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Sundial In Downtown St. Pete Adds Locale Market And Farmtable Kitchen

A grand foodie hall and a full-service restaurant from celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona are the newest announced tenants at Sundial, the reincarnation of the former Baywalk shopping complex in downtown St. Petersburg.

Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen are anticipated to open by fall in 20,000 square feet located on two levels of Sundial, next to Muvico 20 Theater. The concept is built around delivering fresh foods straight from the farm, or the boat, to the table.

Shoppers can buy everything they need to cook a meal at home from selections of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, fish, meats, seafoods and wines sold at Locale. Or they can sit down and dine at Farmtable, selecting dishes from fresh, seasonably created menus.

"We want to be known for doing simple things very well," says Pintabona, who is a graduate of the University of South Florida and opened actor Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill in New York in the 1990s. He also is a frequent guest on The Food Network and CBS Morning Show.

Mina is a San Francisco-based restaurateur who is a James Beard award winner and Bon Apetit Chef of the Year. He founded the Mina Group, which operates some 20 restaurants across the country including in San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas. 

Locale and Farmtable will be a fusion of Mina's California modern with Pintabona's New York Italian influences.

The market will be on the ground floor; the restaurant including a charcuterie, full-service delicatessen, bakery, coffee bar and wine bar will be on the plaza level.

The design, with weathered-style woods and metal highlights, is in keeping with Pintabona's philosophy -- keep it simple. 

"It is very comfortable, very inviting, very approachable," says Linda Ellsworth, Executive VP of Architecture and Interiors at the St. Louis-based Kuhlmann design Group, Inc., which is assisting with the project. "It really will have a chameleon type feel."

An open floor plan allows a flow from market to restaurant. "You do feel like you're being hugged by the market," Ellsworth says.

Several years ago, Mina and Pintabona came up with their market and restaurant concept and hoped to open in lower Manhattan near the site of the former World Trade Center. "For whatever reason, it never really happened," says Pintabona. "We put it on the shelf for a little bit."

The offer from The Edwards Group to be an anchor tenant at Sundial is the right timing for the chefs and St. Petersburg. 

"I was pleased when I visited after many years to see how the city has transformed itself into a really great place," Pintabona says. "I think it's a very exciting time for the city."

Downtown is a  mecca of trendy restaurants, shops, museums and galleries. Beach Drive is a destination. News of residential and condominium towers ready to re-shape the skyline arrives almost weekly.

"Thousands of people live, study, work and visit here, and more on the way," says Sundial Owner Bill Edwards. "St. Petersburg needs a market like Locale Market. We've got nothing like it."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Linda Ellsworth, Kuhlman Design; Don Pintabona, Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen

Tampa YMCA To Open New Gymnastics Center

Young gymnasts will be tumbling soon in a new gymnastics center at the Bob Sierra YMCA Youth & Family Center in the Carrollwood neighborhood of Tampa.

The $1.7 million, 11,500-square-foot facility is expected to open by fall and will double the number of children who can sign up for the YMCA's programs and services.

The existing gymnastics program is housed in the Bob Sierra Y building at 4029 Northdale Blvd. The new center will be a free standing building on nearby Ragg Road.

The construction project was proposed nearly three years ago to ease overcrowding. A fund-raising campaign was launched.

"Kids have to wait for their teams to practice," says Lalita Llerena, the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA's communications director.

A variety of gymnastics opportunities are offered at Bob Sierra Y including pre-team classes, teams and private lessons for toddlers to age 18.

“We serve nearly 3,000 kids in our current gymnastics area," says Dena Shimberg, chairwoman of the Y's capital campaign. "With the new gymnastics center, we will be able to serve over 5,000 kids, as well as a more diverse program menu to help serve children and families in our community.”
 
In the future, the Northdale building will undergo a makeover in a multiphase project to upgrade one of the YMCA's oldest facilities. Llerena says an announcement on that could come at the ribbon-cutting for the gymnastics center.

Coming up next is the 2014 YMCA National Gymnastics Championships hosted July 1-5 by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA at the Tampa Convention Center. The event will draw more than 5,800 athletes, spectators and visitors and pump about $4.5 million into Tampa Bay's economy.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Dena Shimberg and Lalita Llerena, YMCA

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

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

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

Urbanism On Tap 3.2: 'The Social Side of Development' An Open Mic Night About Downtown Tampa

Tampa's Urban Charrette and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) Tampa Bay will host Urbanism on Tap at the Pour House in the Channel District of Downtown Tampa on May 13, 2014 starting at 5:30 p.m. 

Urbanism on Tap is a recurring open mic event focused on generating constructive conversations within the community about current ideas and trends that are shaping our city.

Every event is open to the public. Moderators and attendees are invited to share their views and stories related to the topic of the day. The intention of the event is to generate a lively exchange of ideas, which will enhance the ability to make Tampa a more livable city.

The upcoming event is the second in a three-part series, entitled “Tampa: The New Building Boom.” This second event, “The Social Side of Development,” will focus on the social aspects of development happening around Downtown Tampa. How will this development affect residents? Is there anything missing? What ways can people provide input on these issues? The organizers welcome comments and ideas on how new development may influence the lives of residents and on how residents can work to influence new development. 

The event organizers encourage people to share their opinions on these topics by visiting Urbanism on Tap’s online Facebook page. People can also use the Facebook page and website to continue the conversation online, following the event. 

Venue: Pour House at Grand Central at Kennedy, Channel District, Tampa (1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL 33602); 
Date and Time: May 13, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.
For any questions, email Ashly Anderson

Writer: Vinod Kadu
Source: Erin Chantry, CNU Tampa Bay; Ashly Anderson, Urban Charrette

Frolic Exchange Brings Bohemian Chic To Seminole Heights

A mother-daughter duo is bringing Bohemian chic to Seminole Heights with their new clothing shop called Frolic Exchange.

Bree and Nancy Denicourt will hold a grand opening on May 10. The shop, at 4634 N. Florida, is the brick-and-mortar version of an online business selling vintage, recycled and designer clothes and accessories.

"We do pretty well there," says 22-year-old Bree Denicourt of the online business. "But, I was getting bored and decided I wanted a physical site."

Frolic Exchange held a preview party in April, sponsored by Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and featuring live music.  Future store events will utilize an outdoor patio area.

Bree Denicourt has been a fan of vintage clothing for years and started the online venture more than two years ago. "I obsessively collected them even if they didn't fit me," she says.

The shop features racks of vintage and designer dresses, vests, jackets, crop tops, tie-up blouses, pencil skirts, swim suits, jewelry, purses and more. There also is a men's section that includes T-shirts, jackets, pants and hand-made bow ties. 

Frolic Exchange fits snugly between the art gallery Tempus Projects and mid-century modern furniture store, A Modern Line

Last year Seminole Heights' resident Andrew Watson opened Built in a small warehouse building at 4501 N. Florida. He designs and makes custom furniture and fixtures for residential and commercial clients including The Bricks in Ybor City and the Bends in St. Petersburg. Most recently he did the table tops for the soon-to-open Ulele Restaurant in Tampa Heights.

To the north of these new businesses, Florida has blossomed in recent years with locally owned businesses including Cappy's Pizza, Microgroove, Independent, Cleanse Apothecary, Forever Beautiful Salon & Wine Spa, Sherry's YesterDaze Vintage Clothing and Antiques and The Refinery.

Now it seems this stretch of Florida, south of Violet Street, is ready for action.

"There's a little boom happening," says Watson. "We decided to be part of that."

Bree Denicourt sees a synergy developing among the businesses settling along Florida.

 "People are going to want to stop and spend time here," she says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bree Denicourt, Frolic Exchange; Andrew Watson, Built 

NoHo Flats Showcases Apartments At Open House

NoHo Flats is changing the north of Kennedy Boulevard landscape in Tampa, adding upscale apartments to North Hyde Park, a neighborhood nestled between Kennedy and Interstate 275. It is one of the emerging neighborhoods that are expanding the boundaries of Tampa's urban core to include the western side of the Hillsborough River.

On Thursday, May 8, from 6 to 9 p.m. the public is invited to an open house that will showcase the 311-apartment complex at 401 N. Rome Ave. Mayor Bob Buckhorn will kick off the event with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Live music and refreshments also are planned.

"It's exciting to see the area transition," says NoHo Flats Property Manager Laura Delahaye. "We want to showcase it for everyone."

NoHo Flats is about 60 percent leased. The complex offers a range of amenities, including hardwood floors and island kitchens in the apartments, a swimming pool with outdoor grill area, fountain courtyard with fire pits, fitness center, a "linear" park that is open to tenants and the public, sidewalks and benches. Some apartments have garages.

"It's one of the fastest projects that I've ever managed," Delahaye says.

The complex developed by Pollack Shores Real Estate Group is expected to appeal especially to young professionals who want to enjoy Tampa's growing number of restaurants, bars and shops in downtown, along Kennedy, and also on Howard and Armenia avenues..

The boulevard is the sight of major expansion projects by the University of Tampa including a new residence hall and lacrosse field. Tampa General Hospital plans to build a rehabilitation hospital and medical offices on Kennedy on the site of the former Ferman automobile dealership, just south of NoHo Flats.

The Oxford Exchange, Ducky's Sports Lounge and Primrose School of South Tampa are among a growing number of businesses on Kennedy.  

NoHo Flats is pushing back against the perception that "north of Kennedy" isn't the cool place to be. "You can see that is changing," Delahaye says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Laura Delahaye, NoHo Flats

Tampa's East Hillsborough Avenue Attracts Investors, New Shops

East Hillsborough Avenue is attracting new investments -- a women's clothing shop and an as-yet-unannounced regional chain store. 
 
For Ron Harjani, owner of GQ Fashions at 3010 E. Hillsborough, the previous announcement that a Walmart Super Center will open a few blocks away next year is good news. It spurred him to build a 10,000-square-foot building next to GQ to house Fashion Essence, a family-operated women's clothing store. He also will have additional space available for lease.
 
Walmart, however, wasn't a major factor for another development plan.
 
ROI, a commercial property brokerage firm, is working with Florida Design Consultants and JVB Architect on developing a 25,000-square-foot building at the corner of Hillsborough and 32nd Street, next to Harjani's new building.
 
 ROI broker Eric Odum says a regional chain store, in the fashion and beauty market, will be the anchor tenant and occupy about 15,000 square feet.  Another 10,000 square feet is available for leasing.
 
Planning for the project began before Walmart's announced arrival, Odum says. But he says, "The visibility of our location is going to be phenomenal."
 
Design plans are undergoing revisions, Odum says, but construction is expected to begin this summer and take about six months. Funding for the project is from Platinum Bank.
 
Harjani expects to open Fashion Essence within the next month. His contractor is Final Touch Wall Systems with offices in Land O' Lakes and Valrico.
 
The location on Hillsborough is a prime spot, says Harjani. He also is encouraged by the redevelopment he sees in Tampa overall in recent years.
 
Walmart Super Center is scheduled to open, possibly as early as mid-2015, on East Hillsborough on about 12 acres stretching almost from 15th Street, next to VetCare Harris Animal Hospital, to 19th Street, across from McDonald's restaurant. The site was formerly home to Abraham Chevrolet automobile dealership but has been vacant for many years.
 
"Walmart is coming,"  Harjani says. "Hillsborough Avenue is parallel to Interstate 4 and a major thoroughfare going east to west. I personally think it's got a lot of potential."
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Eric Odum, ROI; Ron Harjani, GQ Fashions

New Shops Fill Lakewood Ranch's Main Street

New businesses are filling Lakewood Ranch at Main Street to capacity. But the sprawling community of master-planned villages in Manatee and Sarasota counties also is seeing commercial growth elsewhere.
 
The newly remodeled corporate headquarters for MGA Insurance Group is home to a new dental practice and the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance.
 
Longtime Lakewood Ranch residents Michelle Scala and Shepherd Frenchman opened Lakewood Ranch Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in February in Suite 100 at 8430 Enterprise Circle. Their landlord is MGA, which occupies the second floor and leases offices on the ground floor.
 
This is a second location for the couple who also have Bayshore Gardens Aesthetic Dentistry  at 1805 Bayshore Gardens Pkwy., in Bradenton. The couple have doctoral degrees from the University of Florida College of Dentistry. Scala also is a graduate of the University of Miami, and Frenchman of the University of South Florida.
 
The couple accepts patients of all ages for general dentistry with an emphasis on cosmetics, dental implants and pain-free procedures.
 
"We've been residents of Lakewood Ranch for 10 years," says Scala.  "It's where we began to raise our children. It's a very family oriented community with access to more city-wide elements as well."
 
And the business community is seeing new life as the economy gets stronger. "It's nice to see more of an influx now," Scala says.
 
The business alliance recently opened offices in Suite 140 at the MGA building.
 
Scala and Frenchman will hold a grand opening at their new dental office from 4 to 8 p.m. May 15.
 
Lakewood Ranch's Main Street business area will reach full capacity in May when In Focus Family Eye Care opens in Suite 103 at 8120 Main Street. The optometry office is owned by Brad and Ashley Masuga. In the next two week, White Rose Interiors and Unleashed for Pets, also will open.
 
In January the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee opened its culinary school at 8130 Main Street, in the former spot operated as the Viking Culinary Center. The school's culinary students will become future chefs taking their classes at this new facility, the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership Culinary Innovation Lab.
 
Late last year Healthy Living Organic and Natural Market opened at 10671 Boardwalk Loop and Shirts and Stones at 8141 Main St. The market offers vitamins, minerals, herbs, homeopathic and beauty products. 
 
Shirts and Stones sells an array of custom rhinestone and vinyl clothing. The store also is licensed to sell college merchandise including Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Florida.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michelle Scala, Lakewood Ranch Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

Artspace Eyes Sarasota's 'North Trail' For Creative Redevelopment

Visitors arriving at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, located along the Tamiami Trail at the northern edge of Sarasota County known as the North Trail, see a less than flattering portrait of the city as they drive south into the city of Sarasota.
 
“For many years, the North Trail conversation has dragged on, but the bottom line is that the space that lies between the airport, the Ringling [art museum and college] complex, and downtown Sarasota is simply not a very inviting front door to the city,” says Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota, sponsor of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership (NTRP).
 
The NTRP is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to the sustainable redevelopment of Sarasota’s “front door” through urban renewal and the creation of affordable live-work artist spaces. 
 
In the first week of April, the North Trail took its first steps in its journey toward the artistic rebirth envisioned by the NTRP with a visit by consultants Wendy Holmes and Stacey Mickelson of Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization.
 
“Artspace is the largest, and really, the only organization that does what they do in this country -- which is to focus on the development of live-work environments for artists that can be used to rekindle areas of communities that need to be re-vitalized,’’ Shirley says. “They are involved in 35 projects throughout the country and have a more than 30-year track record.”
 
Led by Artist and Historical Preservationist Veronica Morgan, the NTRP raised the $15,000 required for an Artspace consultation, which included tours of Sarasota’s arts community and two days of workshops that connected artists, civic leaders and the financial community with Artspace consultants.
 
“The goal was to allow the Artspace team to get a more in-depth look at Sarasota, specifically focusing on the North Trail, and to allow us, the community, to learn more about Artspace and see if it would make sense for us,’’ Shirley says. “I believe that we had overall a very successful evening, and the indication from Artspace is that they felt the same.” 
 
In early June, Artspace will provide the NTRP with an executive summary of their findings and recommendations. Shirley says that if the organizations choose to move forward with a project in Sarasota, the next phase would include a $42,000 survey of the entire county, and that the revitilization project would commence in approximately 3-5 years. 
 
“Virtually everyone in the community knows how important the arts are here, and we’ve seen what the arts can do in communities that make a commitment to them,” Shirley says. “If we could possibly use the arts to help generate the re-vitilization of the North Trail, it would be ‘the Sarasota thing to do.’ ”
 
Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Jim Shirley, Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota
 

Tampa Opens New Fire Station On Waters Avenue

Tampa firefighters had a nickname for the Sulphur Springs fire station #11 - the house of pain.
 
"It's because their (emergency) runs were so many," says Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward.
 
This one station fielded then and now about 10 percent of all of Tampa's annual fire emergencies, reaching as many as 8,000 a year. It generally serves the neighborhoods of Sulphur Springs, Forest Hills and Lowry Park.
 
Today Fire Station #11 is as busy as ever but firefighters are working and sleeping in a much larger, state-of-the-art building. More than a dozen retired firefighters joined with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Council Chairman Charlie Miranda and City Councilman Harry Cohen to officially welcome residents to an open house of their new fire station.
 
"In no uncertain terms this is the kind of station...the type of place that is worthy of the efforts (firefighters) put forth for us," Buckhorn says. "The house of pain just got a little better."
 
The approximately 8,700 square-foot building, at 1500 Waters Ave., replaces the small, aging station that for decades was tucked away on Fairbanks Street inside the Sulphur Springs neighborhood. Firefighters had to maneuver huge fire trucks down narrow residential streets and around tight corners to reach the intersection of Florida and Waters avenues.
    
The City of Tampa built the station soon after its annexation of Sulphur Springs in 1954. And, it was very much a neighborhood station. Retired firefighter Jim Galbraith, 69, says a close watch was kept of residents especially the elderly. "They'd call us in the morning," he says. "If we didn't get a call, we'd call them."
 
At a cost of $1.6 million, the new station has a modern design with a three-bay garage flanked by work and sleeping quarters and giving quick access to Waters. It was built by Pillar Construction.
 
The new station will allow the city to provide a more aggressive response time for this community, Forward says.
 
Funding is from community investment tax dollars. The station is eco-friendly and has efficiency lighting, solar-powered outside lighting and hot water heating, recycled materials and Florida-friendly landscaping. 
 
The city built Fire Station #22 in New Tampa with a similar design. A third fire station, #19, is expected to open in  August in Port Tampa
 
Source: Tom Forward, Tampa Fire Department
Writer: Kathy Steele
 
 

New Petra Restaurant Will Open On Kennedy Boulevard

Petra Restaurant will bring its Middle-Eastern cuisine to South and West Tampa within the next month
 
It will be the third location for owner Ayman Saed, who operates two other Petra restaurants in Temple Terrace and New Tampa.
 
The new location is directly across from the University of Tampa's lacrosse field in a vacant two-story building at 1118 W. Kennedy Blvd.  The spot has been home to several bars and restaurants including the Pachyderm Wing Company.
 
"I'm trying to tap into the many people here who want Middle Eastern food," says Saed. "I've never found the right location until now."

New businesses, restaurants and expansion plans by UT and Tampa General Hospital are sparking renewed commercial interest in this stretch of Kennedy from Ashley Drive to Howard Avenue. Downtown and North Hyde Park also are bringing in new residents who want more shopping and dining options. 
 
Re-modeling  began about three weeks ago. Saed hopes to open by the end of May.
 
There will be indoor seating as well as an outdoor patio and something not found at Saed's other restaurants -  a hookah lounge. On some evenings patrons will be able to enjoy live Middle Eastern music. The second floor will be available to rent for parties or other special events. There are no plans at this time to sell alcohol.
 
The New Tampa restaurant has been open about a year on Preserve Walk Lane in the Tampa Palms' neighborhood. The Temple Terrace restaurant, at 4812 E. Busch Blvd., opened about eight years ago.
 
 The restaurant and an adjacent convenience store were damaged in a fire more than two years ago. 
 
Saed says he was touched by the number of patrons who wanted to see the restaurant re-opened. In the end, he rebuilt and expanded Petra, opting to forego the store. And, he began searching for his third restaurant location.
 
The menu at the Kennedy Boulevard restaurant will be similar to the other locations with soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and platters with selections including chicken shawarma and lamb kebabs. There also will be hummus, falafel and Baba ghanoush. And, daily chef specials will be offered including on some days, mansaf, a traditional lamb dish.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ayman Saed, Petra Restaurant

Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza Opens In Ybor City

After four years in Clearwater, the Cristino brothers -- Lenny, Marco and Joe -- found the perfect spot in Ybor City for their second Cristino's Coal-Oven Pizza and Italian restaurant.
 
"It brings the Old World back to Ybor," says Lenny Cristino.
 
The brothers had been searching for a long while for the right location, he says, and opted to renovate a vacant site at 1701 Eighth Avenue. Previously the building was operated as Spurs, a country bar with line dancing, and Play, a bar and live music venue.
 
The restaurant has an approximately 12-member staff.
 
The Cristinos hired award-winning architect Elliott Wheeler, owner of Elliott Wheeler Architect to give the restaurant a warm, Old World feel, and oversee installation of the brick coal-fired oven. Owner Lenny Cristino says the oven is one-of-a-kind cooking feature in Florida.
 
"That was a big challenge," says Wheeler who is based in Ybor City. "It's not a typical architectural feature."
 
It had to meet the design requirements of the Cristinos as well as city code, he says.
 
Wheeler primarily does design work for the hospitality industry and hotels including the Radisson Aquatic Barbados and Courtyard Marriott Savannah.
 
In addition to its use as bars, Wheeler says the building's history goes back decades, and also has seen used as offices and probably a convenience store
 
 In addition to indoor seating, Cristino's has an outdoor patio and bar. 
 
Cristino's menu features homemade pastas including Italian traditional dishes of ravioli and lasagna as well as a homemade vodka sauce for their penne vodka dish. Cold and hot paninis, chicken wings and salads also are available. Coal-oven pizzas are a specialty again made from scratch with homemade ingredients including tomato sauce and mozzarella. For dessert, there are homemade cheesecakes, cannoli and gelato slowed churn at the restaurant.
 
Cristino's also provides catering services.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Lenny Cristino, Cristino's; Architect Elliott Wheeler
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