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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.

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.

Medical marijuana dispensary now in New Port Richey in Pasco County

Patients seeking medical marijuana in the north Tampa Bay area no longer have to drive to Clearwater to access the closest dispensary. Trulieve, Florida’s first and largest licensed cannabis treatment company, opened a new store in New Port Richey earlier this month. The latest location is the first dispensary in Pasco County.

“New Port Richey was a great location for us because we already have three Bay Area locations,” says Victoria Walker, communication director at Trulieve. “The patient base here is really robust so, for patients who live further north, this gives them a place closer to home. They don't have to drive so far south to Tampa or Clearwater.”

Trulieve's cannabis-based products are designed for inhalation, oral consumption, and topical application. Patients who have been prescribed medical marijuana by a one of the 1,300 certified doctors in Florida can purchase products using their state-issued ID card.

Before the New Port Richey location, patients in Pasco County had to drive to Hillsborough or Pinellas County to get to the nearest dispensary, or alternatively pay Trulieve's $25 delivery fee.

Over 112,000 Floridians have been registered as medical marijuana patients since the state approved legislation in 2016. Patients with conditions like cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD qualify for medical marijuana cards. Although medical marijuana is available in 29 states, it remains illegal under federal law.

Trulieve opened its first store in July 2016 and quickly made plans to expand. But in summer 2017, Florida passed a law that limits the number of dispensaries for each business to 25. Walker pointed out that the company already has plans to develop more than 25 stores and claims that such a ruling has the consequence of limiting patient access to treatment options. 

The company is now filing a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health, asking a judge to give Trulieve an exemption. 

Read more on medical marijuana from 83 Degrees: Managing symptoms: Medical marijuana emerges as growth industry in Florida

Lector Social Club for Literature and Natural Wine opens in Downtown Tampa

In the late 19th century, around the time Tampa took shape as a cigar-peddling boomtown, a new job began to appear in the city’s factories -- el lector. Seated in an elevated chair in the middle of the factory floor, lectors would read out loud from newspapers, novels, and poetry collections, providing factories workers -- who’d pooled together change to pay the lector out of their own pockets -- with both entertainment and education throughout their hot and humid workdays.

Lector Wine Shoppe and Social Club in downtown Tampa hopes to carry on that tradition and celebrate Tampa’s history as a cultural touchstone. With a focus on literature and natural wine in a chic and intimate setting, Lector offers book-and-bottle pairings, a lending library, monthly membership program, and modest residency to support artists in the city.

“Tampa has always been this landing place for artists and philosophers to travel from other countries, to stay in Tampa and Ybor before traveling up north,” says Michael Hooker, Lector founder. “We want to help remember that history and strengthen the bridge between this exchange of different artists and ideas.”

Lector Social Club will host a range of cultural events -- from literary readings to historical talks and small concerts. As a sampling of its future cultural program, the venue held a grand opening featuring local historian Manny Leto; poet Maureen McDole; and musicians Melissa and Joe Grady; among others.

Only natural wines -- wines made with little or no chemical manipulation -- are offered at Lector, including bottles from organic and biodynamic vineyards. The store is set up with sections like “Robust Romanticism” and “Noble Noir,” with the aim to provide a more welcoming atmosphere.

“A lot of people have been giving in to organic and farm-to-table food, but then they're drinking [wines made with] pesticides and chemicals,” Hooker says. “We're trying to open up peoples’ minds through the concept of natural wines through that avenue.” 

Bottles range from $7 to $67, with most wines priced around $18.

New Humane Society building in West Tampa designed for people and pets

A trip to the Humane Society can be cause for joy or mourning -- a time when families welcome a new member or have to surrender a long-loved pet. For the pets living on-site, the Humane Society offers a shelter, hopefully temporary, where they await a new life.

To better cater to these various needs, the Humane Society Tampa is set to be rebuilt with three stories, separated into areas geared towards adoption or intake. The building will feature a central plaza, an elevated play area, and updated technology to ensure comfort for humans and animals alike.

“The current shelter is a hodgepodge of additions, portables, shanty shacks, and homemade enclosures,” says Jonathan Moore, president of InVision Advisors, who is serving as owners representation on the project. “God bless them for what they're able to do with the animals. It's a maze in there. The air-conditioning isn’t good. There's lots of exterior spaces that the animals are just too hot in. They've got fans blowing so it's clear they need a new building.”

Rather than tear down and rebuild in one fell swoop, construction on the new Humane Society will be done in stages, beginning with a new building built on the outdoor area, where the dogs currently play. 

In this way, construction will have “minimal impact on the existing shelter, so they can stay in operation,” Moore says. Once the new building is finished, the current building will be torn down to make room for the parking lot.

Elevated play yards, dog runs, and exterior spaces will be located on the second floor, sloping down toward the Hillsborough River. The intake wing will include new medical technology, a surgery suite, and an isolation space for animals with contagious diseases.

The new building was designed by Tampa-based architects Thomas Lamb and Kevin Hart. Building construction costs are estimated at $11 million. Moore credits the architects with bringing unique ideas to the development, designed to attract potential adopters while giving the animals a more comfortable stay. One of the ideas Lamb proposed would see a daily "running of puppies," when the pups are let loose to play with visitors around the central plaza.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year and finish one year later in 2019.

Improvements aim to make Bayshore Boulevard safer for pedestrians

After a mother pushing her toddler in a stroller were killed by a speeding car while trying to walk cross Bayshore Boulevard last month, public comments about the safety of the scenic roadway turned into an outcry that the City of Tampa should do more to protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

As a result, the City has already reduced the speed limit on Bayshore to 35 mph, and is now expediting additional parts of an improvement plan along Bayshore Boulevard. The plan also includes reducing motorized traffic lane widths, as well as the addition of bike lane buffers and crosswalks equipped with flashing beacons. A number of cosmetic improvements will also be made to refresh painted markings along the road.

The city first held a public meeting to discuss its Safety Action Plan in February 2017. They heard so many differing opinions on the detail and extent of the improvements that Jean Duncan, the city's Transportation and Stormwater Services Director, says the city decided to revisit the issue with the public at a later date. 

But in the wake of the recent fatal crash, the city has decided to skip the public discussion and move forward with the latest improvement plan.

“We have put out a schedule and will expedite all the work to be done,” Duncan says. “We're not holding any more public meetings at this point. We are going to get the improvements put in and, in terms of the [crosswalk] beacons, if there are any issues with the locations, we can pick them up and relocate them [later].”

The Safety Action Plan includes replacing all speed limit signs with 35 mph signs, adding visible speed limit plaques, constructing new pedestrian crosswalks, reducing the width of lanes to 10 feet, and providing buffered bike lanes.

“Whenever we have narrower travel lanes, responsible drivers react to that by modifying their speed appropriately, so they can stay within their travel lane,” Duncan says. “That creates traffic calming. There’s lots of data out there that shows that for every 10-mile-per-hour reduction, there's an exponential improvement in pedestrian safety.”
 
A 2011 report by Brian Tefft, a researcher at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, shows how small changes in traffic speeds can greatly decrease fatality rates. A pedestrian hit at 40 mph is 45 percent likely to be killed on average. At 35 mph, that rate decreases to 31 percent.

Still, many citizens think these efforts don't go far enough to make the busy boulevard safe. The popular boulevard along Hillsborough Bay is lined with luxury condos and private homes connecting downtown with MacDill Air Force Base, and includes what some claim is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 4.5 miles. At the time of this story's publication, nearly 5,200 people had signed a petition on change.org calling for 25 mph speed limits and heavier enforcement, with a long-term goal of closing Bayshore's waterfront lanes to motorized traffic, transitioning Bayshore Boulevard into a two-lane scenic route.

Implementing the Safety Action Plan will come at an estimated cost of $485,000 and will be completed in stages, with all work scheduled for completion by October 2018.

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 restaurant in Tampa: The Daily Dose doesn't shy away from bold flavors

Looking for a local restaurant serving quality breakfast, brunch, and coffee? Try The Daily Dose on Gandy Boulevard, where most of the menu -- from the bread to the fondue -- is made fresh.

Serving new American cuisine, The Daily Dose offers mostly subtle variations on breakfast classics, like bread bowls, avocado toast, and egg sandwiches. Bolder dishes appear on the menu as well, including a pastrami salmon galette; crab cake and eggs Benedict; and chicken and red velvet waffles.

Opened in South Tampa in mid-January by chef Antoine Ludcene and attorney Scott Jeeves, The Daily Dose strives to set its self apart from Tampa’s breakfast scene by focusing on freshness and breakfast.

“I love to cook breakfast,” Ludcene says. “The sauces we make fresh. The dressings we make fresh. We make fresh fondue. And we make most of the breads fresh in-house.” 

Besides the grub, The Daily Dose serves an array of coffees, from straight-up espresso to mint-flavored mocha. To give their coffee extra depth, Ludcene says they smoke their beans before grinding. 

Hailing from Nigeria, Ludcene has worked in the culinary industry for over two decades, earning a degree in culinary arts from the Johnson and Wales University in Miami and working under celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck during a stint at Disney. He’s also a player in the Tampa Bay culinary scene, where he serves as executive chef and a partner at South Tampa’s Cask Social Kitchen.

He hopes to infuse The Daily Dose with his experience in the kitchen. “We're chefs,” he says. “We're a chef-driven restaurant. We refresh the kitchen and refresh the menu seasonally, every three months. We change some stuff, add new stuff, and have daily chef special.”

In November, Ludcene plans to open another location in Downtown Tampa, and hopes to launch one more in Westchase the following year. 

“Our plan is to grow,” he says. “Our goal is to open one every year.”

Of course, he can’t do that alone and Ludcene is quick to acknowledge the support he gets when he’s away. 

“My other chefs are doing a great job,” he says. “I appreciate all the hard work my team puts through. When you take care of your team, they take care of you.”

The Daily Dose is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Women's apparel boutique to open in Hyde Park Village

Hype Park Village will be getting a new women’s fashion boutique this fall. Following the success of their first store in St. Petersburg, the owners of Canvas Fashion Gallery have chosen to open a second location in South Tampa.

“We fill a void in Saint Pete that we're also hoping to fill in Tampa,” Shelby Pletcher, Canvas co-owner, tells 83 Degrees. She compared her store to Nordstrom, in that it offers a range of apparel at mid-tier price points. “There's a lot of low- and high-end shops around, but not a lot of in between.”

Canvas Fashion Gallery specializes in a variety of styles, including casual and more formal apparel from brands like BB Dakota, Show Me Your MuMu, Z Supply, and Jack, some of which haven't previously been available in Tampa. 

“And a lot of our core brands nobody else is selling in Tampa,” Pletcher said.

The new store will join the dozens of boutiques in Hype Park Village, occupying the current space of men's clothing store London-Phillips and barber shop Cambridge Club, the latter of which will move a block north. Canvas Fashion Gallery's Tampa location will feature five fitting rooms, a denim bar, and a shoe and accessory parlor, with white-walls, color-coded racks, and a gallery-like aesthetic similar to its Saint Petersburg location.

Pletcher and her business partner, Michelle Burtch, cater to busy shoppers looking for a more intimate and customer-centric shopping experience, women who may not have the time to browse large department store. To meet the needs of the ultra-active, they even offer same-day delivery to local customers. 

“The core of our business is really relationship based,” Pletcher said. “If we pride ourselves on anything, it's our relationship with our customers.”

With the new venue in Hyde Park, the owners hope to bring convenience and style to the community’s busy residents.

“Even though going into a development like Hype Park is going to be very different from our location in Saint Petersburg, it is similar in the sense that our customers are near our location,” Pletcher said. “It's a convenience factor for them…with the selection that we offer, and our eye for styling people and understanding what customers need.”

Construction starts on West Tampa senior housing development

With the opening of Riverfront Park, a brand new 25-acre waterfront park on the west bank of the Hillsborough River, and a slew of ground-breaking ceremonies across West Tampa, urban renewal and investment seems to be moving progressively westward from downtown Tampa.

A new project called the Renaissance at West River is the latest in a trend to redevelop West Tampa. Spearheaded by the Tampa Housing Authority, the Renaissance will bring a 160-unit senior housing building to the nascent neighborhood of West River. Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Tampa Housing Authority broke ground on the development on Thursday, May 10.

“The Renaissance at West River aligns with the agency’s goal of providing quality affordable housing for our elderly citizens and families,” Lillian Stringer, Director of Public Relations for the Tampa Housing Authority, tells 83 Degrees. “Its location at the corner of Main Street and Rome Avenue is considered to be the gateway to the overall West River Neighborhood with approximately 150 acres of land along the western banks of the Hillsborough River that will serve as a recreational waterway, with families from neighborhoods at all income levels being able to enjoy the river.”

At a cost of $46 million, the six-story Renaissance will help make the West River a focal point of the city’s continued redevelopment. At its completion, the $350 million West River redevelopment will feature nearly 1,250 market-rate apartments, 96 townhouses, and over 840 affordable housing homes. An additional 90,000 square feet of retail space and 70,000 square feet of office space will be available.

The Renaissance and much of the construction to take place at West River will be on the former site of North Boulevard Homes, a public housing project long plagued by crime and poverty. Residents who were displaced by its demolition will have first right of refusal to move back to West River via services like Section 8 subsidized housing.

Baker Barrios Architects, with offices in Orlando and Tampa, designed the buildings. 

$30K grant will bring interactive art to Sulphur Springs, Tampa

An interactive art project called the Echo Quilt has been selected for a $30,000 grant from the Gobioff Foundation as a part of its Treasure Tampa initiative.

Proposed by LiveWork Studios, the immersive installations will be built along the Hillsborough River at Community Stepping Stones in Sulphur Springs in the spirit of creative placemaking, which uses public-private partnerships to bring impactful art into communities.

The Echo Quilt combines a large on-site installation with an interactive component, including audio recording equipment that allows visitors to store and disseminate their own stories. The project is meant to share and contribute to the neighborhood's history.

“As a piece of sculpture, the physical structure is designed to provide viewers with a beautiful, quiet, contemplative space that engages both its pristine site along the banks of the Hillsborough River and the unique, and often overlooked community of Sulphur Springs,” Devon Brady, LiveWork Studios co-founder and Echo Quilt organizer, tells 83 Degrees. “Our preliminary designs for the structure reference old gramophone horns and the architecture of the inner ear as a nod to the speaking and listening functions of the piece.

“The interactive component of the project consists of a telephone interface that allows participants to record their own stories, as well as listening to the stories of other participants and pre-programmed audio provided by artists, historians, and anthropologists,” he adds.

As a part of the grant, LiveWork will coordinate with students from Community Stepping Stones, the University of South Florida, and local residents to further conceptualize and construct the project through a series of community meetings. 

Through the Tampa Treasure initiative, the Gobioff Foundation aims to inspire businesses to engage in public-private partnership in support of community-minded art projects. Last year, the initiative awarded a $30,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corporation for an installation called Art in the Park at the Harvest Hope Park. Foundation president, Neil Gobioff, explains that these grants are meant to both beautify a community and communicate the principles of creative placemaking.

“Beyond just being a grant for creative placemaking, what we wanted was the education part of getting people to understand what creative placemaking is, how simple it can be … and how it can positively transform a community,” he says. “The idea is that the community is actively involved and engaged in the process, ideally from the design to the implementation. That helps to create a sense of ownership and sense of pride from the community’s point.”

The Echo Quilt is scheduled to be finished in May 2019.

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.

Modern townhouses come to North Hyde Park in Tampa

A series of geometric townhouses are being developed in West Tampa's North Hyde Park neighborhood, a few blocks west of the University of Tampa. Simply called Views at North Hyde Park, the buildings will feature straight-edged, modernist design and be developed using a land-recycling method called urban infill, which aims to build on undeveloped urban land. 

Spearheaded by Indianapolis-based company Onyx and East, the project will feature 37 units at 405 North Oregon Avenue. Saint Petersburg-based construction company Peregrine Construction Group broke ground on the project earlier this month. The townhouses were designed by Fieldstone Architecture and Engineering, a firm with offices in Tampa.

“Our focus…is to build urban communities for active homeowners in locations that are walkable or bike-able to great dining, shopping, and recreation,” John Bain, Executive VP for national operations at Onyx and East, tells 83 Degrees. “The Views at North Hyde Park is in the epicenter of Tampa’s dynamic urban core with close proximity to the Riverwalk, world famous Bayshore Boulevard, amazing dining, and the Julian B. Lane Park.” 

Two floor plans will be available for purchase: Gray and Fig. At 1,965 square-feet, Gray will feature three bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, and a two-car garage. The 1,697-square-feet Fig units will come with two bedrooms, an office, two-and-a-half baths, and a one-car garage. Each unit will feature private rooftop decks. Prices will start in the low $400,000s. 

“We wanted to do something slightly different than the market has seen and bring a fresh, modern design to the location," Bain said of the project’s geometric architecture. “It is a form of moderated modern where the massing contributes to the architecture.”

The property will be developed using principles of urban infill, an urban planning method that includes construction on undeveloped land in developed communities, tapping into existing infrastructure and limiting urban sprawl.

“Urban infill is creating new communities within old locations that have become more desirable for homeowners due to revitalization and redevelopment of areas,” Bain explained. “For us it is all about a lifestyle that is active and has access to things that people want to do.”

Views at North Hyde Park is slated for completion in two years.

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.
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