| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Tourism : Development News

302 Tourism Articles | Page: | Show All

Big Ray's Fish Camp heads to Tampa Riverwalk

Nothing says “Florida” quite like a waterfront seafood shack, which is why Nick Cruz, Owner and Operator of Big Ray’s Fish Camp, is excited to see his restaurant expand to the Tampa Convention Center, right next to The Sail (formerly the Sail Pavilion).

Cruz recently signed a licensing agreement with Aramark, the food and beverage provider for the Tampa Convention Center, after the concession company’s representatives came and ate a meal at his Ballast Point establishment in South Tampa. As a part of the deal, Cruz will take a percentage of sales.

Opened in July 2015, Big Ray’s quickly became a favorite for locals in the mood for a delicious, no-frills seafood experience. Serving some of Tampa’s best grouper sandwiches from an unassuming spot on Interbay Boulevard, Big Ray’s was built in a tradition of Florida fish shacks from yesteryear. Its menu walks a fine line between traditional and daring, from conch fritters and peel-and-eat shrimp to succulent grouper cheeks and decadent lobster corndogs.

“What we're doing is what people did with fish shacks in the '50s and '60s,” says Cruz. “It's what we saw was lacking in Florida. We get fresh fish in when it’s available and have a lobster corndog, which nobody has ever seen before. We created that.”

The Cruz family has a long history in Tampa, tracing its roots back generations. Cruz himself cut his teeth in kitchens before stepping out on his own. 

“I'm a fifth-generation Tampanian,” says Cruz. “I started cooking throughout some kitchens here in South Tampa and opened a catering business about eight years ago. I just decided to open up a good seafood and grouper sandwich place.”

The menu at the convention center venue will mirror that of the original location. That means plenty of sandwiches -- including a grouper, Cuban, burger, and shrimp po’ boy -- and desserts like key lime pie, fried key lime pie, and fried oreos.

“At the Sail Pavilion, we're going to try to bring that feeling of Florida in the '70s and '60s," Cruz says. "That feeling of what it was like to go get a great grouper sandwich on the water."

Pinellas County agencies plan to curate Alt. U.S. 19 Cultural Corridor

Two county agencies -- Forward Pinellas and Creative Pinellas -- are joining forces to create an Alt. U.S. 19 Cultural Corridor.

It’s “a unique partnership,” says Rodney Chatman, planning division manager for Forward Pinellas, the county’s land use and transportation agency. “Our partnerships are usually with local governments or agencies involved in transportation.”

The duo plans to connect and highlight the arts and culture destinations along Alt. U.S. 19, which runs through northern Pinellas County cities including Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs. 

“The area has a very strong arts and culture basis,” Chatman says. “So, we want to think about how to brand the Alt. 19 corridor as a cultural destination. But we needed to find an agency to help us with that. We don’t really talk to artists in the course of our work.” 

This is where Creative Pinellas, the county’s designated arts agency, comes in, he adds. Together, the agencies will lay a foundation to “strengthen Alt. 19 as a place for arts and culture,” he says. They began meeting in discuss the concept and the approach to the cultural corridor. 

Last month, for the first time, they invited the public to provide input on the plan at two workshops, one at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum, the other at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus. Two upcoming workshops will be held Monday, July 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center and Monday, July 31, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Central Park Performing Arts Center in Largo.

Chatman says they’ve been working to identify artistic and cultural “hubs and enclaves” along the thoroughfare. “There’s a lot of history that’s there, and also, I think there’s a tie to economic development, tourism and commerce if we’re able to pull this off.”

The agencies will create a categorized database of these artistic hotspots with geographic and descriptive information about them available as an online resource. “There isn’t currently a good inventory of public art installations, museums and galleries,” he says.

They’ll also discuss possible future locations of public art and cultural programming, he adds. This could range from utilizing vacant commercial spaces as pop-up galleries and canvasses for large-scale murals to incorporating designs by local artists at crosswalks and intersections.

“The nature of what we do really doesn’t interface with art or culture, and it’s sort of an interesting partnership because the land usage and transportation networks do traverse through these areas,” he adds. “And we’re starting to see more of an acknowledgment that we can plan and build roads differently and have more of a placemaker approach.”

For more information, visit the websites for Forward Pinellas and Creative Pinellas.

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

New waterfront park opens on west bank of Hillsborough River

The City of Tampa is gearing up to celebrate the grand opening of the new Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in West Tampa this Mother’s Day weekend. Beginning with fitness activities on Saturday morning and ending with a fireworks show on Sunday night, Riverfront Rock! will include more than 24 hours-worth of events and entertainment.

As its name suggests, the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park occupies waterfront real estate along the west bank of the Hillsborough River, just south of I-275. The 25-acre park features an event space, boathouse, two dog parks, athletic courts, picnic shelters, and a small waterpark for kids under 12. The festival lawn boasts a capacity of 16,000, with an adjacent lawn designated for smaller groups. 

This weekend’s events include morning paddle boarding, dragonboat demonstrations, a mac and cheese cook-off hosted by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and two days of concerts headlined by Third Eye Blind. Food and beer will be available for purchase. Each day kicks off at 9 a.m. For a complete schedule, see the City of Tampa event page.

“This park truly has something for everyone,” Buckhorn says in a statement emailed to 83 Degrees. “We look forward to, decades from now, looking back on what will serve as the anchor for the West River Redevelopment and reminiscing on what will be a memorable weekend. So come out, bring your family and friends and enjoy two full days of activities in Tampa’s new Riverfront Park!”

Parking will be limited but the city has arranged free transportation options via water taxi, shuttle bus, and bike valets.

The $35.5 million project has been in the works for nearly two years, beginning in June 2016. The primary consultant on the park was urban design firm Civitas of Denver, CO, with sub-consultancy from W Architecture and Landscape Architecture out of Brooklyn, NY.

St. Pete selects 3 artists to display in Pier District

Three artists have been selected to create public art for the new 26-acre, $76-million Saint Petersburg Pier District. The decion was made last week by the nine-member Pier Public Art Committee, who deliberated on more than 70 entries over the past two years.

The winners include Belgian multimedia artist Nick Ervinck, and Americans Xenobia Bailey and Nathan Mabry, from New York City and Los Angeles respectively.

“We left it fairly open as far as criteria,” Wayne Atherholt, the Saint Petersburg cultural affairs director, tells 83 Degrees. “They were looking for an artist who has had a major installation before and didn't want to experiment with someone who has never created any public art before. That was probably the biggest consideration.”

These three artists fit the bill -- they’re each renowned in their own right and with major installations under their belts. Bailey and Mabry submissions, in particular, reflect values and themes that resonate throughout St. Petersburg.

Bailey is best known for her colorful, vibrant, and complicated geometric crochets. Her commissioned piece will include a mosaic inspired by her fiber art.

“Understanding Xenobia's whole process of crocheting [a pattern], digitizing it, and converting it into tile is a fascinating thing,” Atherholt says. “The state headquarters for Florida craft art is here in Saint Petersburg. Craft art is often overlooked in public art but here is somebody who is doing an absolutely incredible job, starting with craft and transformed into this wonderful public art installation.” 

Mabry’s origami-inspired, steel pelican sculpture will stand at the entrance to the pier.

“The origami was an interesting approach, with a little nod to our sister city over in Japan,” Atherholt says, in reference to Takamatsu, Japan. “The pelican is obviously a symbol of the city and has interactivity in it. There's a chance to add additional pelicans to the proposal. One person has bought [the addition of] a pelican already.”

Ervnick's work is yet to be confirmed.

Atherholt admits he can’t speak for the nine committee members regarding their own affinity for these artists, but suggests that art often has a visceral impact.

“In some sense art just sings to you, and in this case I think [the committee members] saw the right art at the right location, and certainly within the right budget, and that's what appealed to them,” Atherholt says.

Like many cities, St. Petersburg has a “Percentage for Art” ordinance, which allocates a percentage of overall construction costs of public projects toward providing public art. The budget for the Pier Public Art project was set at $488,000.

The pier itself is making steady progress. As of mid-April, over 330 of 425 pilings have been set, and the concrete deck of the pier is about third complete. The Pier is scheduled to open in fall of 2019.

Downtown Tampa gets two more eye-catching developments

The facelift continues for Tampa’s downtown waterfront district, as two new development projects are announced this week — Riverwalk Place and a Marriott Edition hotel, both within walking distance of the Tampa Convention Center. The projects help give shape to the district’s continued redevelopment and cement the layout of tomorrow's downtown.

Rising more than 50 stories, Riverwalk Place may become the tallest tower on Florida’s west coast, with offices, restaurants, and luxury condominiums offered for between $600,000 and more than $2 million. The project, which is estimated to cost $350 million and employ over 50 workers during its construction phase, is spearheaded by Feldman Equities of Tampa and Two Roads Development of West Palm Beach.

“This will be the first new office skyscraper built in downtown Tampa in 30 years, and the first ever mixed-use tower,” Larry Feldman, President and Chief Executive of Feldman Equities, says in a statement. Feldman hopes the building becomes a social hub for downtown Tampa.

Riverwalk Place was designed by Gensler, the architectural firm responsible for the world’s second tallest building, the Shanghai Tower. Situated on the southeast corner of Ashley Drive and E Whiting Street, the building’s design was inspired by Tampa Bay’s maritime atmosphere. Its curved, sailboat-like shape will purportedly make it aerodynamic while offering most offices and residences a view of the Hillsborough River and Bay. 

“From the outset, our goal was to do more than just design another tall building,” says Shamim Ahmadzadegan, the Gensler architect behind the design. “We wanted the project to activate the Riverwalk, and contribute to the urban landscape of downtown Tampa.”

Just a couple blocks east, the planned 173-room Edition hotel could become Tampa’s first five-star resort and a gem in the crown of the proposed Water Street Tampa neighborhood. Lead by Strategic Property Partners (SPP), a partnership between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment, Water Street Tampa will see 53 acres along the Ybor Chanel converted into a cultural hub, redeveloped with restaurants, green spaces, marinas, and hotels at an estimated cost of over $3 billion. 

The Edition will take a prominent position in a 26-story building across the street from Amalie Arena, at the northwest corner of Channelside Drive and Water Street. Upon its scheduled completion in 2021, it will join other hotels in the Water Street Tampa, including a 519-room JW Marriott, which is slated for completion the year prior, and the existing 727-room Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which has planned renovations by SPP.

Designed by New York-based architect, Morris Adjmi, in collaboration with Florida-based architecture and planning firm, Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, the tower will offer a rooftop pool, adjacent bar, restaurant, spa, and fitness center for guests and residents. Restaurants and retail shops will populate the ground floor.

A class act: new St. Pete Pier expected to be drawing card

Piers that jut hundreds of feet above water are costly to build. Keeping them current, so they attract and entertain visitors year after year, requires a redo every so often. So what people are witnessing in downtown St. Petersburg, the reconstruction of its pier spanning some 3,400 feet above Tampa Bay, hasn’t happened for about 45 years.

“It’s transformative,” says Chris Ballestra, managing director in charge of development for St. Petersburg’s downtown.

Since the first pier was built in 1889 as a railroad trestle, the city has had several piers that served as a major community gathering space. This redo is actually the city’s eighth. It replaces the Inverted Pyramid Pier completed in 1973, which was torn down in 2013.

“The old pier was very nice, but all the action was way out into the bay and there was nothing in between,” Ballestra explains. “We’re activating the whole site.”

The $76 million project features a Lawn Bowl capable of handling crowds of more than 3,000 for special events, plus a Splash Pad, an interactive water play area; Spa Beach, offering a naturalized shoreline for beach enthusiasts; a Marina Lawn for outdoor recreation such as shuffleboard and swings; and a Coastal Thicket, which turns parts of the stroll out to the pier head into a nature walk.

Because it is so expensive, there are very few cities that have these long piers. Which means this new pier can be “a calling card” for St. Pete, he says, along the lines of the Navy Pier in Chicago, Pier 39 in San Francisco or Santa Monica Pier in California.

“We want to compete on a very large stage around the world,” Ballestra says.

Despite its complexity, the project has been going smoothly. “It’s a very challenging construction market right now, a very competitive environment,” he says. “We’re locked in on the numbers. We don’t have any surprises, which is how we need it to be.”

Construction began on the new St. Pete Pier last June, with the activity centering around the pilings and deck above the water. “Building the pier itself is an extremely complex project,” he says. “By example, the old pier had 1500 pilings. ... For everyone one of our pilings, there three of our old pilings around it.”

Construction will go vertical in late spring or early summer, he says. Updates are available through the city’s website; click on “The New Pier” under City Initiatives.

“We wanted to preserve the community’s expectation,” he says. “We are building for a 75- to a 100-year lifespan.”

An estimated 1,000 are being employed during construction, and some 400 are expected to have ongoing jobs when the pier is completed. The main contractor is Skanska, a major project development and construction company with U.S. operations based in New York City.

While approval is still pending, the city has identified two potential pier occupants: Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, themed on novels by New York Times best-selling author Randy Wayne White, and Tampa Bay Watch, a Tierra Verde nonprofit which would run an environmental learning center open to the public.

When work is completed, the pier district will be connected with the rest of downtown. “Within the district, there’s shuttles that link directly to downtown that are free,” Ballestra explains. “We worked very hard to make sure we had an integrated process.”

A grand opening is slated for April, 2019, so there’s still a lot of work remaining. “You’re going to see a lot of construction activity,” he adds.

The project comes at a time of uncertainty -- and promise -- as the city grapples with what to do with the 86-acre Tropicana Field property following the Tampa Bay Rays’ announcement Feb. 9 that it would be moving to Ybor City. “We’re very excited to get that site redeveloped, period,” he says.

Ballestra calls the pier and Tropicana Field “bookends to a downtown.”

“What we’re doing with the pier is a full rebuild, creating its own district,” he says. “Tropicana is ultimately a bigger project, with clearly long-term implications to the city.”

He expects the results to be positive. “It’s exciting,” he says. “I feel ... very happy for our community given what’s in store in the next 50 years.”


Headed to Clearwater Beach for spring break? Check out free bus rides

Clearwater Beach has long been one of the premiere spring break destinations in the country, routinely topping media lists for best beaches. It took TripAdvisor’s top beach title in 2018 and in 2016, and was number 4 in 2017. (It was also the only beach in the United States to make TripAdvisor’s 2016 list of top 25 beaches globally.)

Because of its popularity, the area also has long been plagued by traffic congestion and parking woes. So, with the start of the 2018 spring break season, city officials are continuing a partnership with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) to help alleviate these issues.

For the second consecutive year, the city of Clearwater and the PSTA will offer a free Park & Ride service to beachgoers.

City residents and out-of-town visitors will be able to park for free in designated lots and a trolley will pick up them up from two locations -- the Harborview Center Park & Ride lot and in front of Clearwater City Hall, between Cleveland and Court Streets, says Councilmember Bill Jonson, who is also a PSTA board member. 

Through April 29, the trolleys will run every 15 minutes, and will operate Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to midnight.

“[Traffic is] always a problem at spring break,” Jonson says “For the citizens and our guests, we’d like to mitigate is as much as we can.”

In the past, the city created additional parking areas or offered discounted trolley rides. About a year ago, the public/private North Beach Parking Plaza with 702 spaces opened, he adds. “I still think it’s the best-kept secret on Clearwater Beach.”

Last year, the city and PSTA thought they might be able to increase trolley ridership to the beach if they offered free rides rather than discounting fares. 

“We figured let’s just make it free and see if people will ride it,” Jonson says. Though they saw a slight increase in ridership last spring break, he hopes those numbers increase again this year.

“It’s a really good alternative for someone who doesn’t want to pay the parking rates and who’s willing to sit back and read a magazine or something [on the trolley] as they head to the beach,” he says. “We’re going to offer it to people, and if they ride it, we’ll continue to offer it each year.”

It will be needed even more, he adds, as Clearwater Beach’s tourism appeal continues to grow. 

“We have a fantastic beach. We have fantastic amenities out there and during spring break, there are a lot of people who choose to enjoy them,” he says. “When they choose to enjoy them, all we ask for is some patience. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to visit.”

For more information, visit the City of Clearwater's website.

Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach undergoes renovation in time for spring break 2018

Pier 60, an iconic Clearwater Beach landmark, will be partially closed to the public while it undergoes renovations during the next several weeks.

Construction includes the replacement of the bait shop roof, siding and windows, as well as the installation of a new central air unit to replace the old system. Workers will also make improvements to several pavilion columns and roofs.
 
“The building has not seen construction in about 25 years,” says Jason Beisel, the city’s communications coordinator. “The roof is leaking and window frames are rotting.”

He added, “Furthermore, the Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1. After minor damage during [Hurricane] Irma [in September,] the importance of repairing the roof became more apparent.”

The $375,000 project, funded by the city, began January 22 and should be completed by March 14, in time for the busy spring break season, Beisel says.

He estimates that the pier has approximately 250,000 annual visitors, and is hopeful the construction won’t impact tourism or regular programming too much.

“The pier will remain open as much as possible while maintaining the safety of the public,” he says.

The Sunsets at Pier 60 Daily Festival, a free daily event that began in 1995, “may occur in the adjacent Pier 60 Park for a short period of time,” Beisel adds.

The pier’s history in Clearwater goes back to the early 1900s. Its current concrete version, known as Pier 60, which is approximately 1,250 feet in length and 20,160 square feet, was built in 1994, he says.

A multipurpose facility, the pier offers visitors and residents access to fishing activities, dining, shopping, entertainment and the beaches. Daily, weekly, monthly and annual fishing passes are available.

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.

302 Tourism Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts

Underwriting Partners