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Ybor City Building Projects Turn Tampa Bay Green

Bryan Roberts (right) and Rudy Arnauts at the Roosevelt building in Ybor City. - Julie Busch
Bryan Roberts (right) and Rudy Arnauts at the Roosevelt building in Ybor City. - Julie Busch
People going "green'' are all around us driving green cars, buying eco-friendly appliances, eating organic foods. Many are doing simple things like buying water filters in an attempt to use fewer plastic water bottles, while others are making larger investments by switching to more earth-friendly, nonautomotive modes of transportation. But a group of developers in Ybor City are taking "green'' to the next level and making money doing it by building office complexes that save on energy costs and literally turn "green'' ideas into action on a large scale.

One of these groups, Team Project 3.0, is out to show the Tampa Bay region (and the world) that it takes little more than a collaboration of ideas to get things done. The three men behind the Project Rudy Arnauts, Steve Francois and Bryan Roberts set out a couple of years ago to turn the abandoned 100-year-old Roosevelt building (where President Teddy Roosevelt reportedly kept his horses during the Rough Riders era) in Ybor City into a completely self-sufficient, sustainable development. And to engage the community in the process with a documentary they call "Web 2.0."

For the team, this web component is crucial to the success of their project. When they approached owner and infamous Tampa businessman Joe Redner about renovating the building, he told them he didn't want to spend any money on it. Steve's response? OK, we'll do it anyway. And so they began, with no money but lots of ideas and energy.

Their team has since grown to include more than 50 businesses and individuals. And what they did have, it turns out, was far more important than what they didn't. Key was the idea that the Internet could be used to tackle and complete real-world projects following "green'' principles.

Bryan brought to the team his experiences building a home that's completely off the power grid. Called an Earthship, the home is in Myakka City in rural Manatee County south of Tampa and east of Sarasota.

Earthships, according to the project's website, are "radically sustainable homes made of recycled materials" constructed across the globe. Electricity comes from the sun via solar panels, water is caught on the roof from rain (and snow in some places), and food is grown inside and outside of the home.

Bryan, the contractor on the project in Manatee County and at the Roosevelt in Ybor, will use recycled bottles, cans and tires to build the Earthship home. He says an important part of Project 3.0 is bringing these global ideas of sustainability to Tampa and the Roosevelt renovation. 

Florida Business Interiors

Florida Business Interiors is another group that has brought green development ideas to Ybor City. Their building, located in Ybor Square, is also a historic building and dates back to the late 1800s. President Kevin Baker says choosing Ybor City as a new location for the company was easy.

"There's a real coolness factor that comes with Ybor," he said. He also cited the neighborhood's proximity to transportation, daycare centers and restaurants as reasons why his employees like working in the historic district. He also says that the location boosts business. Customers enjoy coming to the building because Ybor is a destination in the Tampa Bay region. They often ask if they can come around 11 a.m. so they can enjoy lunch and other Ybor amenities.

Florida Business Interiors moved to the spot in November 2007. The company renovated the inside of the building, but left the outside intact. Their work has been recognized by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, and the building is on its way to becoming the first Leadership on Energy Environmental Design (LEED) interior built inside of a historic building. LEED provides a set of standards for sustainable construction projects like these.

Buildings can apply for LEED certification in a variety of categories. The Florida Business Interiors building meets LEED certification in the commercial interiors category. Also, a large component of the certification has to do with what the development offers its occupants amenities within walking distance, nice views, reliable secondary transportation, etc. Baker said that LEED certification is important to the newly renovated green buildings of Tampa.

"It's a real clear sign to whoever we're dealing with, be it the customer or the architect, it helps them to understand that we really get it, we're not just talking about it. We've done what it takes to make the facility green," he says.

Baker also says that LEED certification is typically found in newer buildings. The building renovated by Florida Business Interiors was built in 1886. "We've done the necessary things even in this historic building to get that LEED certification," Baker says.

Some of the features of the renovated building: raised access floors that allow for storage of utilities underneath and save space; and walls that are constructed to create less waste. Baker says that typically 30-35 percent of walls made out of drywall goes to the landfill, but no part of their walls go to waste. They also use highly energy-efficient lighting and maximize the use of daylight throughout the building.

Chancey Design Partnership

Greg Jones of the Chancey Design Partnership also advocates the importance of the LEED certification for green buildings like the one his company operates.

"LEED proves that sustainability has been achieved. There are a lot of people 'claiming' they have green stuff; LEED is an unbiased process that proves it," he says.

In 2006, the design group started building their new office at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 13th Street. It is the first LEED-certified building in the city of Tampa for new construction, a different category than the one for the Florida Business Interiors building. The building takes some measures toward being green that are simple and useful for both homeowners and large-scale buildings; things like opening the windows to cool down the space instead of using the air conditioner.

Other features are built into the structure of the office building: low-flow toilets that reduce the amount of water used, light sensors that turn the lights off in areas where people aren't active, compartmentalized air conditioning units throughout the building that allow air to be used in warmer parts of the building but turned off in parts where air is not needed. The building also satisfies the human component of LEED certification; daylight in the space is increased through high ceilings and windows and a more open layout.

This green development trend is evident in other parts of the state, too. In February, 7-Eleven opened a new store in Deland in hopes that it will become LEED-certified. The store includes features like a high efficiency air conditioning and heating system, bathrooms that reduce water usage, and LED light fixtures that help to cut down on energy demand.

The guys at Project 3.0 set out to fix up an old building in an environmentally friendly way and, in the process, have tapped into a great component of development in Tampa Bay like-minded people who want to start making some real changes in the way they live and interact with the world.

Michelle Stark, a journalism student at the University of South Florida, is a freelance writer who is a newspaper/magazine junkie and a caffeine fiend. Between learning an abundance of journalism skills in preparation for the "real world" after graduation in May, she frequents Tampa's indie clubs/concerts and does Pilates. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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