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Adamo Drive Mural Nears Completion, Ybor City

After two years of fundraising efforts and months of work, the Adamo Drive Mural project is making progress toward completion.

The approximately $30,000 project is expected to enhance the appeal of the Ybor City Historic District, transforming industrial weather-beaten portions of Adamo Drive into a work of art representing the culture, heritage and vitality of both Ybor City and Tampa; the mural covers the rear exterior of a 370-by-35-foot space on the 12,000-square-foot Fabricated Products Building at 17th Street and Adamo Drive.

“Art projects such as these not only help to illustrate a rich history and bring students, artists and residents together, but they can stimulate a renewal of energy in urban areas,” says Dave Scott, the project's organizer. “Recently, several major cities such as Omaha, Nebraska and Chattanooga, Tennessee have embraced similar art projects as a smart investment to attract potential investors, visitors and residents. I hope this mural is the spark that helps ignite a greater spirit of renewal in Ybor and the downtown area.”

Spanning two blocks, project organizers believe the Adamo Drive Mural to be one of the largest outdoor murals in the state of Florida. Designed by local artist Mike Parker, the mural depicts the vitality of Ybor City, focusing on the people and families that continue to make the neighborhood what it is today: One continuously welcoming and embracing new ideas, businesses and faces.

“The mural is a tribute to the history of Ybor City. It even reflects the character of the neighborhood today; it’s bright, interesting, and forward-looking,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Public art projects like this are an important economic driver and help us define Ybor as a creative place.”

As part of the preplanning process for the project, Parker taught a class at  Hillsborough Community College where students immersed themselves into the history, heritage and current feel of the Ybor City neighborhood. Through research of the neighborhood and interviews with residents, Parker and the HCC students were able to integrate the results into a mural that tells the story of Ybor City.

“We too often forget that Tampa has one of the greatest examples of people embracing the 'American Dream',” Scott says. “The mural can be an inspiration to all of us to make the most of our talent and potential -- an important perspective for the renaissance of Ybor and the growth of the Tampa Bay area.”

An on-site dedication by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and local community leaders is planned for the community-driven project on Tuesday, May 21st at 2 p.m.

In addition to the City of Tampa and Ybor City Development Corporation, the project has been supported by local businesses including the Columbia Restaurant, Rotary International, Kimmins Contracting Corp., Vykin Corp., Actsoft Inc., Hoffman Porges Gallery, Fabricated Products, Ybor City Round Table, Protective Coating Solutions, Inc., Safway Scaffolding and Acccess Solutions, Corrosion Specialties, Inc., Sherwin-Willliams, Ring Power's Cat Rental Store, Glendale Painting Corp., Empire Paint, Brandon School of Dance Arts, Salem Enterprise Solutions, Radiant Oil, Bad Monkey Ybor, Special Forces Motorcycle Club, Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club and La Gaceta.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Sources: Dave Scott, Adamo Drive Mural; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

New West Tampa Mural To Honor City's History

A new mural welcoming West Tampa residents is in the works.

Honoring the history and culture of the West Tampa community, the approximately $33,800 mural will be paid for by the City of Tampa and painted onto West Tampa's 59-year-old elevated water tower; at 126 feet tall, the tank is one of two water tanks currently located in Tampa.

Brothers Peter and Rolf Goetzinger -- the Artistbrothers -- have been chosen to paint the large-scale image of an oversized cigar wrapper.

The depiction is a nod to Tampa's cigar factories, which attracted new residents to the city at the turn of the century, the mural will be able to be viewed from I-275 and other nearby streets. The mural will include the words "Welcome to West Tampa.''

Tampa City Council Chair Charlie Miranda credits those new residents for much of West Tampa's success as the thriving city it has become: The City of West Tampa was incorporated in 1895, becoming the fifth largest city in Florida and the second largest city in Hillsborough County by 1905. West Tampa was annexed into the City of Tampa by 1925.

This project "is just one way to honor the heritage and culture of the West Tampa community that continues to shape our city,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “This an opportunity to tell West Tampa's story, which is so ingrained in the fabric of Tampa.”

Before the Artistbrothers begin work on the mural, the City of Tampa will make necessary repairs to the elevated tank, including re-coating. Repairs are expected to cost approximately $350,000 and are slated to begin by January 2014.

The entire project, including repairs and painting, is expected to take four months to compete.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bob Buckhorn & Charlie Miranda, City of Tampa

HART MetroRapid North-South To Begin Services In Hillsborough

A new HART system aims to speed up connections from downtown Tampa to northern parts of Hillsborough County.

HART's MetroRapid will begin operations on Tuesday, May 28th, improving travel along selected service corridors, increasing service reliability and speed of transit. HART Public Information Officer Marcia Mejia says the system will make transit use easier for Hillsborough County residents.

“Added features like ticket vending machines will provide travel time savings because you don't have to wait for folks to pay on board,” Mejia says. “Riders will buy their tickets at the machines and just board directly.”

In addition to ticket vending machines, some of the system's new features include fewer stops; improved travel time, including 10-minute frequencies; GPS-enabled signal prioritization which will hold green lights longer and shorten red lights for the sleek new HART vehicles; and real-time display boards, allowing travelers to know when buses will be arriving.

The first rapid transit system in the area, the North-South MetroRapid will run north along Nebraska Avenue from the downtown neighborhoods and east on Fletcher Avenue to Telecom Park, west of Interstate 75; the area totals a 17.5 mile corridor.

According to Mejia, several studies were done before MetroRapid was planned, showing that the North-South corridor is one of the busiest with ridership activity.

Construction began on the North-South MetroRapid project in August 2013, totaling approximately $31 million, while the traffic signal priority project is cost an estimated $2 million. HART reported that the project came in under budget by $5.7 million, which will be reallocated back into Hillsborough County for infrastructure needs, if desired.

Both projects were paid for by Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax (CIT).

“Ridership continues (to increase) for HART, and has been for the past several years," Mejia says. "With this form of rapid transit being introduced, we're on track to meet transportation needs for residents of the county."

Currently, HART is continuing to make progress and expand the MetroRapid services, including the the East-West project which will connect Tampa International Airport, the Westshore Business District and the HART Netpark bus transfer center at Hillsborough Avenue and 56th Street; the 16.4-mile East-West route will also include connections to the North-South Line at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Marcia Mejia, HART

Police Department To Get New $3.5 M Shooting Range, Tampa

The Tampa Police Department is getting a new shooting range for police training.

The new $3.5 million project, funded by the City of Tampa law enforcement trust fund, will be located behind the city's McKay Bay trash incinerator off of 34th Street.

Plans call for the new facility to include two shooting ranges, a training building and a control tower. Baffle concrete walls to reduce noise are among some of the project's planned features.

“It's hard to replicate what goes on out there in the street, but to the extent that we can make it as realistic as possible, the better off they are and the safer they are,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “That's why facilities like this are so important for us and for them.”

The project is expected to take approximately 18 months to two years to complete, with groundbreaking slated by the end of 2013.

Tampa officials have issued an invitation to companies interested in designing and building the range; responses are due by May 9th.

For years, Tampa law enforcement -- nearly 1,000 sworn officers -- have used the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office shooting range in Lithia, where yearly state qualification standards are met. Last year, approximately $265,000 was spent for Tampa officers to train at the Sherrif's Office range.

In addition to saving money, Buckhorn sees several advantages to having the new range in Tampa.

“The closer they are to the range, the more they can practice,” he says. “I want them to be able to practice as much as they need to.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Making Tampa Streets More Pedestrian-Friendly

The City of Tampa is looking to give four streets a pedestrian-friendly makeover.

Funded by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), plans call for the installation of sidewalks and bike lanes on Palm Avenue, Bougainvillea Avenue, Willow Avenue and Cypress Street in Tampa.

The approximately $400,000 project is currently in the design phase with completion expected by summer 2013.

“This is just the beginning of how we will reshape our center city,” says Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Projects like this are part of our strategy to make Tampa more pedestrian and cyclist friendly.”

In addition to this project, bike lanes will also be installed along parts of Doyle Carlton Drive and Laurel Street in Tampa. Additional on-street parking in the downtown Tampa area is also in the works.

“These improvements will make these streets safer for everyone, providing both residents and visitors more options to get around,” Buckhorn says.

The announcement of this project comes as progress continues on the InVision Tampa project, which will create a new master plan for downtown Tampa, the Nebraska Transit Corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

Making Tampa a more attractive and accessible place for people to live, work, play and visit, a main focus for the project is to provide residents with streets that are connected and calm, encouraging neighborhood gathering spaces and pedestrian activity.

“We know that we need to make our streets more pedestrian friendly,” Buckhorn says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mayor Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa

Tampa Resident Plans First Handicap-Friendly Dog Park, Seminole Heights

A local resident is working toward building Tampa's first handicap-friendly dog park.

Located on the western side of Henry and Ola Park at 502 West Henry Ave., the Seminole Heights Dog Park is slated to feature a large green space for pups to enjoy without the restraints of a leash, including water fountains, handicap-accessible cement pathways and various activities.

“Seminole Heights has a strong history and we deserve the same -- if not better -- amenities that we find in other parts of Tampa,” says Seminole Heights Dog Park Founder Mauricio Rosas.

According to Rosas, the park will become the City of Tampa's first handicap-friendly dog park and will be dedicated to service animals, as well as first responder K9s who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Rosas, who lives with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and has an 8-year-old service dog named Roscoe, decided to present the Seminole Heights Dog Park idea to the City of Tampa Park and Recreations Department because he thought Seminole Heights was lacking public green spaces for both dogs and their owners to enjoy; a main focus for Rosas was that dogs needed to be able to enjoy being outside, free from leashes.

“Service dogs can pretty much go in and out of anywhere and, if they're training, have free rein in public parks,” he says. “I think other dogs need to have the same opportunity as Roscoe. This project is about the community.”

Already backed by an extensive list of local sponsors including Dallas 1 Construction and Development, Seminole Heights Foundation, Courteous Canine, Ginger Snips Beauty Salon and Spa, Health Mutt, Phoenix Glass Studio, Forever Beautiful Salon and Wine Spa and Mickey's Cafe and Bakery, Rosas is looking for 16 businesses that can raise approximately $2,500 each to cover the initial $38,000 in project costs, which is expected to see completion within one year.

A fundraiser for the park will be held on May 5th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Courteous Canine's main campus in Lutz at 3414 Melissa Country Way. The event is expected to feature Taco Bus, a local mobile grooming truck, free dog training advice and agility courses. For more information on how to volunteer or become involved with Seminole Heights Dog Park, visit the official Facebook page.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Mauricio Rosas, Seminole Heights Dog Park

Construction Begins On Marine Exploration Center, Aquarium In Madeira Beach

The 25-year-old St. Petersburg Pier Aquarium is moving, expanding and rebranding, bringing the new Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium concept to John's Pass Village in Madeira Beach.

Slated to open by November 2013, Secrets of the Sea will be the anchor attraction at John's Pass Village on Gulf Boulevard and 129th Avenue in Madeira Beach, featuring a broader, more technology-focused marine exploration concept.

Construction on the 13,500-square-foot, approximately $4 million facility began on April 23rd.

“The Pier Aquarium has been bursting at the seams for a long time while the public's interest in the ocean environment, cutting-edge technology and marine science continues to grow,” says Pier Aquarium President and CEO Howard Rutherford of the 2,000-square-foot St. Pete facility. “The unknown future of The Pier created an extraordinary opportunity for a bold, new approach to the Aquarium's mission.”

The Pier Aquarium will close on May 31.

Rutherford plans for Secrets of the Sea to become one of an epicenter for marine research and one of Madeira Beach's premier attractions, bringing the public together with state-of-the-art marine research, innovation and technology interactive experiences.

Various marine-related activities, aquariums, galleries and exhibits developed by the St. Petersburg Ocean Team will focus on research concepts in a fun, explanatory fashion; exhibits include Essential Estuaries, Touch Tampa Bay, Fish at Risk, Corals on Acid, Crustacean Station and Moon Jellyfish.

Local design-build team Biltmore Construction and Harvard Jolly Architects are working on the construction of the two-story structure with Lexington Design and Fabrication designing and building innovative Mystery Stations throughout the center, showcasing how several sea habitats and lifeforms are benefiting from some of the ocean's unsolved mysteries.

“We hope to create a new generation of environmental stewards,” Rutherford says.

A public/private partnership between John's Pass Village owner AEGON USA Realty Advisors, Enterprise Florida's State Small Business Credit Initiative and a local lender, the new aquarium space was recently endorsed by Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno.

Additionally, a collective hotel partnership called the Secrets Premier Hotelier Group has been instrumental in helping Secrets of the Seas achieve its capital campaign target to begin construction, agreeing to provide in excess of $100,000 over the next five years in support of the new marine attraction.

The partnership includes TradeWinds Island Resort and Guy Harvey Outpost, St. Pete Beach Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, Lowes Don CeSar Hotel, Postcard Inn, Dolphin Beach Resort, Bilmar Beach Resort, Grand Plaza Resort Hotel, Alden Suites, Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites, Beachcomber Beach Resort and Hotel, Plaza Beach Resorts and Barefoot Beach Hotel.

Secrets of the Sea is expected to generate nearly 250,000 visitors annually and pump $8 million into the local economy, reaching more than 40,000 students from six different countries.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Howard Rutherford, Pier Aquarium

Makerspace Project Brings Public Creative Spaces To Tampa Bay

Bringing together residents, organizations, businesses and agencies interested in changing culture through the creation of accessible, sustainable and enduring creative public spaces throughout the Tampa Bay area, non-profit education group Learning is for Everyone (LI4E) is heading the LI4E Makerspace Project, providing places where everyone can learn, innovate, manufacture and create locally.

Promoting personally fulfilling and economically productive ways, the Makerspace Project's first project has been donated by local South Tampa homeowner Terre Tulsiak; Tulsiak says she wants to give people the chance to feel capable and be capable to learn more if they want, giving them a place and chance to do so.

“Because then they'll want to,” Tulsiak says.

It will be more than six months before Tulsiak's donation of her home and property will become operational as LI4E currently gathers information on the cost of finishing the interior of the home, zoning issues and potential collaborative partners.

“I think this location is fabulous because it's urban, residential, accessible and inclusive-- all the things a public creative space should be,” says LI4E Founder and President Terri Willingham. “The size of the home, large yard and community where the home is located all lend itself to our small scale, light-use educational and environmental sustainability focus.”

Tulsiak and Willingham plan to create a space where skills can be learned, honed and advanced; ideas incubated and tested; and an agrarian-self-supporting venture developed, with the home potentially becoming a catalyst for people to refine sustainable businesses.

Specifically, Tulsiak is looking to work with LI4E's Makerspace Project to explore creating “a collaborative, stimulating, encouraging place for people to come to together to learn how to think more clearly, more expansively and more productively,” she says.

Ultimately, both Tulsiak and Willingham see the South Tampa home becoming a “health club for the mind,” featuring a community garden, laboratory for sustainability and entrepreneurial efforts, small-scale workshop for 3D printing and prototyping and classroom space.

“This is a beautiful, useful and collaborative community project. The house is a blank canvas, and the community is the collective artist,” Willingham says. “Makerspaces provide culture-changing opportunity to move from passive consumption to active creation. They're good for individuals and neighborhoods, providing community-enhancing ways to repurpose unused or abandoned spaces, becoming community gathering places by putting capacity building and resource development into the hands of area residents who need it most.”

Willingham hopes this project will kick start a flurry of makerspace projects, empowering local, ordinary people to become extraordinary makers of both their personal futures, as well as the Tampa Bay area's, as a whole.

Apart from the South Tampa project, LI4E has been working with Pasco County libraries to help create makerspaces in their public library system. Keep an eye out for more makerspace projects throughout the Tampa Bay area and get involved by contacting LI4E at info@learningis4everyone.org or (813) 728-2822.

Check out the Tampa Bay Makers Consortium Directory and Tampa Bay Mini Maker Faire website to learn more about similar efforts going on in the area.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Terri Willingham, Learning is for Everyone

St. Pete's Kahwa Coffee Moves Headquarters, St. Pete

Operating some of the Tampa Bay region's most beloved coffee shops, Kahwa Coffee is moving and expanding its headquarters to Joe's Creek Industrial Park in north St. Petersburg.

Located at 4125 8th Ave. S. in St. Pete for the past seven years, Kahwa opened the doors to its first downtown St. Pete location in 2008. Now, the company has plans to move out of their current 3,000-square-foot space, expanding their wholesale division through working with local distributor Tampa Beverage Solutions.

With five Kahwa retail locations in the Tampa Bay area, including two in downtown Tampa and three in St. Pete, Kahwa's 5,000-square-foot space at Joe's Creek Industrial Park, at 4350 28th St. N., will add three new positions with more to come, according to Kahwa Co-Owner Sarah Perrier.

"We have outgrown our current location on all fronts and are preparing for an aggressive growth in the retail sector in the Tampa Bay area in the next year," Perrier says.

Plans for Kahwa's new space include larger company offices, more warehouse space for roasting and production and a new barista training facility.

Featuring 1.6 million square feet of industrial space, Joe's Creek Industrial Park is one of the largest industrial parks in the Tampa Bay region. Kahwa will be joining a wide variety of businesses such as Gemaire, Custom Manufacturing and Engineering, Gorman Plumbing, Chromatech Digital, Wrightway Medical, Kane's and Pepsi.

This is Joe's Creek's second recent deal, with the industrial park represented by Grady Pridgen Realty's David Kramer.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Sarah Perrier, Kahwa Coffee

Business Owners Looking To Improve Dog Parks, Davis Islands

Two local Tampa Bay business owners and Davis Islands residents have teamed up to keep island dog owners and visitors happy and healthy, creating Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks through the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful Program.

Assisting City of Tampa Parks and Recreation in maintaining and improving both the Davis Islands Dog Beach and Dog Park, Carolyn Bigley of Davis Islands Pet Care and Jenn Fadal of Wag Natural Pet Market and Bathhouse formed the not-for-profit Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks as an on-going, long-term community effort in partnership with Friends of Tampa Recreation, Inc.

Bigley and Fadal's new organization will work to raise funds and encourage volunteerism in an attempt to help create, maintain and improve off-leash waterfront dog parks; promote responsible pet ownership and environmental protection through community outreach and events; and create an environment where dog owners follow good “dog park etiquette.”

“Residents, veterinarians, dog trainers and behaviorists have mixed feelings about dog parks, but in my opinion, they are necessary. Most behavioral problems in dogs are largely due to a lack of exercise -- dogs cannot be leashed all of the time. They need to be able to run free and socialize and these parks give them the opportunity to do so,” Bigley says.

Adding that most dog parks end up having challenges, she says Davis Islands' public dog spaces are no different.

“Irresponsible pet owners not picking up poop is the number one issue, especially at the Dog Beach so close to the Tampa Bay,” she says. “Reports of dogs being dumped at the parks and an overall general disregard and respect for the park has made many islanders no longer use the parks, especially on the weekends.”

Bigley and Fadal are looking to change that, believing care for the parks has slowly declined over the years. Bigley says dog parks should benefit the community by providing a safe, clean area for dogs to be off the leash.

But in just the past few months, many improvements have already been made to the Davis Island Dog Park, thanks to John Allen and Earl Olson of Tampa Parks and Recreation: Fences have been repaired and painted and kiosks and benches have been fixed and are being maintained.

One of Friends' first fund-raising projects will be to create a memorial plaque wall where folks can purchase a plaque in memory of a lost pet. Plans for a memorial garden are also in the works.

“Friends started as a simple idea of making the parks cleaner, fixing up a few things and just beautifying them a bit, but its mission has become much more than that," Bigley says. "We encourage residents to get involved.”

To become a sponsor or to learn more about getting involved with Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks, including weekly and monthly clean-ups, visit the official website and Facebook page.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Carolyn Bigley & Jenn Fadal, Friends of Davis Islands Dog Parks

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay Upgrades Homes

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) is looking to respond to the need for residential housing rehabilitation programs in the Tampa Bay region, improving living conditions for local low-income families.

Receiving a $300,000 grant from Wells Fargo to improve homes in Tampa Heights, the program has been helping 12 homeowners update their homes. Partnering with the United Way Suncoast and City of St. Pete, many more home improvement projects are planned for the Heights area, as well as St. Petersburg's Campbell Park; Campbell Park is part of RTTB's Healthy Homes and Neighborhood program.

“There are many homeowners in need of our services and not enough nonprofits providing help to low-income homeowners to keep their homes safer, healthier and more energy efficient,” says RTTB Executive Director Jose Garcia. “Because of the economic downtown, low-income homeowners can no longer afford expenses to keep their homes maintained. Sometimes, it comes down to choosing between paying for food or medicine instead of replacing a roof or HVAC.”

Spending an average of $15,000 in construction costs, RTTB works to provide new roofing, HVAC, window replacements, bathroom renovations and lead paint repairs, if needed. Volunteerism through the program is encouraged, assisting with exterior painting, landscaping and yard cleanup.

On April 13th, RTTB hosted a Kick-Off to Rebuild Day Event, installing ramps and handrails and updating plumbing and interior and exterior painting for 80-year-old Campbell Park homeowner Elizabeth Chambliss; Chambliss, a veteran's widow, has been living in the area for more than 45 years.

In partnership with RTTB and United Way, volunteers from Honeywell assisted on-site to complete much of the repairs needed in Chambliss' home.

“We look for the most essential home repairs when we help a homeowner -- the needs of every home are not the same,” Garcia says. “We want to provide services that will make the home a safe and healthy place to live.”

April marks National Rebuild Month for Rebuilding Together affiliates nationwide and National Volunteer Month for the United Way with RTTB hosting an official Rebuild Day on April 27th, gathering volunteers from the United Way Suncoast and officials from the City of St. Pete to work on home repairs to four homes in the Campbell Park area of Pinellas County.

Plans to update homes in Hillsborough County are also underway.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jose Garcia, Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay

Port Of Tampa's Gateway Rail Terminal Wins Prize

The Port of Tampa's Tampa Gateway Rail terminal won the top honor at the 21st Annual Future of the Region Awards which acknowledges the strongest regional projects in the Tampa Bay area.

Officially dedicated in September 2012, the $11 million Tampa Gateway Rail project was made possible through strategic investments by the Tampa Port Authority and partners CSX Rail, Kinder Morgan and Transflo. Since, the project has created intermodal connectivity at the Port of Tampa and is expected to be a major catalyst in promoting trade opportunities for Tampa's port and Central Florida.

Hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the 21st Annual Future of the Region Awards luncheon honored local projects demonstrating strong regional qualities in community service, cultural/sports/recreation, environmental, infrastructure, public education and development. Awards were given based on each project's regional quality of life benefit, innovation, cost-effectiveness, benefit to the environment, capacity for continuing impact and regional benefit.

The Tampa Gateway Rail terminal was awarded the Charles McIntosh Jr. Award of Distinction and a first-place award in the Natural Resources and the Environment category.

“We are very excited that our commitment to development the Port of Tampa into a word class intermodal hub and this significant stratgic partnership has been recognized at such a high and prestigious level,” says CEO and Port Director Paul Anderson. “We can't thank our partners enough for their involvement and enthusiasm for the project.”

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Paul Anderson, Port of Tampa

AECOM Leases Space At MetWest International, Tampa

As MetLife's award winning, 32-acre mixed-use development in Tampa's Westshore Business District continues to see  leasing success, AECOM Technology Corporation will soon move into One MetroCenter at MetWest International.

AECOM will consolidate two existing offices into a new 7,054-square-foot office space in the 11-story MetWest International building. Negotiated by Taylor & Mathis Director of Leasing Angela Odell and co-brokered by Jack Hoskins of CBRE, the lease brings the office building's occupancy to 90 percent.

A global provider of professional technical and management support services, AECOM, a Fortune 500 company, employs approximately 45,000 employees worldwide, delivering "solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world's built, natural and social environments.'' AECOM serves clients in more than 140 countries, bringing in a revenue of $8.2 billion in 2012.

“[MetWest's success] is an indication that companies are looking forward and making decisions based on what they perceive is an improving economy,” says Odell.

One MetroCenter is just one of three buildings making up the MetWest International development, accompanied by the Gold LEED Certified MetWest One and MetWest Two.

A third office building will begin construction upon demand and, when complete, the entire project is expected to become a pedestrian-friendly, urban-oriented development including nearly 1 million square feet of Class A office space, 74,200 square feet of retail space, a 260-room full-service upscale hotel and 254 residential units.

Since developed, Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant, Texas de Brazil and Kona Grill have built their first Tampa locations in the retail portion of the MetWest International project.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Angela Odell, Taylor & Mathis

South Tampa Independent Bookstore Attracts New Owner

As of Monday, April 1st, South Tampa's Inkwood Books has changed hands.

Opened 21 years ago, the locally owned bookstore has been satisfying the needs of Tampa Bay area book lovers long before the arrival of chain stores, online competitors and the e-book craze -- and now founders Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner are saying goodbye, welcoming long-time customer Stefani Beddingfield.

Situated inside of a small renovated bungalow at 216 S. Armenia Ave., Inkwood Books will keep the same name and location, continuing business as Tampa's only locally owned independent bookstore exclusively selling new books. Beddingfield says she will continue many of Inkwood's regular services and events, but has plans to spice things up with some new to-be-announced ideas.

“I am grateful to Leslie and Carla for this next chapter in my life and look forward to promoting Inkwood's passion for books, reading and community,” says Beddingfield, who has already made her local mark by starting the Freedom Playground Foundation.

In 2012, Jimenez and Reiner began quietly looking for the right person to sell the store to and were delighted to find an enthusiastic, long-time customer like Beddingfield to continue Inkwood's success; in addition to being an avid Inkwood's customer and event attendee, Beddingfield attended American Bookseller's Association Prospective Booksellers School.

“We are proud to have the opportunity to pass forward a vibrant, healthy bookstore to Stefani,” Jimenez says. “We are confident the new Inkwood will take care of our devoted patrons, as well as the new customers attracted by the fresh,  admittedly younger steward.”

Reiner plans to remain engaged in the local literary scene and will continue working part-time at Inkwood, along with booksellers Amanda, Lindsay and Christian.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Stefani Beddingfield, Inkwood Books; Carla Jimenez & Leslie Reiner

Tampa's "Bright Lights" Initiatve Shines On Sulphur Springs

Fulfilling Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's promise to complete a citywide lighting inventory, the first street lights as part of the “Bright Lights, Safe Nights” initiative have been installed.

Buckhorn, joined by Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas, cut the ribbon to streetlights installed in Sulphur Springs -- the first neighborhood to receive new lights. In total, 127 new lights have been installed in the Sulphur Springs neighborhood thus far.

“A well-lit city is a safer city,” says Buckhorn. “We’re illuminating streets across this city that are dangerous for motorists and pedestrians and the dark corners where criminals can hide.”

Dedicating $2.2 million over the next five years to this initiative, the City of Tampa will work with TECO to add approximately 8,400 new street lights to the city's overall grid, ultimately expanding the current street light network by 30 percent.

Plans call for the lights to be placed throughout Tampa, focusing on Community Redevelopment Areas and zones with high crime or crash rates.

“We've been lighting Tampa for 114 years and we look forward to doing our part to meet the mayor's goal,” Gillette says.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, early-morning and nighttime crashes can be reduced by about 35 percent with additional streetlights while two research projects by the Institute of Criminology at the United Kingdom's  University of Cambridge in 2005 found that documented crimes decreased up to 45 percent with the financial savings from reduced crimes exceeding the cost of lighting by up to 10 times.

Sulhpur Springs -- also the target for revitalization through the City's Nehemiah Project, which will demolish more than 50 abandoned, uninhabitable homes in the area -- is only the first neighborhood of many that will benefit from the “Bright Lights, Safe Nights” initiative.

The Jackson Heights neighborhood is slated as next to receive new street lights.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Bob Buckhorn, City of Tampa & Gordon Gillette, Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas
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