tampa in 1997, they chose Sulphur Springs as their new home. They have worked tirelessly for two decades to improve the community, which for years was known as one of Tampa’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Robinsons were honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as Community Heroes in 2015, when they received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation. Much of those funds were invested into building the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center, which was a dream first envisioned more than a decade ago. 

Admission to the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center is free, Robinson says, “but donations are strongly encouraged and welcomed!”

When and where 

What: Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center Grand Opening
When: February 4, 2017, noon to 4 p.m.
Things To Do: Sulphur Springs: An Enduring Legacy history exhibit, Water | Ways Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, guided tours, food, drinks
Address: 1101 E. River Cove Street, Tampa, Florida 33604

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.
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