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Toojays Gourmet Deli Opens In Downtown Tampa

Tampa's downtown is getting that New York-style, full-on deli fix. Get ready for stacks of hot pastrami and corned beef piled high between freshly baked slices of rye, challah and bagels. Or dive into latkes, blintzes, chopped chicken liver and matzo ball soup.

Toojays Gourmet Deli is opening on June 23 on the ground floor of the downtown SunTrust Financial Centre at 401 Jackson St. This is a new Tampa location and a branding shift for a  national delicatessen chain, which remains a popular mainstay on restaurant row on Baystreet at International Plaza.

This also is a bit of a departure for SunTrust's management company, JLL, which previously rented to two locally operated eateries. The last restaurant closed in May.

At International Plaza Toojays' customers stop by for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At SunTrust, Toojays will serve breakfast and lunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. And the chain is experimenting with a new contemporary look designed by Andy Share & Associates in Boca Raton, FL.  

"We really wanted to take it to the next level," says Sharon Bragg, JLL's VP in charge of leases for the SunTrust building. "They (Toojays) basically have been doing this for 30 years. They know what they are doing. People do know them. We're excited."

Orlando-based Industrial Commercial Structures is the contractor.

Toojays was founded in 1981 by Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg, the two Jays in the brand name.

At about 4,500 square feet, the deli's size at Sun Trust  will shrink a bit from the standard. There will be seating for 128 including an outdoor patio with more than 50 seats. Busy office workers on the run can take advantage of a "grab and go" section. 

About 40 people will be employed at the deli. Catering will be available for office meeting, parties, seminars and other events. 

Toojay representatives say this concept could be a test run for future restaurants and makeovers at existing ones.

Usually Toojays tends to seek out communities with a mix of residential and office. Downtown sites that primarily serve a business-only crowd for breakfast and lunch aren't typically on the list. 

But Tampa is in the midst of an expansion of high-rise towers filling up with residents looking for the complete urban experience of entertainment, restaurants, shops, arts and culture.

"Operating on the first floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre affords us the opportunity to explore a new growth vehicle for our brand," says Neal Chianese, TooJays executive VP of operations. "We are confident that success of this location will lay the groundwork for potential future expansion into similar downtown settings."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Neal Chianese, TooJays; Sharon Bragg, JLL

2 Boutique Hotels, Aloft And Le Meridien, Ready For Guests

Two upscale boutique hotels -- each with its own style created inside renovated properties -- will debut in downtown Tampa in coming weeks.

Aloft Tampa Downtown is targeting the next generation of business travelers hip to a sleek, modern look, tech-savvy gadgets, trending music and a social atmosphere.

Le Meridien Tampa is a contemporary version of a grand hotel experience in the renovated and restored Classic Federal Courthouse with a sweeping staircase, soaring ceilings, marble and terrazzo features, state-of-the-art technology and French-style dining at Bizou Brasserie under the direction of a Parisian chef.

Both are under the umbrella of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Former and current  judges get a walk-through of Le Meridien on June 11, trailed by media. Doors open to the public June 16. A grand opening for the hotel, located at 601 N. Florida Ave., is slated for June 26.

Two blocks over at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive, Aloft is poised to open on the Tampa Riverwalk, the city's vision of a grand promenade along the Hillsborough River. By design, the hotel's ground floor, with Aloft's signature w xyz bar, is an open portal onto Riverwalk, breaking down barriers between inside and outside, and creating a new public space.

"It feels open to anyone to eat, drink and relax," says developer Punit Shah, CEO of Liberty Group. "There are no walls, no delineation of space."

An invitation-only opening is scheduled July 10 though the hotel's 130 loft-style rooms likely will be ready for occupancy sooner. And a grand opening for the public will be held at a later date. "It will be Tampa's hippest and coolest hotel," says Shah. "It's unprecedented."

Aloft Tampa is the fifth Aloft hotel in Florida. It was developed by Liberty Group in partnership with Convergent Capital.Parners. Starwood plans its sixth Aloft for New Orleans in 2015. 

Aloft will feature live music events, video and audio streaming capabilities, large HDTVs, the re:mix lounge, a waterfront pool, a 24-hour fitness center and a rooftop terrace with spectacular views of the river and minarets at University of Tampa.

Room check-in will be available with an app and a smartphone finger tap. Via text message, Shah says, "(The hotel door) will pop right open. Everything in the hotel is designed to be state-of-the-art, the highest and best available."

The addition of Aloft and Le Meridien to downtown's hotel landscape is good news for Visit Tampa Bay, which keeps a watchful eye on Hillsborough County's hotel bed tax revenues. This year already is on a pace to surpass more than $21.8 million collected in 2007, the best revenue year before the recession crushed the economy.

Last year's revenues came within nearly $650,000 of matching the 2007 record. Already the revenues through May of this year are $1.6 million higher than revenues collected through May 2013.

"We are thrilled with these two properties," says Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay's CEO. "The industry is doing well. We're back to pre-recession numbers."

But Corrada is hoping for additional hotels downtown to accommodate more conventions, larger conventions and multiple conventions at the same time at the Tampa Convention Center.  "We need more hotel capacity downtown because we have a convention center that needs to be running at capacity," he says. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Punit Shah, Aloft Tampa; Santiago Carrado, Visit Tampa Bay

Florida's Largest Ice Hockey Complex Coming To Pasco

Youth ice hockey players will soon be lacing up skates at the largest ice rink facility in Florida.

Ice hockey booster and Z Mitch VP Gordie Zimmerman plans to build the 150,500-square-foot Cypress Creek Ice & Sports Complex in Wesley Chapel at the interchange of Interstate 75 and State Road 56. His partners in Z Mitch are VP Tarra Mitchell and President George Mitchell. As part of the ambitious plan, a 120-room hotel also is proposed just south of the sports complex.

Z Mitch is going through the permitting phase but Zimmerman says site preparation should begin within a month, with a planned opening in fall of 2015. The hotel is in planning stages.

The approximately $20 million complex will have four rinks including one at Olympic-size and two at standard size. A fourth space will be multipurpose to accommodate ice skating as well as other sports such as lacrosse, arena football, volleyball and basketball. Meetings and high school graduations can be held there.

Paralympic sled hockey, speed and figure skating, also are planned uses for the Olympic rink.

There also will be a restaurant, pro-shop and office, Zimmerman says.

Long-term, Zimmerman hopes to establish an ice academy similar to one at Saddlebrook for young tennis players. "He'll actually have students who would want to make it in the big leagues or go on to college and would come down here for training," says Ed Caum, Pasco County tourism director.

Tampa is the site for the 2016 NCAA Men's Frozen Four tourmanent. "This just opens up more opportunities...(Pasco) still has room to grow so we look forward to promoting venues for Tampa being a major sports destination," Caum says.

Forget I-75. Caum says,"We'll become Icer-75 corridor."

While the hotel is in planning stages, Caum says the intent of Z Mitch is to open a full-service, flag hotel. Pasco currently has a hotel deficit, he adds.

Zimmerman anticipates that his facility initially will ease a shortage in Tampa Bay of ice rinks available for practice.   Now he says local high schools, including Wiregrass Ranch where he coaches, and others sometimes travel long distances and compete for time at Brandon Ice Sports Forum. Another facility is in Ellenton."They just cannot get enough practice ice," says Zimmerman who is a former general manager at the Brandon facility. "This will fill a big void."

The Cypress Creek ice complex can be a draw for adult, youth and college-level leagues and teams, and tournaments. Zimmerman also anticipates interest from National Hockey League teams that would want additional practice time before leaving Tampa for their next scheduled games.

Zimmerman says he has been waiting three years to launch his project. A potential deal in South Tampa didn't work out. But based on a research/marketing study, he says," This one was the best site we could come up with as far as demographics and access."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gordie Zimmerman, Z Mitch
 

Aquatica On Bayshore To Rise In South Tampa

Pre-construction sales for Aquatica on Bayshore are attracting young executives and empty nesters who want a prime spot at the most desirable location in town -- Bayshore Boulevard.

The sleek, all-glass facade of the 15-story residential tower at 3001 Bayshore Boulevard will have spectacular water views from the double terraces off each condominium. Square footage of units range from about 2,300 to more than 4,700. Sales prices are from $838,000 to about $2.1 million.

"Daily, people are signing contracts," says real estate agent Toni Everett of The Toni Everett Company.

New York-based architect Joseph Galea, and his company MLG Architects, designed the building, which is very contemporary. Its glass front is inspired by "capturing 3 perfect waves frozen in time," according to the website.

Amenities include a swimming pool and heated whirlpool on the fourth floor deck, two gated entrances, a fitness center, conference and media rooms, and a party and catering kitchen.

The goal is to sell at least 50 percent of Aquatica prior to a construction start. Everett estimates the half way point has been reached, with a probable construction start next year. 

Construction preparation is under way and the vacant spit of land at Bayshore and Bay-to-Bay boulevards is now fenced off. The city of Tampa leased the lot for more than 15 years. It was a popular parking spot for people headed for a jog or walk on Bayshore's waterfront sidewalk. Also, the Bayshore Patriots met weekly to cheer on MacDill military personnel driving by on Bayshore. 

Bayshore visitors will have to find other parking spots but the Bayshore Patriots sign and flag remain.

It has been  nearly a decade since the project first was proposed by Citivest Construction Corporation which waited through Tampa City Council scrutiny, legal challenges and a failed economy to reach this point.

"There has been a revival generally of the market," says Citivest President Bill Robinson. "It's not great but it's on the mend. Employment figures are better. It's a favorable financial market for mortgages."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Toni Everett, The Toni Everett Company; Bill Robinson, Citivest

Lennar Homes Builds Homes in North Hyde Park And Ruskin

Home building is coming back into fashion as the economy shows signs of improving and people are again thinking about the long-range value of owning a home.

Lennar Homes recently broke ground on 39 for-sale town homes in North Hyde Park in Tampa and held an open house for Cypress Creek, a subdivision of single-family homes in Ruskin off U.S. Hwy. 19 in the South Shore area.

Homes at Cypress Creek will start in the mid-$100,00 and will feature energy efficient appliances, low maintenance flooring and maple wood cabinets. 

Nearby a new hospital is under construction. And, a planned Amazon distribution center is expected to bring about 1,000 jobs to the area, making Ruskin one of the fastest growing communities in Hillsborough County. According to a recent Gallup poll, many residents want to leave the state where they live but in Florida far fewer say they look for greener pastures elsewhere.

"We know that people love Tampa Bay like we do, and we're committed to making this the ideal place to call home," says Francine Miller, Lennar's director of sales operations.

In North Hyde Park, Lennar's town home development, in partnership with SoHo Capital, is the first large project in the neighborhood in recent years to specifically target home buyers. 

Ranging from about 2,000 to 2,400 square feet, the town homes are expected to be particularly attractive to young professionals, starter families and people looking to down-size from surrounding neighborhoods such as Hyde Park.

Starting prices are anticipated to be about $200,000 to $250,000. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

"We're hoping this will spur even more development in West Tampa and beyond," says Mark Metheny, division president of Lennar Homes.

The town homes are located at West Lemon Street and North Oregon Avenue, next to apartment complexes, NoHo Flats and Vintage Lofts.

The North Hyde Park neighborhood is a critical piece of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's vision for re-inventing Tampa's urban core.

"You're going to see a transformative movement in this city but it starts with projects like this," says Buckhorn. 'We're not going to miss this window. This is going to be a great city."

The mayor envisions a "work, live and play environment" that includes Kennedy Boulevard anchored by the University of Tampa and Tampa General Hospital. Both are engaged in major expansion projects including TGH's proposal to build a rehabilitation hospital on the long-vacant Ferman autodealership property fronting Kennedy.

But the city's boundaries also will sweep in the proposed Jewish Community Center that will open in a remodeled Fort Homer Hesterly Armory on Howard Avenue, and nearly 150 acres in West Tampa bordering the Hillsborough River.

The redevelopment of Water Works Park and the opening of the Ulele Restaurant in Tampa Heights also are part of the city's transformative master plan. In the same area SoHo Capital owns about 37 acres that is slated for residential and commercial development.

"All of it will complement each other," says Buckhorn. "This (town homes) is part of the mosaic."

Adam Harden, one of the principals in SoHo Capital, agrees.

"I think it's a harbinger that the sale's component's time has really come," he says.

Projects such as the town homes and the developments in Tampa Heights will bring jobs and services to the area. "It also brings the density needed to cascade into surrounding neighborhoods, re-creating a sense of place," Harden says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Francine Miller and Mark Metheny, Lennar Homes; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; Adam Harden, SoHo Capital

Tampa Bay Innovation Center Opens TEC Garage

Up to 30 start-up businesses in science and other fields will be nurtured at TEC Garage, a new incubator opening in August on the campus of St. Petersburg College.

The venture is under the tutelage of the Largo-based Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses.

TEC Garage, which stands for Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of the college's Downtown Center at 244 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The new incubator will offer space for new businesses in science, technology, engineering, arts and digital media. Three clients have been signed: Toonari Media, which uses social media and online resources to conduct investigations,  Dock-n-Lock, which offers methods to reduce texting and other distractions while driving, and My OnCall Doc, which is an on-demand video provider for physician services.

The location is only the beginning of a broader vision for encouraging startups amid an explosion of business and residential growth in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It seems to be ... an entire renaissance, something bringing new growth to St. Petersburg and something very exciting," says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The anticipation is for 15 to 30 new businesses to settle into the TEC Garage. About 40 to 80 people can work there depending on how the space is designed.

“We want to give our local entrepreneurs every resource and tool they need to thrive, and believe this program will help create and keep jobs right here in our community," Elmore says.

There will be reserved office space for rent and coworking space. And Elmore says TEC Garage will offer something not every incubator provides -- coaching for individual clients.

The incubator will operate at the college for at least three to five years. The long-range goal is to move into a permanent downtown location in a much larger building of about 40,000 square feet. There could be opportunities for the college location to continue as a satellite office.

"This is a natural complement to the college's values of leadership, innovation and partnership," says Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College.  

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Tonya Elmore, Tampa Bay Innovation Center; Bill Law, St. Petersburg College

It Works! Opens New Headquarters In Palmetto

It Works!, a major distributor of health and beauty products including The Ultimate Body Applicator, is expanding and relocating its headquarters to Palmetto, Fl.

With more than $450 million in worldwide sales last year, It Works! has more than 60,000 independent distributors who are paid commissions on direct sales of more than 30 health and beauty products in 18 countries. Inc. Magazine ranks It Works! one of America's 500 fastest growing companies.

Its best known product is the Body Applicator, a contouring body wrap product that company officials say tightens, tones and firms any area of the body in 45 minutes. The company was founded in 2001 in Michigan by former teacher Mark Pentecost. A decade later, he moved company headquarters to Bradenton. The new location, at 908 Riverside Drive in Palmetto, is just north of downtown Bradenton.

"We have loyal customers who keep coming back," says It Works! spokeswoman Kate Martin. 

Company growth in foreign countries also is strong and recently was expanded into Denmark, England, Spain and Germany. Additional countries soon will be added to the list, Martin says.

More than a year ago, the company purchased a 34,000-square-foot building in Palmetto for about $3.1 million, and recently completed an expansion to 50,000 square feet. Lakewood Ranch-based Stellar Development and Palmetto-based Moore2Design collaborated on the project.

Opening day will be in mid-June. Nearly 90 employees work at the new headquarters but by early 2015 company officials anticipate hiring another 50 or so employees.

About 10 positions are open now, says Martin. Most jobs will be with IT, social media, marketing and customer service.

It Works! offers some unique perks for employees including a putting green on the roof, a bumper pool on the top floor and an indoor slide for employees and guests.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kate Martin, It Works!

CDC Of Tampa Wins Housing Award From Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo awarded nearly $240,000 to the nonprofit Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa for the purchase and rehabilitation of homes in East Tampa.

The grant is part of $11.4 million awarded by the bank to 59 nonprofits in 25 communities nationwide for UrbanLIFT, a housing program to stabilize low-income neighborhoods impacted by the housing crisis. NeighborWorks America administers the program.

The CDC is one of only three agencies in Florida to receive the grants. The others are Habitat for Humanity of Broward, Inc., and Housing Enterprise of Fort Lauderdale.

"UrbanLIFT funds provided by Wells Fargo will afford CDC of Tampa the opportunity to extend our hand to the community," says Ernest Coney Jr., the CDC's CEO.

The funds are a "hand-up'' for families that might not otherwise have the opportunity for homeownership," Coney says.

CDC officials will identify three residences within low-income areas of East Tampa, all clustered within a one-mile radius. Needed repairs will be done and then the homes will be offered for sale. These efforts are part of the agency's on-going Nehemiah Legacy Phase II Community Stabilization program.

 The CDC's program targets first-time home buyers and offers down payment assistance to qualified applicants. Though it is not required for UrbanLIFT, the CDC offers financial counseling for home owners to prepare them for the responsibilities that come with mortgages, home insurance and maintenance issues.

"When you look at economic and community development, one of our main pillars is homeownership where there is buy-in of the neighborhood," says Julie Rocco, the CDC's special projects manager. "There is a feeling that this is my neighborhood, I want to clean it up and make it safer."

For more than 25 years the CDC of Tampa has served the East Tampa community through career counseling, business planning, homeownership workshops, job training, job placement and youth programs. The agency, which is located at 1907 E. Hillsborough Ave., also partners with area contractors to build affordable housing, and commercial projects.

In agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Wells Fargo provides funds for community housing programs including NeighborhoodLIFT and CityLIFT.  Along with UrbanLIFT, grants of more than $180 million have been awarded since 2012. More than 5,000 homeowners have received down payment assistance and homebuyer education. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ernest Coney, Julie Rocco, CDC of Tampa

AMC West Shore To Sell Beer, Wine, Liquor

Adult ticket buyers at AMC West Shore will soon be able to settle into a darkened theater fortified with more than popcorn, candy,  nachos or pizza. If they choose, their favorite alcoholic beverage can slip into the cup holder beside them instead of a soda.

Tampa City Council gave its approval for AMC theater exhibitors to add a MacGuffin -- a bar that sells beer, wine and liquor. MacGuffin is a term coined by director Alfred Hitchcock in 1939 to describe any plot device or gimmick that moves the story along.

Selling alcohol gives movie exhibitors, such as AMC, a competitive edge in marketing to an adult audience. And in the Westshore Business District, new apartments, shops and restaurants are creating marketing opportunities for WestShore Plaza and its tenants, including AMC West Shore.

"One of the most exciting things taking place right now in the Westshore district is seeing the component of residential finally being developed," says Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza's general manager. "The economy has not been friendly to offices, hotels and residential but it is really taking off."

People are looking for restaurants, shopping and a theater that are right at their front door step, Botsch says. "The millennial generation is who is shopping and going to the AMC theater and it is a very important component as we evolve the shopping center."

AMC West Shore, with 20 screens, is the only second floor tenant at WestShore Plaza. The wet zone will cover the theater's approximately 77,000 square feet of interior space.

In a savvy technology driven society, AMC and other exhibitors are changing to keep up with an expanding entertainment menu that includes BlueRay, tablets, laptops, smartphones, HDTV and home projection systems large enough to mimic the real theater deal. 

Most recently, AMC spent about $85,000 for digital 3D capabilities at AMC West Shore.

"The industry has continued to change and evolve over the last 20 years. For us to remain relevant we have to continue to re-invest in our business," says George Patterson, AMC's senior VP for its food and beverage division.

AMC is the second largest movie exhibitor in the country with about 345 theaters and nearly 5,000 screens.

Research shows that a high percentage of ticket buyers, age 21 and over, want the option of buying alcohol. "It's not a huge part of our business," says Patterson. "But it is an important part of the re-birth of our business."

The MacGuffins are staffed only by bartenders age 21 and older and everyone regardless of age is carded. AMC officials say the bars are attractive additions not simply for the movie crowd but also for opera showings, corporate meetings and other events.

Locally AMC theaters that already serve alcohol include Veterans 24 in Town 'N Country, Woodlands Square in Oldsmar, and The Regency 20 in Brandon. Other competitors that sell alcohol include Tampa Theatre, CineBistros and the IMAX at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry).

More amenities are on the way as AMC retro-fits its theaters nationwide with self-serve Coca-Cola vending machines and offers reserved seating. Some AMC theaters offer dine-in service, similar to the concept at Cine Bistro in Hyde Park. In 2014 the theater chain expects to spend more than $200 million on upgrades.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza; George Patterson, AMC

Construction Progresses On Pinellas Side Of Courtney Campbell Trail

The Courtney Campbell Causeway is known more for the vehicular traffic that zooms overland between Tampa and Clearwater's beaches. But pedestrians and bicylists can expect in the near future to make that entire trek on a parallel Courtney Campbell Trail, and along the way enjoy breathtaking views of Old Tampa Bay.

The trail on the Hillsborough County side of the bay is complete along with Tampa's new Cypress Point Park playground and a 45-foot high bridge at the county line between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. The next phase involves the trail's tie-in to Pinellas and Clearwater.

Completion of the project by Pepper Contracting is more than a year away, according to Florida Department of Transportation officials. Trail and road widening are under way. In addition the causeway will be repaved and a small pedestrian bridge built. Test piles for the bridge are installed.

When finished, the trail will allow pedestrian and bicycle access from Veteran's Expressway in Tampa to Bayshore Boulevard on the eastern edge of Clearwater. Bayshore leads to Safety Harbor and more trails. It also will connect with additional recreational trails on both sides of the Bay. 

The approximately 9.5 mile causeway trail is a project championed by the Westshore Alliance, which last year unveiled a Public Realm Master Plan to make the Westshore neighborhoods of Tampa more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Trails, wider sidewalks and narrower traffic lanes are among the recommendations.

"We're excited about the trail. It will be one of the premier trails in the entire United States," says Ron Rotella, executive director of the Westshore Alliance, which represents the interests of the Westshore Business District.

The district is Florida's largest office community with more than 4,000 businesses and 93,000 employees.

The Westshore area is booming with new shops, restaurants and offices. But residents of established neighborhoods, such as Carver City and Lincoln Gardens, soon will have new neighbors moving into more than 1,700 apartments either under construction or ready for leasing. "We're turning into a neighborhood as well," Rotella says.

Many of the new apartments front Boy Scout Boulevard which is slated for resurfacing later this year. Plans also are to widen sidewalks and enhance existing cross walks.

The alliance is contributing about $113,000 to help with pedestrian improvements and make it easier to walk to International Plaza as well as shops and restaurants on Westshore Boulevard. In the 2014-2015 Hillsborough County budget, Rotella anticipates about $1.3 million for a Westshore Boulevard redesign.

And he also is looking ahead to another trail segment from Dale Mabry Highway at Interstate 275 to Hesperides Street with a tie-in to Cypress Point Park and then onto Clearwater via the Courtney Campbell Trail.

 "Being able to access a beautiful waterway, that is a great advantage for the business district," Rotella says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ron Rotella, Westshore Alliance

New Contemporary Art Studio Moves Into South Tampa

The boutiques, art galleries and restaurants along MacDill Avenue, just north of Bay to Bay Boulevard, are bringing a new vibe to to one of South Tampa's main thoroughfares.

On May 31 a new contemporary art gallery -- CASS (Contemporary Art Space and Studio) -- will be the latest arrival on the neighborhood scene, starting off with exhibits by Los Angeles artist Michael Turchin and Tampa artist Chris Valle.

Husband and wife duo, Cassie and Jake Greatens, believe Tampa is on the verge of a "big city" re-invention of itself. And South MacDill is part of that transformation. It's why they chose this location, at 2722 S. MacDill, to open their first art gallery.

They see the potential for MacDill to become to South Tampa what Central Avenue is to downtown St. Petersburg, a place where the funky and creative get together in a walkable community with art crawls and food tours. 

"We're headed in the right direction," says Cassie Greatens. "There is a population here that wants that. When you have that kind of energy, anything can happen."

Long-time MacDill anchors are Beef O' Brady's and the Salvation Army discount store. But upscale interior designers, a yoga studio, restaurants and boutiques are changing the landscape.

Their front door opens into a spacious, all white gallery with a smaller, intimate space in the rear of the building. It was formerly work space for Michael Murphy Gallery, located across the avenue.

"We want to be able to feature installation art. Keep it clean and keep it simple," says owner Jake Greatens.

Turchin and Valle's works will be on display from May 31 through July 3. Turchin is known for eye-popping color and patterns in his graffiti inspired art. His art has been commissioned by celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Lance Bass and Lisa Vanderpump.

Valle is a painting instructor at University of Tampa who has exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries. His art explores the influences of entertainment on sexual roles, norms and stereotypes.

Exhibits will change every two to three months. The Greatens are looking for artists for the next exhibit.

The art at CASS is about what it means to an individual not whether it matches the home decor. 

"It's what's amazing and speaks to you," says Cassie Greatens. "We want the gallery to have movement, not just sit here and have art on the wall."

The couple are from Lakeland, Fl., and graduated from the University of Tampa. Jake Greatens creates mixed, media paintings and anticipates an exhibit of his work in about eight months.

In the future, the couple hope to offer an internship. They plan to invite emerging and established artists to offer workshops and lectures.

"We're trying to be more interactive," says Jake Greatens.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake Greatens, CASS

HCC's SouthShore Campus Adds Science And Technology Building

Enrollment at Hillsborough Community College SouthShore Campus has far exceeded expectations since opening day in 2008 in Ruskin.

More than 6,500 students attend classes on a campus built on a 100-year-old tomato field donated by the Dickman family. That is a 7 percent increase over the previous year.

More than a year and a half ago, 15 portable classrooms were set up to handle the overflow. That is about to change. School officials are breaking ground at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on a two-story, 36,424-square-foot Science and Technology Building at 551 24th St. in Ruskin.

"It has been truly amazing," says HCC SouthShore's President Allen Witt. “The new building will allow for the space to move out of portables and continue growth.”

The college is looking to hire for part-time and advisory positions. Interviews are planned to hire four faculty members. "We're in a hiring mode,'' Witt says.

Construction is scheduled for completion in May 2015. The new science and technology center will have nine laboratories, five prep labs, two computer classrooms, six traditional classrooms, four offices and a dean's suite.

Student enrollment, at least for now, is not expected to slow. Currently, SouthShore's enrollment is about 10 percent of approximately 46,000 students who attend HCC's five campuses and three centers throughout the county.

Witt can look out of his office window to understand the reason.

"I can see the top of Amazon.com's (building) just above the trees," he says. Also nearby new houses are under construction.

Amazon is expected to hire about 1,000 people in the next few months. The rising rooftops also will bring more families to the southeastern end of the county. "Things are happening here so very fast," Witt says. "We're all going to be catching up with infrastructure related to the new needs."

SouthShore plans to hold onto to all but about one-third of its portables as back-up plan if they are still needed in future years.

But the opening of the science and technology building means SouthShore is taking the next step in its academic growth plan.

“We pride ourselves as a STEM campus serving our local community with outstanding educational resources," Witt says. "This new science building will help us serve our students well into the future with the best technology and classroom space.”

Existing buildings at SouthShore are LEED-certified as eco-friendly and green. This new building also will meet the national certification standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

Construction on the approximately $9.8 million project includes architects Reynolds Smith and Hills, civil engineer Stantec,  consultants with Volt Air and construction manager Cutler Associates.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Allen Witt, HCC Southshore

AT&T's Store Of The Future Opens In Tampa

AT&T's Store of the Future is open and showing off the newest technology in a sleek, cool store off Westshore Boulevard in the shopping center anchored by The Container Store..

The shop is the fourth of its kind in Florida and is modeled after a Chicago flagship store large enough to fit a car inside. Tampa's shop isn't nearly as large but customers can enjoy taking the latest technology for a spin in the care of friendly sales clerks who chat with you at white "learning" tables designed to mimic real life situations.

It is designed to encourage interaction and make the shopping experience fun and engaging whether you're an individual or bring your entire family.

Step over to the guitar display and try out headsets, speakers and the latest sound and streaming technology. Head to another table and find out how your phone can become a movie projector.

Or walk over to the white "kitchen island" and learn how a smartphone bolts a dead-lock at your house or sets the temperature controls. Have a pet to keep an eye on? There's a video gadget for that.

Want to monitor a fleet of trucks for your business including their top speeds? There's a device for that too.

The forward-looking store caters to the mobile lifestyle.

"We're trying to show the different applications available for customers," says Susan Boothe, merchandising manager for AT&T's Florida operations. But the story is deliberately "nice and comfortable and takes the intimidation factor out of it."

The store is at 1812 N. Westshore Blvd., in the new shopping center anchored by retail and restaurants such as The Container Store, Sleeping Mattress, Pei Wei Asian Dining and Olive Garden Restaurant.

The store's eco-friendly design is by architects at Callison, a global company whose clients include Starbucks, Williams-Sonoma and Whole Foods.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Boothe, AT&T

Yogurtland Opens First Tampa Location In Citrus Park

Tampa residents and visitors now have a new option for their favorite frozen treat.
 
Yogurtland touts its high quality yogurt with real ingredients in a clean environment. Ingredients are often sourced from their original location, such as Madagascar vanilla beans from Madagascar and Belgian chocolate from Belgium, in non-traditional flavor combinations such as black current cherry tart or sticky toffee pudding.
 
The first franchise in Tampa opened in Citrus Park this spring. The franchise owner, Jack Suleiman, is a second generation restaurant owner with a family history of franchises. Having opened a Taco Bell in 2008 and a Johnny Rockets in 2010 in Citrus Park, Suleiman had a familiarity with the area and knew the market well. The specific location next to Chipotle was selected to give people a dessert option since the restaurant doesn’t currently offer any. Suleiman also likes the Carrollwood and Citrus Park communities.
 
"People get involved. The community actually works together, unlike in some bigger cities," says Suleiman.
 
Growing up in the restaurant business taught Suleiman the value of hard work and ethics at an early age. He and his brother washed potatoes at his father’s restaurant at the ages of 15 and 16, often working after school and on holidays. Eventually, he ended up as a manager and then opened up his own restaurants.  
 
Suleiman’s dream was always to open a yogurt shop. He chose the Yogurtland franchise because of its concept of real ingredients, strong growth rate and overall atmosphere.
 
“I was very impressed with the company,” says Suleiman. “They do everything they can to make sure that we’re serving the best quality.”

Suleiman financed the franchise through family funds.
 
If all goes well with the first location, he plans to open more in the Tampa Bay region within six months. The company will be hiring additional team members over the summer.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Jack Suleiman, Yogurtland

Two Fold Bicycle Shop Opens In St. Petersburg

A new bicycle shop in St. Petersburg caters to enthusiasts who want the zip and portability of bicycles that can be folded to the size of carry-on luggage. Or tucked into a back pack. 

On May 10 Michael Davis will hold a grand opening for Two Fold Bicycle Shop at 657 N. Central Ave. The shop, which quietly opened at the beginning of the month, deals exclusively in folding bicycles made by major brand names Brompton, Dahon and Tern. Shortly Davis will add bicycles from Bike Friday, an Oregon company that custom-makes folding bicycles.

"They are fun to ride," says Davis, who also designs and builds wheel frames. "People who are into them really get into them. You can see them out there. It is a trend that is picking up now."

Their popularity makes sense to a lot of people who are embracing the new urban lifestyle. And, while his shop is in St. Petersburg, his first two sales were to residents of downtown Tampa's growing high-rise community.

The folding bicycles have smaller wheels, quick acceleration and ease of steering. Hinges allow for the bicycles to be folded up for easy storage at work or at home. And for multi-modal commuters they are easily carried on and off buses.

Prices range from about $400 for a one-gear folding bicycle to more sophisticated models that can cost $3,500 or more.

Davis is an avid bicyclist himself. He formerly owned 66 Fixed Gear and Singlespeed, a St. Petersburg shop that did repairs and sold custom-made bicycles. But it was a trip last year to the Interbike International Bicycle Expo in Las Vegas that spurred Davis to focus his newest business on the expo's break-out star.

 "Everybody was talking about folding bicycles," he says.

The bicycles originally were invented for use by military forces in war times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Until recently they often were novelty items tucked away in a shop corner.

That is changing along with the urban landscape.

Condominiums and apartments are going up in downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa. The Central Avenue district in St. Petersburg is stirring to life with new boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, offices and neighborhood bars. College students and young professionals are embracing the urban experience.

Tampa has at least five residential towers slated for construction in the next few years in downtown and Channel District.

The folding bicycles are the right fit, Davis says, for people who have to go up and down elevators, share space with roommates or just want a healthier living environment with fewer automobile trips. 

"Once you get folding bicycles in front of people, they practically sell themselves," says Davis.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michael Davis, Two Fold Bicycle Shop


 
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