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South Tampa Boutique Hotel Opens To Guests

The long-awaited opening of the food-themed Epicurean Hotel on South Howard Avenue officially is two days after Christmas. But General Manager Tom Haines anticipates a "soft" opening with at least some rooms occupied by guests a few days sooner.
 
And gift cards are available for hotel stays, dining at the Élevage restaurant, hand-crafted cocktails at the roof-top bar EDGE, sweets at Chocolate Pi patisserie or culinary classes at the Epicurean Theatre.
 
"The response has been overwhelming," says Haines. "It seems to resonate with people."
 
The 137-room boutique hotel is in the Hyde Park historic district, across from landmark Bern's Steak House, founded more than 50 years ago by Gert and the late Bern Laxer. Their son, David Laxer, and Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa are partners in the hotel project. Marriott Hotel International, Inc., will add the Epicurean to its Autograph Collection, a select group of hotels that are operated without the Marriott name but offers guests the perks that come with the Marriott brand.
 
Among unique features at the hotel are bicycles for touring Hyde Park and Bayshore Boulevard and evening wine samplings.

The hotel also will have Chocolate Pi, a French-style patisserie, Bern's Fine Wines & Spirits, and 5,200 square-foot flexible event room suitable for weddings, honeymoons, bar and bat mitzvahs.

In February a full-service luxury spa, Evangeline, will open.
 
The hotel is taking an innovative path and tapping into the trendy "foodie" movement with culinary classes for beginners and experienced cooks. World-known chefs and sommeliers will visit the state-of-the-art Epicurean Theatre for cooking demonstrations, wine exhibitions and special events.

And the hotel will participate in the annual Bern's WineFest.

"There are so many foodies out there," Haines says. "They are hungry and thirsty for more knowledge. The theater cements that for people."

The first culinary classes will begin Jan. 20 with Mastering Wine Aromas. Other early topics are History of the Cocktail and tea blending. Haines says classes will be held "about every day of the week."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tom Haines, Epicurean Hotel

Popular Davis Islands Dog Beach Reopens

After experiencing a 6-month closure to undergo a major renovation, the Davis Islands Dog Beach is now open to local four-legged friends and dog-lovers to enjoy.

The City of Tampa Parks and Recreation began work on the $273,082 project on Monday, June 10th. The beach restoration project included building an offshore break water, installing artificial reef modules and adding improved seating, fencing and new sand, which will prevent future shore erosion.

"Waves from passing ships eroded the beach and shoreline, exposing rubble and making it unsafe for dogs and their owners,'' says Linda Carlo, the City's superintendent at the Office of Special Events.

Additionally, the City repaired and re-paved the boat ramp and added new Florida-friendly landscaping to the area.

"The Davis Islands dog beach is beloved by the local community. Residents and their four-legged friends come from all over the city to use this park, and now after these improvements, it will be safe and pet-friendly once again,'' says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Two local Davis Islands business owners, Carolyn Bigley of Davis Islands Pet Care and Jenn Fadal of Wag Natural Pet Market and Bathhouse, teamed up to create the nonprofit Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks -- an on-going, long-term community effort in partnership with Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Friends currently assists the City of Tampa Parks and Recreation Department in maintaining both the Davis Islands Dog Beach and Dog Park, and fully supported the city's decision to improve the beach despite the six-month closure.

"This is an opportunity for a fresh start and to keep it maintained and looking beautiful,'' the group said in a statement. "We're excited about the long-term benefits to our dog beach.''

Funds for the project will come from Community Investment Tax (CIT). The Davis Islands dog beach is located at 1002 Severn St. on Davis Islands and is open daily until sunset.

"Parks immeasurably improve the quality of life for our residents, and I know many, many people will be happy to have this one improved,'' Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Bob Buckhorn and Linda Carlo, City of Tampa

USF Health Begins Construction Of New Heart Institute

The University of South Florida made a major investment in cardiovascular research with the groundbreaking today (Dec. 17, 2013) of the USF Health Heart Institute.
 
The $50 million, five-story, 100,000-square-foot facility will be the center of the university's medical research into risk factors and new treatments for heart disease and related diseases of stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. The research is expected to boost local investment in high-wage jobs, business partnerships, patents and technologies that could lead to spin-off businesses in and around Tampa and Hillsborough County.

“USF is working tirelessly to make heart disease less of a threat to the health and well-being of our community. Today, we take a huge step forward in our efforts as we begin work on building our new USF Health Heart Institute,” says USF President Judy Genshaft. “We’re creating the scientific infrastructure that will make Florida a world leader in combatting devastating diseases.”
 
The Heart Institute will create a synergy for "bench to bedside to bench" discoveries that aid health care patients, says Stephen Liggett, Vice Dean for Research at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. Liggett is co-acting director for the Institute along with Arthur Labovitz, chairman of Morsani College's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.
 
Liggett describes the bench as the research that is translated into patient treatments at the bedside. In turn those treatments can reveal new avenues for additional productive research. The institute will focus on advanged diagnotics, clinical trials for new medicines, genetic and stem cell therapies and DNA tailored treatments based on a patient's genetic makeup.

USF Health recently began its first genomic trial in partnership with the American College of Cardiology by linking DNA analysis from blood samples to the cardiology college's heart disease database of millions of patients.

“The sharing of basic and clinical research data in both directions can lead to better outcomes,” he says.
 
Increased investment in research is intended to get to the root causes of heart disease. "Right now the pipeline for new drugs and new diagnostics is pretty dry," he says.
 
Heart disease among men and women is the leading cause of death and annually costs the United States more than $312 billion in health care costs, medicines and lost worker productivity, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Florida heart disease is second behind cancer as a cause of death.
 
The project is supported with nearly $22 million from the state and Hillsborough County. Another $30 million will be needed to complete construction. An opening date will be determined by how soon those funds are secured.
 
USF expects to invest as much as $25 million in faculty recruitment and resources for genomics-based medicine.
As the county's population ages, this type of research will become more important for the community, says Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe. "It's an excellent investment," he says.
 
Among USF's partners at the Health Heart Institute are Florida Hospital and its Pepin Heart Institute, Florida Cardiovascular Institute and Tampa General Hospital.
 
The construction contractor is Whiting-Turner and the architect is HOK.
 
The Heart Institute will be in the center of the USF Health complex located at the northwest corner of Holly and Magnolia drives. Nearby are the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute, Moffit Cancer Center and Morsani College of Medicine. There will be an auditorium, offices, laboratories and a clinical care center.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Stephen Liggett, USF Health; Mark Sharpe, Hillsborough County

Tampa Solicits Bids For Hotel, Apartments In Ybor City

Infill parcels that have been vacant for nearly 30 years are being marketed to developers to build a hotel and a multifamily apartments in Ybor City.
 
Tampa City officials are seeking proposals for the hotel at 1212 Seventh Ave, and the apartments on East 12th Avenue between 16th and 17th streets, next to Interstate 4. Bids will be opened on Jan. 3.
 
"We hope it will be successful and spark new development," says Vince Pardo, president of the Ybor City Development Corporation, the city agency that oversees Ybor City's redevelopment areas. "It goes right into our vision plan for hotels for out of town visitors and more apartments for people to live here."
 
Proceeds from the land sales will be shared by the city and Hillsborough Community College based on a 1983 agreement when the college's board of trustees agreed to transfer the lots to the city through quit claim deeds. The agreement has been amended  twice, most recently in 1998.
 
Urban renewal and state highway widening projects sliced through portions of Ybor City leaving in its wake certain vacant parcels that then became the property of the city or the college. And in the case of the parcels now up for sale, there is joint ownership.

County  records show the market value of the hotel-designated property is about $173,000; the other parcel's market value is about $362,000. 

Money made on the sale must be re-invested within Ybor City's redevelopment area, says Pardo. But those revenues aren't as important as the longer-term economic and jobs benefits to Ybor from the proposed projects themselves, he says.

An unsolicited proposal from a Miami development group interested in building a hotel is what prompted the city's decision to seek bids on both properties. "The economy is getting better. People are eyeing property," says Pardo. "Why don't we go ahead with an RFP (request for proposal) on the second block?"

The hotel is proposed for a corner at Seventh Avenue and Nuccio Parkway that is at a gateway into Ybor City. A building at 1205 E. Eighth Ave also is up for sale by owner, the nonprofit Volunteers of America of Florida, and is potentially usable with the city's property. Volunteers of America paid $1.2 million for its property in 2004, according to county records.

Sociedad La Union Marti Maceo de Tampa uses the city-owned lot for parking. Pardo said the hotel is going to have to accommodate access into and out of the social club and nearby Chancey Design Partnership.

Other hotels in Ybor City are Hampton Inn and Don Vicente de Ybor Historic Inn.

The board of the YCDC is in support of the hotel and apartment projects. Once the bids are open, they will be reviewed and a recommendation submitted to the city administration and Tampa City Council.
 
"As Tampa leads Florida out of the recession, it's the right time to bring new residential and commercial opportunities to Ybor," says Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "I will do anything I can if it stimulates development and is good for the surrounding neighborhood, and we believe these projects will do just that. As we continue to foster 24 hour a day, 7 day a week environment in historic Ybor City, both projects will activate spaces that are currently vacant."
 
Recent proposal requests already are sparking redevelopment projects in Tampa Heights and downtown Tampa. The Water Works building in Tampa is being leased by Columbia Restaurant Group. Construction is under way and an opening for Ulele Restaurant and Bar is expected in 2014.
 
Hotel Partners LLC expects to open Le Meridien Hotel in the renovated Federal Courthouse building on Florida Avenue in late spring 2014. And a high-rise apartment tower and shops along the city's Riverwalk project, at Tyler and Cass streets, is being developed by Intown/Framework Group.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Vince Pardo and Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Ex-Lawyer Follows Dream To Open Micro-Brewery

Small wooden kegs of beer sit inside the vast warehouse waiting to be tapped. They are filled with sample recipes for brews that owners of Coppertail Brewing Co. expect soon to be selling to local bars, restaurants and grocery stores.
 
In Kent Bailey's office, cardboard boxes are filled with coasters and T-shirts emblazoned with the message "Resist the Industrial Brewing Complex." It's a fitting challenge from a man who gave up a comfortable business law practice to follow a dream.

"I wasn't loving what I was doing anymore," says Bailey. His passion was for home-brewed beer crafted in his spare time in his Davis Islands' kitchen.

But he began to think, "How can I make this a career?"

He put together a business plan and a team to help make it work. In November he said goodbye to his law career. By March Bailey, 38, expects to open the brewing operations at Coppertail in a 34,000-square-foot warehouse at 2601 E. Second Ave., fronting Adamo Drive and sitting catty-cornered from Ikea. In past lives, the building has been home to Hellman's mayonaise, an olive oil company and a refrigeration repair shop. One month later he hopes to have a temporary tasting room open so he can offer tours. Longer range goals are to open a permanent tasting room and gift shop by summer or fall 2014. Outdoor space of about 32,000 square feet will be used for special events including beer festivals.

Right-of-way owned by the city of Tampa along Adamo Drive is slated for development as a greenway. That part of Coppertail's overall project needs additional city council approvals.

For now, offices and a front lobby are remodeled, with help from Schiller's Architectural Design and Salvage .The warehouse, building exterior and parking lot are works-in-progress. Hafner Ferlita Architects are the building's designers.
Residents in the East Ybor area are supportive. Initially there were worries that the establishment would be another bar.

"The fact that is not a 'bar-bar' is awesome," says Fran Costantino, president of the East Ybor Historic and Civic Association. "It's not going to bring in riff-raff."

Instead it will be an upscale business in an area that needs that type of new development, Costantino says.

Things are moving quickly. Approvals from Tampa City Council and the federal agency regulating brewery permits are in place. Brewing equipment from German-based Rolec is due to arrive in January.

Bailey is delighted that Rolec won the bidding contract for Coppertail's equipment. "Rolec really wants to be brewing in Florida," he says. "They don't have one here."

The award-winning company does have its equipment at several businesse in the United States including Brooklyn Brewing Company in New York and Lagunitas Brewing Company in California.

Bailey pitched his brewery idea to friend and home-brewer aficionado Robb Larson at WaZoo, a beer event at Lowry Park Zoo last year. Larson, who is a personal trainer, now is in charge of beer development and social media. The brewery's Facebook page is followed by about 1,100 people. They've also created a blog.

Coppertail's award-winning brewmaster is Casey Hughes, president of Master Brewers Association of America. Hughes moved from upstate New York at age 18 to Tampa. He worked with Key West brewing on the bottling line but worked up to a brewing job before he legally was able to drink alcohol. For many years he was head brewer at Flying Fish brewery in New Jersey before jumping at the chance to move back to Tampa and join the Coppertail brewing gang.

As a startup Coppertail's aim is to settle in with Tampa's growing micro-brewery movement. But Bailey says, "We've tried to give ourselves room here for the capacity to grow regional in 10 years or so. That's all a pipe dream now."

There is a camaraderie among local brewers much different from the corporate dog-eat-dog world of business law. "We've made a point of gettng out there and meeting as many brewers as we can," Bailey says. "Everyone has been kind and gracious."

Bailey sees craft beers as a growing trend that is benefitting from people's desires to grow and buy local food products.
 
"People are fed up with beer as an industrial product," he says. "They want it to be local, naturally flavorful again, and like it used to be. People are very focused on local and natural. Craft beer plays into that very well.''

As for the Coppertail name, Coppertail is a fantastical sea creature that lives in Tampa Bay where he protects swimmers and battles pollution.

Bailey's now 6-year-old daughter Sofia is the one who came up with the name after a talk with Bailey about the earliest explorers of Tampa and the kinds of creatures they might have seen." A lot of them reported seeing sea monsters which I thought was hilarious," says Bailey. "Coppertail is something impossible, about imagination and a lot about Tampa Bay."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kent Bailey, Coppertail

Historic Figures Take Their Places Along Tampa Riverwalk

For the second year, six bronze busts of people who made a difference in Tampa's history have been added to the Tampa Riverwalk by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and members of the nonprofit Friends of the Riverwalk.

The latest honorees are Newspaper Publisher C. Blythe Andrews, Attorney Cody Fowler, Civic Leader Kate Jackson, Attorney Peter O. Knight, Cuban Civil Rights Leader Paulina Pedroso and Businessman G. D. Rogers. Their likenesses will be added to the six already installed last year on the city's Historical Monument Trail at the Riverwalk. Eventually city officials anticipate more than 30 people will be recognized for their historical contributions.

"The whole concept is to make a trail to honor as many of the people as possible who made Tampa what it is today," says Attorney Steven Anderson, president of the Friends of the Riverwalk. "It's just a great program. People love the monuments."

A 9-member committee makes selections each year looking back over 150 years of Tampa's history. It costs about $120,000 annually to finish and install the busts, Anderson says.

Most of the funds are privately donated. Hillsborough County provided a matching grant based on the project's historical preservation mission.

Last year's honorees were the Mound Builder Indians, who were the first settlers 10,000 years ago; cigar magnate Vicente Martinez-Ybor; shipping tycoon James McKay; nurse Clara Frye; railroad trailblazer Henry B. Plant; and suffragist Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain. Anderson said the committee has begun selecting next year's six honorees.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Steven Anderson, Friends of the Riverwalk

Construction Begins On New Transit Center In Pinellas Park

Bus riders will have an easier time of figuring out schedules and making connections when the new Pinellas Park Transit
Center opens in the summer of 2014.

CHTR Development, LLC, is in charge of construction after winning the contract with a low bid of $359,000. The new facility will replace the current transit center at 70th Avenue North behind the Shoppes at Park Place.

It will be manned with transit employees who can sell tickets and provide information at a customer service window. There also will be restrooms and water fountains for the hundreds of riders who get on and off the buses. It will be the first time central Pinellas has had such a fully equipped center, says Bob Lasher, spokesman for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

The new transit center is an effort to modernize bus service and increase ridership.

In November 2014 voters will have a chance to vote on a referendum for a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a 30-year plan to improve transit service and potentially have light rail service connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Bob Lasher, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority

New Grille To Open In MetWest In Tampa, Offer Rooftop Dining

Del Frisco's Grille is opening its first Florida West Coast location at Tampa's MetWest International on Boy Scout Boulevard in 2014.

Offering an innovative twist on American comfort classics, Del Frisco's Grille, an award-winning Texas-based restaurant, has signed a lease for a 9,700-square-foot space at MetLife's mixed-use development in Westshore.

The new restaurant is expected to seat 450 guests, including 160 on a rooftop deck with a retractable roof -- the first of its kind in the Westshore Business District.

"We are thrilled to bring Del Frisco's Grille and our warm, genuine hospitality to MetWest International Tampa,'' says Mark S. Mednansky, CEO of Del Frisco's Restaurant. "Whether you're headed to a Tampa Bay Bucs game or checking out the Yankees during Spring Training, our roof deck will be the perfect place to enjoy Ahi Tacos and a cold local beer or prime steak and an amazing glass of wine.''

Del Frisco's Grille is the newest restaurant concept of the Del Frisco Resaturant Group, drawing inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients. Everything about the concept -- from the interior design and seating to the easy-to-share food and handcrafted drinks -- is built for creating a unique local experience.

The menu is slated to feature dishes like hand-crafted flatbreads, Cheesesteak Egg Rolls and Ahi Tacos, rounding out with a selection of prime steaks, hearty salads and sandwiches, and chef-inspired entrees.

The Grille's weekend brunch menu will include Red Velvet Belgian Waffle and Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs with Chorizo Gravy.

The Grille's wine list will feature more than 350 wines carefully selected by David O'Day, Del Frisco's Director of Wine.

"MetLife is proud to welcome a fourth new restaurant to Tampa Bay at MetWest International, which has become a dining destination for Tampa residents, as well as the tenants of the development's 750,000 square feet of office space,'' says Chuck Davis, regional director of MetLife's Tampa real estate investment office. "Del Frisco's Grille, with its unique rooftop bar, nicely rounds out the dining options at MetWest, joining Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Texas de Brazil and Kona Grill.''

The Del Frisco's Grille deal was brokered by Kalyn Brandewie of Florida Retail Partners representing MetLife and co-broker Ted Speros of ATS Realty representing Del Frisco's Grille. This will be Del Frisco's Grille 11th location in the country and the first in the Tampa area.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mark S. Mednansky, Del Frisco's Restaurant; Chuck Davis, MetLife

Clothing Store, Cosmetic Surgery Center Find New Homes On Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa

Designer consignment boutique, Mosh Posh, and Premiere Center for Cosmetic Surgery, are taking advantage of more space and greater visibility at new storefronts on Kennedy Boulevard.

Both are relocating from South Tampa addresses to the corner spot at Kennedy and Armenia Avenue where for more than 17 years Second Image Thrift Store sold its second-hand goods, furniture and clothes. Second Image Manager Pam McCoy said the shop, at 2419 W. Kennedy Blvd., moved to Pinellas Park in August..

"Kennedy was an up and coming place," McCoy said, and it was inevitable that newer shops would take hold.

Mosh Posh opened at its new location Friday. The local, family-owned business got its start on South Howard Avenue about four years ago. The designer consignment shop sells pre-owned luxury clothes for women and children from high-end stores and designers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, Louis Vitton, Chanel and Neiman Marcus.

The boutique's shelves also are filled with shoes, handbags, sun glasses, jewelry and other accessories.

On Monday afternoon about a half-dozen shoppers browsed the racks. Merchandise also can be bought on the company website.

Premiere Center's cosmetic surgery office, in a suite next to Mosh Posh, is being remodeled. Plans are to open by early January. The current location at 300 S. Hyde Park Ave. will close.

"We needed a bigger facility," says Marketing Director Stephanie Montanez. "And it's right on Kennedy."

The new offices will have more space for consultation and skin care rooms. It will have a staff of about 20 employees. Board certified physicians perform a range of services including plastic surgery, breast augmentation, liposuction and BOTOX.
In addition to the Tampa location, Premiere Center also has offices in the Miami area.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Pam McCoy, Second Image Thrift Store; Stephanie Montanez, Premier Center for Cosmetic Surgery

Madison Street Park Next For Channel District In Downtown Tampa

For years, Tampa City officials have envisioned a booming Channel District: one with luxury apartments, multiple shopping opportunities and even open-air parks to keep the community active. And with the City acquiring nearly nine-tenths of an acre in the northern end of the District, that vision is closer to becoming a reality. 
 
In addition to Washington Street Park at the corner of 12th Street and Pierhouse Apartments’ nautical-themed art park at what used to be 11th Street, two new pieces of land — one being purchased by the City for $1.56 million and one which will be given as a donation -- total 43,000 square feet and are expected to become Madison Street Park.
 
The donated portion of land is coming from a company controlled by developer Ken Stoltenberg of Mercury Advisors, who has city approval to build the 24-story Martin at Meridian tower next door. For now, Stoltenberg has a proposal for the now-vacant land between Twiggs and Madison streets.
 
“My vision is for an active sports park that can be highly programmed to meet the needs of the growing number of young urban professionals,” he says. “Right now, if you want to play basketball, sand volleyball or take a boot camp or CrossFit class outdoors, you need to leave downtown — and that’s a shame.”
 
Stoltenberg envisions the almost one-acre space to be divided into a basketball court, dodge ball area, two sand volleyball courts, two boot camp areas and a dog park. He says he, as well as other developers and City officials, have been told time and time again that a park is an amenity people look for when considering living in an urban environment.
 
“Residents will have access to all of the aforementioned activities and won’t have to drive anywhere,” he says. “Additionally, the restaurants in the neighborhood will benefit from increased business, thanks to evening and weekend park visitors.”
 
Soon, Stoltenberg and his team will break ground on The Martin, a mixed-use development expected to add a little more than 300 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space to the area; BDG Architects/Urban Studio Architects and Hardin Construction will work with Stoltenberg on the project. 
 
The Martin at Meridian will join The Place at Channelside, The Slade, Bell Channelside and the currently under-construction 356-unit, $550 million Pierhouse At Channelside apartments.
 
Source: Ken Stoltenberg, Mercury Advisors

New Frank Lloyd Wright House Stands Out At Florida Southern College

Florida Southern College has made architectural history once again with the completion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House. Designed by Wright in 1941, the plans for the Usonian House where locked away — until now. 
 
This construction marks the first time this particular design of a Wright home has even been built. 
 
The 1,700-square-foot Usonian House is expected to become the centerpiece of Florida Southern College’s Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center — the first stop for tens of thousands of visitors who come to Lakeland annually to see the Wright-designed campus and buildings.
 
Built by Rodda Construction, Inc. of Lakeland and with M. Jeffrey Baker of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson, Baker Architects of Albany, NY acting as supervising architect, the project showcases many of Wright’s signature architectural features, including a large open fireplace, cantilever construction, colored cast-glass blocks, floor-to-ceiling windows, minimal storage space and a floor plan that encouraged family togetherness.
 
“The Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, with the Usonian House as its centerpiece, represents the college’s ongoing commitment to preserving and celebrating its unique architectural legacy,” says Florida Southern Director of Marketing & Communications Kathleen Farley. “With the addition of the Usonian House and the new educational resources the Sharp Center brings, we expect that our tourism numbers will rise significantly, bringing more visitors not only to our campus, but also to downtown Lakeland and other attractions in Polk County.”
 
Currently, the Florida Southern College campus welcomes more than 30,000 visitors annually and boasts the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. 
 
The West Campus of Florida Southern College represents the most fully articulated vision of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, including the largest water feature, the only theater-in-the-round and the only planetarium ever designed by Wright. These attractions receive upwards of 100,000 visitors per year.
 
“Any fan of architecture or student of American history should make the trip to see this absolutely stunning and unique collection. I feel privileged that I get to walk among these structures every day,” Farley says. “Wright’s attention-to-design on a grand scale right down to the tiniest of details is simply mind-blowing. No aspect of these structures occurred by happenstance — every detail was carefully thought out to achieve a particular outcome and particular experience for each viewer.”
 
Usonian was Wright’s acronym for United States of North America, implying an aesthetic stemming from the blend of cultures and environments unique to the country. Wright initially conceived several Usonian-style homes to serve as faculty housing for the campus, however, none were built. This particular design has never been constructed before.
 
Funded by a number of private donations, the project received a $1 million contribution from Polk County and a donation of $500,000 from the City of Lakeland.
 
Woodwork for the project was performed by Thomas Sharrett of Demoss Cabinetry of Lakeland and cast glass fabrication by Ron Bearer, Jr. of R4 Glass Studio in Cocoa. Cast glass installation was performed by Ken Berman of Lakeland’s The Glass Onion and textile blocks were created by Ken Uracius of Stone and Lime Inc, of Brookfield, MA.
 
Source: Kathleen Farley, Florida Southern College

New Clearwater Apartments Target Homeless Veterans

Providing a place of healing and sanctuary for military veterans experiencing the aftereffects of war, Tampa Bay's Homeless Emergency Project recently celebrated the opening of a new housing development, HEP West Apartment Community.

As one of the largest providers of housing services for veterans in the area, HEP opened its new 3-acre, 32-apartment community with a focus on getting both male and female veterans "all the way home.'' HEP's target population includes 20- and 30-somethings returning back to the states from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our mission is to provide homeless and very low income individuals and families with housing, food, clothing and the support services necessary to obtain self-sufficiency and improved quality of life,'' says HEP Director of Marketing Ashley Chango. "Our goal is to help people help themselves.''

Klar & Klar of Clearwater acted as architect on the project and Bradley Construction of Clearwater as general contractor. Funding for HEP West was made possible through a combination of government and private foundation grants, as well as private and corporate donors.

Rated four stars by Charity Navigator, the organization is located on an 8-acre campus in Clearwater's North Greenwood neighborhood and currently serves about 400 men, women and children on a daily basis.

In 2012, the local organization served 1,689 people, including 660 veterans, 63 families and 143 children, according to Chango.

"Our vision is to be the last shelter any individual, family or veteran ever has to enter,'' she says. "With an 87 percent success rate of HEP residents obtaining independent housing the community upon discharge of our program, we're well on our way.''

And the new West Community will aid HEP in making strides towards its goal.

Located in the heart of Clearwater, the community features 32 brand new 500-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment homes. Fully furnished, each unit includes a private bedroom, bath, central HVAC, storage and kitchen with new appliances.

The landscaped grounds encourage residents to relax, socialize and exercise in a tranquil, park-like setting featuring a 2,300-square-foot club house. A 24-hour security team will be featured on-site, as well as case managers and five full-time addiction and mental health counselors funded by a federal grant.

HEP also provides round-trip transportation to St. Pete's Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

"We're the only service agency of its kind,'' Chango says. "Our program is truly one-of-a-kind, and HEP West is just a part of the homeless population that we serve. We won't consider out work to be done until we can end homelessness for good.''

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Ashley Chango, Homeless Emergency Project

Urban Land Institute Visit Examines Pasco County's Growth

Pasco County should redouble efforts to encourage development along north-south U.S. Highway 19 in West Pasco and abandon the idea of building an elevated tollway along the east-west State Road 54/56 corridor, according to preliminary recommendations by a panel of urban experts visiting under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute. 

ULI experts were in Pasco from Oct 7 to Oct 11. The panel was invited by the County to help evaluate its planning efforts since 2008, ULI's last visit.

Much of the ULI panel's visit to Pasco, the county immediately north of more urban Pinellas (Clearwater-St. Pete) and Hillsborough (Tampa) counties was dedicated to private interviews and discussions with the local community, business leaders, county staff and other stakeholders.

The ULI Panel acknowledged that the County has made significant strides since 2008 with the adoption of the Market Areas, Urban Services Areas, the County's Strategic Plan and other improvements. Although the ULI Panel applauded the County's recent planning efforts, it also cautioned Pasco County on several aspects of development.

"Pasco County has approved over 300,000 units for construction, adequate to meet the supply for next 75 years,'' says ULI Panelist Dan Conway. Because approved growth far exceeds market demand, the County should guide new development into designated Urban Service Areas on highways 19 and 54.

Redevelopment efforts along the U.S. 19 corridor should focus on creating Business Improvement Districts, providing redevelopment incentives and seek public-private partnerships to establish a "Corridor Lifestyle'' characterized by high-density mixed-use development within walkable distances from transit stops.

Panelist April Anderson Lamoureux recommends growing the health care sector and small business expansion. The County also should "embrace Eco-Tourism as one of its key development opportunity,'' adds Anderson-Lamoureux.

The ULI Panel recommended against plans to build an elevated tollway on the State Roads 54/56 corridor, connecting U.S. 19 to East Pasco.

"All around the Country there are at least 12 efforts to take down elevated highway structures since the community said they don't want them,'' says Pat Hawley, one of the ULI Panelists, referring to notable projects in cities that are turning highways into vibrant parks.

"You might have the potential to build the tollway but it would in fact impede the County's efforts of creating place making,'' concludes Hawley.

ULI Panelist Dan Slone suggested the County look at the "Highways to Boulevards'' initiative by the Congress for New Urbanism.
 
Lastly, the Panel asked Pasco County to embrace its diversity and cautioned against applying the same design standards throughout the county. The Panel is expected to give a full report within the next 90 days.
 
"ULI's recommendations validate our efforts to make Pasco a premier county,'' says John Hagen, President of Pasco Economic Development Council.
"The Panel may have just pointed us to the true North. I think we need to re-examine the elevated tollway.''

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Urban Land Institute, is a nonprofit global education and research institute, which provides Advisory Services to communities for solving planning and policy issues.

The panel included economic development, real estate and urban planning experts, both from public and private sectors. On the final day of their visit, panel members presented their initial findings and recommendations at the West Pasco Government Center to a large gathering of nearly 100 people.
   
Writer: Vinod Kadu
Sources: John Hagen, Pasco Economic Development Council

Urbanism On Tap Opens Mic For Talk About Citybuilding

Tampa's Urban Charrette  and the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay Chapter will host Urbanism on Tap at New World Brewery in Ybor City on November 12 starting at 5:30 pm. This open mic format event is designed to generate constructive conversations about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

The event is the second in a three-part series, entitled "How Do You Get There?'' It will focus on understanding some critical questions such as: How does one get to places which they like in Tampa? What determines our choices in getting around the city that we like so much? How do we as residents and citizens of Tampa envision its future with respect to access and mobility? Seeking answers to some of these key questions will help us understand the transportation issues and challenges that we face in our daily lives.

Overall, the intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance our ability to make Tampa, a more livable City.

Urbanism on Tap is an event focused on generating a dialogue within the community led by the Urban Charette and CNU Tampa Bay. Moderators and attendees can share their stories related to the topic of the day. Every event is open to the public, and all are invited to attend and share their views.

Following the event, everyone is encouraged to continue the conversation online through the Urbanism on Tap's Facebook page or website.

Venue: New World Brewery, Ybor City, 1313 8th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605
Date and Time: Nov. 12th from 5:30 p.m to 7 p.m
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry and Ashly Anderson, CNU Tampa Bay

USFSM Ushers In Scientific Renaissance With Mote Partnership, New Science Labs, Biology Major

The STEM curriculum is a rapidly evolving organism at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. On Oct. 17, USFSM held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of its new science labs at Mote Marine Laboratories and announced that a new undergraduate major will be offered in biology at the university starting next fall.

Willis A. Smith Construction oversaw the development of a biology lab, chemistry lab and student teaching area in a pre-existing 4,600-square-foot research facility on the Mote Marine campus. Designed by Fawley-Bryant Architects, each lab includes 26 student stations that are served by laboratory gas and fume snorkels. An additional laboratory prep area serving both the biology and chemistry labs houses high-tech research tools including autoclaves, incubators, sub-zero freezers and student safety stations.

The $1.5 million project was funded by private donors, foundations and grants that covered the cost of construction as well as the purchase of lab equipment. Construction took place between the months of March and August, 2013, when the labs welcomed its first batch of undergraduate students.

Dr. Jane Rose,  Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USFSM, says that students will not only receive valuable hands-on access to state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, but they will also benefit from one-on-one face-time with world-class researchers and teaching scientists who partner with the university from 22 diverse research programs at Mote Marine.

"While the partnership was developed as a way for the university just to get into the sciences, it has enabled us to do so in very a special way, and to make a contribution to the whole state repertoire of science programs. Most importantly, it's a chance to really serve our students from the Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte County region,'' says Rose.

The new state-of-the-art laboratories at Mote Marine and B.S. Biology program for undergraduate students are integral elements in USFSM’s transition into a full four-year institution of higher learning, which began in August when the university welcomed its first class of incoming freshmen.

The biology program is in its pilot year at the university. The degree program does not officially launch until Fall 2014, but current students can declare a biology major and begin to pursue pre-requisite coursework in the biology field at any time. A small group of students began attending classes in the labs when the Fall 2013 semester commenced in August.

"Florida offers many undergraduate biology degrees, but none of them will be quite like ours. In most major universities, the research faculty generally delivers the lecture section to auditoriums filled with hundreds of students, but it's graduate students who are teaching the labs. Undergrad students don't get to know the real research faculty well until they've advanced in their degree or until they're graduate students, which comes down to a class size issue. Our classes will be intentionally small so that students have close working relationships with the research faculty as early as their freshman year,'' Rose says.

"Whether it's a Mote Marine researcher or our faculty leading the students, they will not only be delivering the lecture portion of the courses, but they will also be in the labs working with those students, which will make the labs much more significant. Many people would argue that where scientists really learn is in the lab components of their courses,'' Rose adds.

Rose says that prior to the introduction of the B.S. in biology program, there was no biology degree available for public university students in the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte region.

"These students will be be at an advantage because they have had so much meaningful lab experience right from the beginning of their college careers. They will be competitive in entry level lab jobs in medical field and in industrial research and development with their undergraduate degrees, but more importantly, most careers in the sciences do involved graduate study. Students working in our research labs will be well-prepared for that,'' Rose says.

"Now, not only can you stay here to get a biology degree, but you can stay here to get a biology degree to be envied.''

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jane Rose, USFSM
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