Planning Commission announces 35th Annual Planning & Design Award Winners

Tampa, FL – The Planning Commission is proud to announce the winners of our 35th Annual Planning & Design Awards presented by TECO. The event was held on October 19 at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre. With the emphasis on the importance of great planning and design in our own community, our awards program aligns with the many national festivities during the American Planning Association’s (APA) National Community Planning Month (NCPM) and celebration of Great Places in America. Established in 2006, NCPM highlights the role of planners and the importance of good planning in our communities.

Awards of Merit, Excellence, and Outstanding Contribution to the Community as selected by a panel of expert judges from outside of Hillsborough County were presented by Brendan McLaughlin. Photographs of the event and award winners can be viewed in an album on the Planning Commission’s facebook page.

Jan Abell Award
The Jan Abell Award was created in 2001 by the Planning Commission to recognize Outstanding Contribution in the Historic Preservation Category. Jan Abell was a local, passionate preservationist who successfully saved some of Tampa’s and Florida’s most important buildings.

Categories | Historic Preservation & Investment
Bryan Glazer Family JCC

– FleischmanGarcia Architecture | Planning | Interior Design
Behar + Peteranecz Architecture

Constructed in 1941 for the Florida National Guard and the United States Army Reserves use, the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory has also served as Tampa’s largest and most popular venue for entertainment and community activities. As an important historic landmark for the City of Tampa, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.Vacant since 2004, the Armory was deteriorating at a rapid pace. Yet, the structure was found to be in excellent condition. While many potential uses for the Armory had been explored and rejected by the City of Tampa, the use as a new South Tampa Jewish Community Center (JCC) with a 600 seat state-of-the-art event center, gymnasium, competition swimming pool, fitness center, childcare, and meeting rooms has proven to be the right choice. A needed community center serving people of all religions, the new JCC has energized the neighborhood and spurred additional development and enhancements.

The judges loved the adaptive reuse of the Armory and how the new look, inside and outside, incorporated historic preservation. The center has become a catalyst for revitalization, transforming the NoHo/West Tampa community. Thank you for preserving this historic treasure and investing to improve the quality of life in our community!

Awards of Outstanding Contribution to the Community

Category | Entertainment
Playable Urban Interventions

– The Urban Conga

The Urban Conga is a Tampa based design firm that promotes community activity and social interaction through play. By creating interactive installations and environments, they spark fun, creativity, exploration, and free-choice learning. Created by University of South Florida architecture graduate Ryan Swanson, the Urban Conga interjects activity into the underutilized spaces of downtown Tampa through play. As a part of inspiring people to play every day and incorporate play into their normal routines, the innovative idea of “play everywhere” continues to be implemented by bringing play to unexpected but everyday spaces, making it easy and available.

Our judges adored everything about how Playable Urban Interventions takes the “live, work, play” theme to a new level. They found that through both temporary and permanent installations, creating unexpected places to play as a norm in our urban fabric is innovative, engaging, and very transferable to other communities.

Category | Environmental
Rock Ponds Ecosystem Restoration Project

– SWIM Program of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD)
– Conservation and Environmental
Lands Management Department of Hillsborough County
– Scheda Ecological Associates

The largest coastal restoration project ever performed for Tampa Bay is a cooperative effort between SWFWMD’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program (SWIM) and the Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department of Hillsborough County. A component of management plans of both the SWIM Program and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, the Rock Ponds are located on three public parcels in southeastern Tampa Bay. Historically, the site contained coastal pine and hardwood forests and various estuarine and freshwater habitats. This project involves the restoration and enhancement of 1.6 square miles of various coastal habitats including 16.2 miles of new Tampa Bay shoreline. In addition, the project creatively helps restore the area’s hydrology, improves the bay’s water quality, creates fisheries habitats, and supplements important bird nesting and feeding habitats. This project complements the adjacent 500 acre SWIM/Hillsborough County Cockroach Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project, with both sites open for public use.

The judges were overflowing with praise for the Rock Ponds Restoration.
They loved the nature of this project and the incredible public engagement including the nearly 2100 volunteers who installed 200,000+ marsh plants! The indefinite list of environmental benefits to the Tampa Bay Estuary and the region is a triumph for collaborative inter-agency coordination to enhance successful implementation and monitoring.

Category | Participation
Sidewalk Stompers

– Founders Emily Hay Hinsdale | Tim & Ashley Scheu | Matti & Vanessa Rukholm

A volunteer organization, Sidewalk Stompers powers community building and safer pedestrian pathways via school-based walking programs and public advocacy. It focuses on making it safer for children to get to school by building a larger community commitment to pedestrian traffic. Its Walk to School Wednesday program was launched in the spring of 2016 at Roosevelt Elementary School. Student participation has more than doubled since its inception. The first Wednesday of the 2017-18 school year saw almost a third of the student body arriving on foot! High participation rates have allowed the Sidewalk Stompers to advocate for better safety infrastructure with traffic engineering officials. The Roosevelt school zone and primary walking routes now have new and updated crosswalks and safety signage. Sidewalk Stompers is building on these accomplishments by enacting outreach programs to other schools and neighborhoods to aid even more students and more communities.

The judges loved the grassroots activism, saying “Jane Jacobs would be proud.” Children are learning the benefits of walking or biking to school safely by being part of a group; making physical activity a habit that better prepares them for learning; connecting with parents, friends, and neighbors; and enjoying the environmental benefits of reduced traffic to improve air quality around their school.

Awards of Excellence

Categories |
Investment & Environmental
Jack R. Lamb
Elementary School

– Hillsborough County Public Schools
– Holmes Hepner & Associates Architects
– Batson-Cook Company

This two-story elementary school was designed to serve 940 pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students in the Progress Village neighborhood of Hillsborough County. The project is designed to achieve LEED Silver certification and incorporates flexibility of use by efficiently arranging standardized pairs of classrooms along a double-loaded corridor. Each instructional space receives natural daylight, while the central corridors provide a secure environment for collaborative learning. Classroom pairs and core program spaces are assigned various colors of the spectrum. These colors act as a means of way-finding and define learning spaces. Building elements provide opportunities for student engagement and learning. Lighting constellations mark key points of circulation and mimic stars in the night sky.

Our judges were ready to enroll in this school for everything from the cutting-edge mechanical and lighting systems to the historic context in design and architecture to the eco-learning terraces. They loved this investment in a fabulous public facility that has created a fun and healthy learning environment for our young students.

Category | Investment
Palm Avenue Complete Street

– City of Tampa Transportation & Stormwater Services
– City of Tampa Parks & Recreation
– Sam Schwartz Engineering

Palm Avenue connects the historic neighborhoods of Ybor City and Tampa Heights. The Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization and the City of Tampa completed the Walk-Bike Phase One study in 2011 that recommended Palm Avenue be converted to a two-lane divided roadway with bike lanes from North Boulevard to Nebraska Avenue. It was also identified as a high priority corridor for bicycle and pedestrian connectivity in the Tampa Heights Plan.
A Complete Street with a contextually sensitive design approach was used to determine the appropriate improvements for the entire length of Palm Avenue to calm traffic and enhance the bicycle and pedestrian experience.

The judges appreciated using this conversion from a four-lane undivided, high volume street to a two-lane divided complete street as an opportunity to thoughtfully rebuild this community, while improving safety for all users. They applauded this complete street not only for its safety and connectivity, but also for its potential economic development impact.

Category | Environmental
Scott Street Low Impact Development Green Street

– Tampa Housing Authority
– City of Tampa Parks & Recreation
– Ekistics Design Studio

An urban neighborhood roadway connecting downtown Tampa and Ybor City, Scott Street’s original design prioritized vehicular movement over pedestrian and bicycle safety. This improvement project was envisioned by the City of Tampa as a demonstration for innovative green stormwater solutions, traffic calming, and aesthetic streetscape development. The retrofit design involved the creation of vegetated stormwater infiltration basins, while providing opportunities for street trees and traffic calming. Stormwater inlets are wrapped with vegetated basins equipped with trash and sediment traps. Water that previously discharged directly into Tampa Bay is now filtered through these multi-purpose landscape islands. In addition, traffic lanes were narrowed, and chicanes and medians were added. Historic granite curbs and street bricks were re-purposed to create context relevant stormwater inlets and crosswalks. These improvements were constructed without the need for additional right of way and preserved the majority of existing pavement, curb, and sidewalk.

The judges loved the design, originality, and high impact of this roadway project. The significant environmental and social benefits combined with minimal reconstruction make Scott Street an excellent model for a neighborhood scale retrofit of an urban street as a complete street.

Awards of Merit

Categories |
Entertainment & Participation
Hillsborough County
Veterans Memorial Park – Phase 3 War Memorials

– Genesis
– Veterans Memorial Park Museum Committee

The Hillsborough County Veterans Park and Museum was established to honor the residents of Hillsborough County who served, and especially those who lost their lives, in war. The World War Two, Afghanistan War, Seminole War, Spanish American War, and Civil War veterans’ memorials were completed this year, bringing a total of sixteen separate memorials located throughout this award-winning park. The memorials, surrounded by large oaks on the shore of the Tampa Bypass Canal, invite contemplation and reflection. This was truly a group effort, led by well-organized local veterans who worked tirelessly to achieve their vision for these memorials. Supporting this goal, Genesis and many other individuals and organizations supplied professional services, materials, and labor for free, or at reduced cost.

The judges found the war memorials to be inspirational. This park beckons family-members and the public from all generations to pay tribute to our greatest heroes. They loved how the beautiful park environment is conducive for family-gatherings and community events, offering a unique place for people to meander through the war memorial vignettes.

Categories |
Entertainment & Investment
Kotfila Memorial Dog Park

– Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA)
– Wannemacher Jensen Architects (WJA)
– LEMA Construction
– City of Tampa

Developed under the Selmon Expressway, the dog park opened this summer in memory of Deputy John Robert Kotfila, Jr., who lost his life to a wrong-way driver on the Selmon Expressway in March 2017. Deputy Kotfila slammed into that car on purpose to save another driver’s life. A meaningful project, the Kotfila Memorial Dog Park is the most recent THEA community investment project in the downtown area. THEA continues to improve and develop the 1.7 mile Selmon Greenway created using Federal Highway Administration TIGER funds in 2014. The Greenway allows urban residents and visitors to safely walk from the Hillsborough River to 19th Street in Ybor City.

Our judges were moved by the background story, and appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the dog park features. They applaud THEA’s ongoing initiative to create community spaces beneath the Selmon Expressway along the Greenway.

Category | Investment
Plant City Right Now

– City of Plant City
– Plant City and Tampa – Hillsborough County Economic Development Corporations
– Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce

Plant City developed a multi-pronged strategic plan and spearheaded its implementation with local partners to promote economic expansion to attract employers to provide opportunities to keep multi-generations rooted in Plant City. Four major elements include the Plant City Right Now marketing campaign; expedition of the permitting process; formation of the Plant City Economic Development Corporation; and investment in targeted infrastructure projects. As a direct result, more than two dozen new projects have been built or are under construction, representing a minimum of 600 new jobs and over three million square feet of new commercial and light industrial space are being constructed in Plant City.

The judges loved this visionary approach to economic development and the impressive progress Plant City Right Now has made in a short time. The focus on young adults and this smart marketing campaign will continue to have an important impact on the future of Plant City.

Categories |
Entertainment & Participaton
Turning Designs into Reality | The Power of Partnership

– University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC)
– Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
– U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

For more than a decade, the UACDC has championed positive change in the University Area Community, where high crime, poverty and a lack of basic resources has plagued the area for decades. In April 2015, the BOCC approved the build of the new band shell entertainment facility. By September 2015, residents were using it to celebrate diversity, entertainment, and culture in their own community. This success sparked the idea for a multi-purpose pavilion with a covered basketball court to be built. The combined area now provides community space for people to come together and enjoy music, play sports, host events, and make memories.

The judges believe in the “power of partnership” that “turned designs into reality” through an incredible investment in this traditionally under-served community. They loved how the community invested in the design through a survey to identify wants and needs. These facilities are having a big impact on the quality of life in the University Area community by providing a safe place for arts, culture, healthy activity, and friendships to grow.

Category | Entertainment
Ybor City Historic Holiday Spirit Program

– Ybor City Development Corporation
– City of Tampa
– Centro Ybor

This community-initiated holiday campaign transforms our historic district into a charming holiday village. The Ybor City’s Historic Holiday Spirit program has established signature holiday events that did not previously exist. A 25 foot holiday tree and a signature parade attract thousands of visitors and continues to grow. With a modest public investment, this program has had an economic development impact that improves commercial corridors, neighborhoods, and the quality of life for Ybor City’s residents and businesses. Each year, the number of community volunteers continues to grow. Local Hillsborough County School marching bands participate, and in-turn have received more than $150,000 in contributions from this program.

Our judges got right into the holiday spirit. They loved the magical experience of the Snow on 7th Holiday Parade, especially for local children and adults who have never seen snow! Plus, the contribution made to local school music programs was music to their ears.

Three awards were presented that were not judged by our jury.

Chairman’s Award

Burgert Brothers Photo Collection

– Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library
– Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County
– University of South Florida Library Special Collections

The Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection is comprised of nearly 16,000 images taken between the late 1800s and early 1960s. Established by brothers Al and Jean Burgert, their studio stood out as Tampa’s leading commercial photographic firm and focused primarily on the Tampa Bay area. Tampa’s journey from a small town into major city is captured through images of life’s daily activities, from the churches, homes, businesses, farms, and streets that made up our community to community festivals like Gasparilla and the Florida State Fair. From wars and natural disasters to economic booms and busts, the images document our legacy. This picture-perfect view of our diverse community across the decades leaves little doubt these photos will continue to be an historic treasure.

Planning Commission Chair Mitch Thrower said, “It is an honor to recognize the dedication, cooperation, and coordination of the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library, Friends of the Library, and the University of South Florida Library Special Collections for their work to preserve and make these amazing photographs available to the public and for being the caretakers of such an important historic resource to our community.”

Executive Director’s Award

Cross Bay Ferry Pilot Project

– City of Tampa
– City of St. Petersburg
– Hillsborough County
– Pinellas County
– HMS Ferries

For years, many in our community dreamed of a better way to connect Downtown Tampa and Downtown St. Petersburg. Last November, that dream came true when HMS Ferries began operation of a seasonal service pilot project between our sister cities. Led by HMS Ferries project advisor, Ed Turanchik, the vision was made a reality when these four jurisdictions partnered on the pilot project by providing $350,000 to get the ferry up and running. In an unprecedented show of cooperation between bay area jurisdictions and a mission to introduce Tampa Bay area residents to water transit service and passenger ferry technology, the pilot project was deemed a success. With about 41,000 passengers over six months of operation, numbers increased steadily month after month.

Planning Commission Executive Director Melissa Zornitta said, “The Cross Bay Ferry Pilot Project laid the groundwork for permanent ferry service around Tampa Bay. Thank you to the Mayors, Councilmembers, Commissioners, HMS Ferries, and the entire visionary multi-jurisdictional team for your leadership.”

Hillsborough River Stewardship Award

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful

Selected by the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board & Technical Advisory Council (TAC), Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful (KTBB) continues to clearly demonstrate leadership and dedication in the protection of the health and well-being of the Hillsborough River. Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful manages a number of programs that directly benefit the Hillsborough River. One of the newest and very successful programs is the Trash Free Waters Initiative that has motivated more than 16,000 community members to remove trash and debris from our most valuable natural resource – our waterways. Last year, volunteers removed over 50 tons of litter at over 80 sites throughout Hillsborough County. And, they had fun doing it! The Trash Free Waters Initiative empowers individuals to volunteer to make a difference in our community while improving our waterways.

Vice Chair of the Hillsborough River Board’s TAC Dr. Richard Brown said, “The River Board & Technical Advisory Council applaud the ongoing coordination efforts and numerous accomplishments of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful and look forward to enjoying the results of their dedicated service to our community and region for generations to come.”

Dali and Schiaparelli opens, the Shine mural festival closes

Maybe you’ve noticed the walls becoming more colorful this week in St. Petersburg, thanks to the Shine Mural Festival. Sixteen local, national and international artists have been making their marks throughout the city since Oct. 5. (Find a map at The festival culminates Saturday with the “Outside In” exhibit in the Warehouse Arts District. The exhibit features large-scale installation from artists including past Shine participant Ricky Watts and current Shine artists Yok and Sheryo, as well as large-scale paintings by a number of local and national artists. Other festivities include a Carmada of art cars, live screen printing of limited-edition Shine T-shirts, DJ music, food trucks and a cash bar. Free. 5-10 p.m. at Behar Peteranecz Architecture, 2430 Terminal Drive S.

Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, regarded as fashion’s forefront designer of the 1920s and ’30s in Paris, was known for her bold aesthetic and exquisite workmanship. Her designs were heavily influenced by the surrealists, particularly Salvador Dalí, with whom she often collaborated. That relationship is the subject of “Dalí and Schiaparelli,” which opens Wednesday at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. The exhibit features haute couture gowns, accessories and jewelry, paintings, photos and more, as well as new designs by Bertrand Guyon for Maison Schiaparelli. The museum has teamed up with Dress for Success Tampa Bay to accept donations of new or gently used handbags, scarves, belts and jewelry during the entirety of the exhibit, which ends Jan. 14. Attendees will receive $2 off admission on the day they make the donation. 1 Dalí Blvd.

In anticipation of the exhibition, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, there will be Fashion + Art Luncheon at the Renaissance Vinoy Sunset Ballroom (600 Snell Isle Blvd. NE, St. Petersburg). It features a panel discussion by creators and curators of the exhibition. Tickets are $100. On Saturday, the Dalí Museum will host a black tie gala featuring a fashion show with contemporary Schiaparelli designs. The event runs from 6 to 11:30 p.m., and tickets are $1,500. Find tickets for both at

Maybe you’ve noticed the walls becoming more colorful this week in St. Petersburg, thanks to the Shine Mural Festival. Sixteen local, national and international artists have been making their marks throughout the city since Oct. 5. (Find a map at The festival culminates Saturday with the “Outside In” exhibit in the Warehouse Arts District. The exhibit features large-scale installation from artists including past Shine participant Ricky Watts and current Shine artists Yok and Sheryo, as well as large-scale paintings by a number of local and national artists. Other festivities include a Carmada of art cars, live screen printing of limited-edition Shine T-shirts, DJ music, food trucks and a cash bar. Free. 5-10 p.m. at Behar Peteranecz Architecture, 2430 Terminal Drive S.

We’re all aware of the conflicts that have erupted in the Middle East over the last 15 years, which is the stage on which the Ringling Museum of Art’s “Aftermath: The Fallout of War — America and the Middle East” is set. Sure, we’re inundated with images on TV and the internet, but viewing them through an artist’s lens drives their urgency home even more. The exhibit, which opens Sunday, features photography and video art from artists active in the United States and Middle East, depicting the conditions and people caught in the aftermath of war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Israel and the United States. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota.

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Ramos Design To Host Demolition Event For Bayshore Blvd Project

Ramos Design Build has announced it will host a demolition event for its new Bayshore Boulevard Project. The project is located at the corner of Bayshore Boulevard and West Euclid Avenue.

On April 24th former Mayor Dick Greco will live broadcast his radio show on AM 820 at the demolition event. There will also be a champagne toast prior to demolition and reflections on the project by local community leaders. Architects, real estate professionals, business leaders, politicians, and representatives of the press have been invited to participate in the demolition event.

The Bayshore Boulevard home will be one of the most luxurious speculative mansions ever built in Tampa Bay. It is a Ramos Signature Development that will be over 6000 sq ft, have over 165 feet of frontage on Bayshore Boulevard, and be located in the sought-after Plant High School district. The home will be situated on a corner lot that includes waterfront views on Tampa’s iconic Bayshore Boulevard. The design company has enlisted the services of one of the most respected architecture firms in Tampa Bay, Behar + Peteranecz, to design the home.

The lot is perfectly situated for the discerning homeowner seeking the opportunity of a lifetime. This unique Tampa treasure isn’t going to be on the market long before someone scoops it up.

“My family has a long history in Tampa,” said James Ramos, CEO of Ramos Design Build. “I am excited to have the opportunity to create a home that will have the elegance and design that is deserving of the Bayshore Boulevard address. Working with Behar + Peteranecz architects has allowed my team to develop a project that will be considered an architectural masterpiece.”

The event is by invitation only. Invitations will be sent out today and neighbor notices are going out this week. The event will run Monday, April 24th from noon to 1.

Glazer JCC Opening Makes History

Surrounded by state and local officials, major donors and Federation leadership, Bryan and Shanna Glazer cut the ribbon, officially opening the new Bryan Glazer Family JCC at the refurbished Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in West Tampa.

Mostly sunny skies with cool breezes made things comfortable for more than 350 people who gathered outdoors for what is arguably the biggest event in more than 20 years for the Tampa Jewish community – the official opening of the Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center in West Tampa.

It took a multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory to transform the aging, leaky structure – vacant since 2004 – into the showcase JCC that officials say will serve as a model for others throughout the nation.

Once built-out, the JCC will cost “north of $30 million,” said Jack Ross, outgoing executive director of the JCC.

The ribbon cutting took place on Dec. 8, exactly 75 years from the date the armory was dedicated in 1941– one day after Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor. It was also exactly 20 years from the Dec. 8, 1996 date that the Tampa Jewish Federation dedicated its 21-acre campus off Gunn Highway in Citrus Park, now known as the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Jewish Community Campus.

“Welcome to the official revival of this magnificent landmark building … and the launch of its exciting new chapter as the Bryan Glazer Family JCC. What an incredible project and what a promising future,” said Tampa Federation President Rochelle Walk.

“Over the years,” Walk said, “we’ve said that this new community center was going to be a ‘game-changer.’ That it would help ‘transform’ our community. That it would be a ‘beacon of light’ that contributed to a renaissance of West Tampa. That it would be a truly ‘magical place.'”

Walk predicted all of those things will be achieved with the opening of the Glazer JCC.

The genesis for a new JCC was a 2011 demographics study that showed the greatest concentration of Jews in Hillsborough County was in South Tampa. In 2012, the Federation agreed to a deal with the Florida National Guard to study the feasibility of the project and then entered into a 99-year lease for use of the armory building and 5-acre tract surrounding it, with an option to purchase at a later date. The actual construction has been ongoing for two years.

Even before the search committee settled on the armory site, Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had been lobbying for a new JCC in South Tampa and said he would make a significant financial commitment to make it happen.

While the new JCC is actually in West Tampa, that was not seen as an obstacle since the building is only 1,760 feet north of Kennedy Boulevard, an imaginary line separating South Tampa from parts north.

It turned out the financial commitment from Glazer and wife, Shanna, was $4 million and that is why the new facility bears the family name. It is also why, with a $1.5 million donation, the grand new entrance to the building bears the name of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and wife Penny. Other donations of $1 million secured naming rights to the Diane and Leon Mezrah Family Aquatic Center and the Roberta M. Golding Center for the Visual Arts, which are part of the new JCC.

Glazer said that when he was first pushing for a new JCC, he envisioned when it opened he would buy a single membership. But during the transformation of the armory into the multi-faceted JCC, Glazer married and became a father. He, wife Shanna, and 2½-month-old Sawyer, all with a family membership, were on hand for the ribbon cutting. “This is a building that will build memories for so many families,” said Glazer. “JCCs have always been about families coming together and creating memories and that will happen here.”

Ross, who served as executive director of the Tampa JCC during the process of acquiring the armory site, as well as planning and construction of the Glazer JCC, thanked the many involved in making the new JCC a reality. Then he listed many of the new components of the Glazer JCC:

  • Arts center – Ross said it is “an exemplary fine arts program operated by the city of Tampa Department of Parks & Recreation, in conjunction with the Tampa Museum of Art in partnership with the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners.” The center includes potters wheels, a variety of kilns, stations for making jewelry and glassworks, an area for artists to paint, and will offer a variety of classes for kids and adults beginning Jan. 9. In the middle of the arts center is a fireplace that once warmed military officers at the armory.
  • Premier event center – The center can accommodate the full spectrum of corporate, social and life events, including weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, film festivals, plays, and concerts in configurations that can serve groups as small as 25 to more than 1,000 guests. This facility includes a kitchen capable of serving hundreds. Ross noted that Bloomin Brands, the Tampa-based company that operates Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, had been running A La Carte Event Pavilion in the Dana Shores area. The company donated all the kitchen equipment, furnishings, dishes and glassware from A La Carte and the JCC hired that facility’s executive chef and director of sales and marketing. The donation represented a value of more than $300,000, Ross said.Bloomin Brands contributed ovens and other equipment from Al A Carte Pavilion for the new JCC kitchen.
  • Indoor/outdoor kosher café – This facility will serve light meals, snacks and liquid refreshments and is handy to the fitness and aquatic centers.
  • Fitness center – Ross said the new JCC has Tampa Bay’s most comprehensive, state-of-the-art fitness offerings with more than 50,000 square feet of health and wellness space. This includes rooms for spin classes, areas chock full of exercise equipment, spa and massage facilities and men’s, women’s and family locker rooms. An elevated track provides a view below to a gymnasium for basketball and other sports.
  • Aquatic center – This includes a competition size, eight-lane lap pool, zero entry recreation pool, a splash pad for children, cabanas and outdoor grill space.
  • New offices for Tampa Jewish Family Services – The agency, which also will retain offices at the Cohn Campus, will provide social services such as a food bank, counseling and various types of assessments for those in need who are closer to the new JCC.
  • Programming for people of all ages – The JCC will offer a variety of programs and events for people from preschoolers to senior citizens.
  • Meeting rooms – These rooms have full IT and audio/visual capabilities.
  • The Florida-Israel Business Accelerator (FIBA) – This project is aimed at assisting Israeli and Florida based startups to launch and succeed in the U.S., opening markets to Israeli firms as they make Tampa their U.S. corporate headquarters. Ross is stepping down from his post as executive director of the JCCs and will serve in that role for FIBA. Already 12 Israeli firms have applied to be the first group of companies to use the facility, and FIBA has contracts with Mac- Dill Air Force Base to work with some of these companies on military projects. Ross said the first group of Israeli companies will begin work here in February. In exchange for use of the space, the Tampa JCCs and Federation will receive a small financial stake in the companies, and should they prosper, it could be an important revenue stream for the JCCs and Federation.

The aquatic center features 8-lane competition swimming pool and zero-entry recreational pool.

The JCC is opening with about 2,500 members with plans to stabilize membership at about 3,500. Costs for memberships range from $47 a month for youths and seniors, $59 a month for senior couples, $89 for two-adult households and $159 a month for families. Call the JCC at (813) 575-5900 for other prices.

One major component at the Glazer JCC site still not built is a JCC preschool, slated to go up next to the aquatic center and with a targeted capacity of 154 children. Including the preschool costs, it is expected the total cost of the new JCC will top $30 million, but the preschool will not be built until an ongoing fundraising campaign secures money for the project, Ross said. To date, he said, more than $22 million has been raised for the armory transformation project.

The children’s splash pad is one of the many amenities at the Mezrah Family Aquatics Center, which also features cabanas and barbecue grills. In addition to large and small donations from individuals, the state provided $7 million in funding, with $1 million for the business accelerator and $6 for construction of the JCC. The county government provided $1.3 million in funding and the city of Tampa provided a lot of help in getting the project built, Ross said.

Many parking spaces on campus were blocked off for the ribbon cutting ceremony and folks found parking along nearby neighborhood streets. Ross said for large events, the JCC has agreements with valet parking companies which have secured permission from residents in the neighborhood for parking, and that at times parking can also take place across the street at the Vila Brothers recreational park.

On hand at the event, in full uniform, were members of the First U.S. Voluntary Cavalry, better known as the Rough Riders. That is because years before the armory was built, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders camped in 1898 on the same grounds before sailing to Cuba with Roosevelt to win the Spanish-American War.

The building itself has historical designation, and as such care had to be given to maintain the look of the exterior while modernizing the interior. Other more well-known historic facts about the armory are that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke there in 1961 and President John F. Kennedy spoke there four days before he was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.

Elvis Presley played there several times. His first performance at the armory was not as a headliner, although a photo taken at that show wound up as the cover photo on his first album. Buddy Holly, Nat King Cole, James Brown, and The Doors were among other big name acts who performed there. The armory was also the venue for televised professional wrestling matches, with the likes of Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan.

Letter of Commendation from Vology, Inc.

Vology has developed an extremely successful team partnership working with BeharPeteranecz and Alexander-Whitt for the design and construction of our new corporate headquarters on 15950 Bay Vista Drive in Clearwater.

One of the critical elements to the success of a design and construction project lies in the ability of the team – the Owner, Architect, Engineers, and Contractor, to develop a positive, productive working relationship with one another. This requires a Contractor to maintain close contact and communication with the project Owner, and the Architectural and Engineering team throughout the duration of the project.

The team has demonstrated their ability to bridge the gap between the various stakeholders, listening closely and facilitating open communication and resolution of potential problems before they became insurmountable. Your professionalism, coupled with the construction expertise, value engineering changes, and the team’s management abilities have contributed directly to the success of our project. We have received tremendous reviews from our employees, our vendors and our customers. And our headquarters is like nothing else in Tampa Bay!

Should the opportunity arise, we would look forward to working with you again.

Barry Shevlin
Chief Executive Officer
Vology, Inc.

An Advance Look at the Dazzling New Tampa Jewish Community Center

Buoyed by a $6 million grant from the state of Florida, the developers of the new Tampa Jewish Community Center feel comfortable in putting forth a timetable: reach a fundraising goal of $22 million to $24 million in the fall, break ground in the first quarter of next year, and complete the project 14 to 18 months later.

Those projections came from project co-chair David Scher and JCC Executive Director Jack Ross. I met the two Friday morning at the site of the new center, the old Fort Homer Hesterly Armory building. Inside the hot and cavernous space, several easels held placards with artist renderings and graphics created by Behar Peteranecz Architecture of Clearwater.

The latest renderings show a roughly 100,000-square-foot facility on 5.6 acres that lives up to the project’s self-description as a “game changer.” The Armory building is on the historic registry at the local, state and federal level, so the “history and integrity” of the original building has been preserved.

An elegant port cochere pays homage to the Hebrew letter shin (which means “the almighty”) as well as the menorah and the star of David. The two floors will be split about evenly into a member area and a tenant area. Scher describes the facility as like a “YMCA on steroids, with a strong cultural component.”

The member side is slated to include a full-size basketball/all-purpose court, a fitness center, an aquatic center and more. Upstairs, a running track will ring the court below it. A separate building will be constructed to house the JCC’s preschool.

The tenant/client side will include an expansive event space, which can be partitioned for smaller meetings; a health and wellness center sponsored and run by a local health facility; a Children’s Discovery Center that will promote tolerance; an area for Jewish Family Services. The JCC is currently in negotiations with a “public entity” to set aside 10,000 square feet for a visual arts center.

Throughout our visit, Scher and Ross emphasized the center’s inclusiveness, hailing it as an asset for the entire community.

The JCC has raised $16.5 million in just over a year. Ross and Scher are energized by the outpouring of support. “It’s a project that literally everyone has embraced,” Ross said. “In the three years we’ve been working at this, we’ve not encountered a single detractor, I think because it’s so pure.”

Jewish Community Center Sparks Renaissance In West Tampa

Fort Homer Hesterly Armory is a cultural relic in West Tampa that evokes long-ago memories: a hip-swiveling Elvis Presley and swooning young girls, wrestling fans and sleeper holds, proms and cap and gown traditions, and memorably a speech by President John F. Kennedy four days before his assassination in Dallas.

Today the 72-year-old art deco building sits in the midst of a commercial no-man’s land, north of Kennedy Boulevard. It has been vacant since 2005, when the Florida National Guard moved most of its operations from the armory property at 552 N. Howard Ave. to Pinellas Park in Pinellas County.

But there is the promise of renewed life for the armory and surrounding neighborhoods of North Hyde Park and West Tampa.

The Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation is well along on plans to re-open the former military building as the southern campus of the Tampa Jewish Community Center. The re-design of the armory is by Jordan Behar of Behar + Peteranecz: Architecture in Clearwater.

And, though the community center likely won’t open until 2016, the project already is attracting more investments along Howard and Armenia avenues.

A banner hanging from a chain link fence immediately across from the armory touts the arrival of a new location for Clinical Research of West Florida.

One block north of the armory and the city’s Vila Brothers Park, Chabad Lubavitch of South Tampa is poised to build the Chabad Life and Learning Center on a vacant lot at the corner of Armenia Avenue and State Street.

“The whole West Tampa area’s economic and cultural renaissance has begun and that is perhaps the real importance of it all,” says Jack Ross, executive director of the Tampa Jewish Community Center. “It is to the benefit of West Tampa and the entire city.”

Investments Attract Investors

The JCC’s plans and a vacant lot across from the armory caught the attention of Aydin Keskiner, owner of Clinical Research of West Florida.

The medical facility conducts trials for pharmaceutical companies seeking approval of new drugs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Other locations are on Armenia, and in Clearwater.

“I believe (the area) has been primed for redevelopment as long as I can remember,” says Keskiner. “We love the visibility of Howard, its proximity to downtown and interstates. I know a lot of other people are looking here, maybe to open more medical offices.”

An opening for Clinical Research probably will be in 2015.

Design and construction plans are pending, but Keskiner says he expects costs could be as much as $2 millon.

As of October 1, the JCC entered a 99-year lease agreement for the armory property — with an option to buy — with the Florida National Guard. In the past year, JCC representatives commissioned a study to determine what kinds of programs were desired by the Jewish community and residents of West Tampa.

They have crafted a master plan for the project that includes a wellness center, a preschool, a kosher cafe, a recreational swimming pool, a gymnasium, a theater for film and stage productions, and meeting rooms.

Complementing Projects Build Community

Chabad received zoning approvals for its project from the Tampa City Council in November. However, a fund-raising campaign for an undetermined amount, and an approximately 8-month construction schedule, are awaiting the conclusion of the JCC’s plans.

The anticipation is for the life and learning center to open about the same time as the JCC’s community center, or possibly a bit earlier, says Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski.

Chabad plans to build an approximately 6,400-square-foot building designed by David Balber of David Balber Architecture, Inc. in Tampa. The three-story building will include a 65-seat sanctuary and an open, functional rooftop. Programs and activities at the life center will complement those of the community center.

“Our goal is to be a partner with (the JCC’s community center) and create a synergy,” says Dubrowski. “It could be a great asset to the community and a big boost to the corridor which is transforming rapidly.”

The JCC’s mission is to establish a community center that serves as the center for Jewish life and culture. However, as a charitable organization it also has a broader purpose of reaching out to everyone, Ross says.

About half of its members are Jewish.

The lease agreement includes the approximately 75,000-square-foot armory building and the southern portion of the 10-acre site. The Florida National Guard will keep its maintenance facilities on the northern end of the property.

The JCC anticipates a budget of about $20 million for construction and furnishings for the community center. No construction will take place until funding is secured. The new community center will be in addition to the JCC’s community center in Citrus Park, which has operated for more than two decades in northwest Hillsborough County.

What Ross describes as a “whisper” campaign has garnered donations and pledges for about $9 million as of November. A formal capital campaign will be announced at the JCC’s annual President’s Dinner on Jan. 26.

The community center is a cause that the Jewish community has rallied to support, Ross says. Money has come in at nearly three times the rate of other capital projects, he says.

Gaining Traction In Neighborhood

In the last decade, many ideas have been floated for the armory including a boutique hotel, shops, a spa, a Veteran’s Administration health clinic, a film studio and an ice rink.

This is the first project for the armory site to gain traction.

The renewed interest in West Tampa is a good sign, says Mike Vannetta, president of the Old West Tampa Neighborhood Association. “Any building or jobs that can be created to help increase the tax base is good,” he said.

Chabad’s life and learning center will offer programs and activities for adults and children on a range of topics such as Jewish history and traditions, holiday awareness, bar and bat mitzvah preparation and a teen club. Kosher catering is provided by Dina’s Kitchen.

Chabad also participates in the University of South Florida’s continuing education program, known as OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute), and conducts ethics workshops for lawyers.

“We really try to to be more than just another synagogue,” Dubrowski says. “We try to fill the gaps.”

Dubrowski hopes the life center will be a gathering place where children, young professionals, families and individuals can hang out in a safe environment. The closeness to the JCC’s community center opens opportunities for shared activities and joint memberships.

Dubrowski says Chabad does “very hands on, crafty workshops” that are fun but also teach children valuable lessons in Jewish history or traditions. And children, for example, can move from Chabad activities to sports activities at the community center’s gymnasium.

Senior Management Advisors and ValStone Partners Acquire Palazzo Di Oro in St. Petersburg, Fla.

CLEARWATER, Fla., April 8, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Serving an important unmet need in Florida’s southern Pinellas County, Senior Management Advisors, Inc. (SMA) and ValStone Partners, LLC have purchased the Palazzo Di Oro, a former assisted living facility that closed in 2011. When completed, the community, named Grand Villa of St. Petersburg, will offer both assisted living and memory care services.

“This is a wonderful property that should receive an extremely positive reception from local residents after renovation is completed in late 2014,” says Steven Piazza, president, Senior Management Advisors. “We will be investing a significant amount into renovation and improvements of the interior and exterior and look forward to serving local residents in keeping with our commitment to top quality services offered in a homelike atmosphere.”

This is the 11th property in the SMA and ValStone relationship, in which the two organizations have collaborated on the purchase, renovation, rebranding and management of senior living communities. The purchase price was $2 million and Piazza anticipates multi-million dollar renovations. Renovations are expected to take 18 months, after which the facility will re-open with approximately 150 units, of which 30 are expected to be memory care units. Bradley Clousing of Senior Living Investment Brokerage, Inc. facilitated the transaction and Jordan Behar of Behar + Peteranecz: Architecture is project architect.

“This acquisition is a great addition to our growing portfolio of Grand Villa properties in Florida, joining those in Delray Beach, Largo, Altamonte Springs, Melbourne and Ormond Beach,” says Eric Abel, managing director and chief financial officer, ValStone Partners. “Our collaboration with SMA is not only good business, but also transforms underperforming assets into much-needed senior care communities.”

Built as a hotel in 1971, Palazzo Di Oro was renovated in the 1990s and converted to an assisted living facility, with additional improvements made in 2005. In 2011 the property was foreclosed on by the syndicate of lenders. SMA and ValStone have collaborated on previous hotel redesigns, most recently the Tides Hotel in Melbourne, Fla., which reopened in 2011 as Grand Villa of Melbourne, a 125-unit luxury assisted living and independent living facility.

Palazzo Di Oro renovations will include remodeling of the first floor to include an Internet café, library, billiards parlor, beauty salon, barber shop and private dining room; with common areas including large, comfortable lounges and activity rooms. All resident rooms will be remodeled to include kitchenettes with built-in refrigerator and microwave, spacious closets and large private baths with safety features such as handrails. Emergency alert call systems will be provided in all bedrooms and bathrooms. Exterior renovation will include landscaping, updated entrance and parking lot. “Renovations will express SMA’s design philosophy that combines visual appeal with functionality, technology and operational excellence,” says Piazza.

St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute opens new branch in Clearwater landmark

CLEARWATER – The pink building on S Fort Harrison Avenue, a downtown Clearwater landmark that housed Webb’s Gentleman’s Apparel for five decades, is now a center focused on wellness and beauty.

Dr. Pit Gills, eye surgeon and heir to the St. Luke’s Cataract and Laser Institute headquartered in Tarpon Springs, and his wife, Joy, hired a Los Angeles spa designer to set the mood in their new two-story center for ophthalmology, dermatology and plastic surgery, which opened Monday.

“We wanted to create a private atmosphere,” said Gills at the ribbon-cutting, as city officials sipped white wine and toured the lavender-scented grounds. “Separate waiting rooms with lighting controls, music controls. We thought, ‘What would we want if we were patients here?'”

The eye surgeon, who owns six other St. Luke’s locations in Florida with his father, Dr. James Gills, chose the downtown location to cut the length of trips to other clinics for their Clearwater patients.

“I drive by it every day,” said Gills, who lives on Clearwater Beach. “It’s central to everything, a well-known building.”

And well-known, even iconic, is the pink color. Gills called the original painter for the exact shade – and ordered a fresh coat. That history, Joy said, must be preserved.

“We didn’t want to make anyone in Clearwater mad,” she said, laughing. Before a crowd of community leaders Monday, Clearwater Mayor George N. Cretekos, a longtime family friend of Joy Gills, praised the business. “St. Luke, as you know, is a physician,” Cretekos said. “In his gospel, he talked about the things a physician does – healing people, providing care to people. That’s what St. Luke the physician does, and that’s what St. Luke’s, this clinic, is going to do.”

The new facility, he said, is appropriate for downtown Clearwater. It represents revitalization.

The 14,000-square-foot clinic is on an acre of land on the southeast corner of Fort Harrison Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The first floor of the building will contain the new St. Luke’s Cataract & Laser Institute, focusing on ophthalmology and eye surgery. The second floor, called Reflections at St. Luke’s, will offer plastic surgery, dermatology and cosmetic services.

Architect Jordan Behar, who works in Clearwater, added a private exit-elevator to the building for discretion. “We focused on flow and function above aesthetics,” he said.

At the grand opening Monday, Maggie Ciadella, manager of social memberships at Ruth Eckerd Hall, wandered through the gray hallways, past waiters offering trays of smoked salmon and cream cheese. Now, she’s considering scheduling an appointment.

“It’s so not-clinical,” she murmured. “Definitely more ‘spa.'”

Innisfree Hotels Wins Worldwide Hampton Development Award

July 11, 2012 Orange Beach Alabama & Glenn Goerke, Senior Director of Development and Steve Crabill, Vice President and Managing Director Development at Hilton Worldwide, parent company to the Hampton Inn Hotels brand, traveled to Orange Beach, Alabama from Atlanta this week to present a Deal of the Year Award to Innisfree Hotels’ CEO and Founder Julian MacQueen.

Innisfree, a hotel management and development company based in Gulf Breeze Florida, is proud to accept this distinguished worldwide brand award for the development of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach, Alabama. The hotel, which opened in the spring of 2011, was chosen from over 150 hotels worldwide that were opened, approved or under construction last year under the Hampton flag. The Hampton Inn brand portfolio includes over 1800 hotels worldwide and was designated as the leading hotel brand in the world by Franchise Times Magazine in 2011. Hotel Development Orange Beach Alabama.

The construction of this state of the art 160 room hotel cost $31 million to build and the project was distinguished by its ‘fast track construction’ schedule. Rich Chism, Innisfree’s Director of Development, says, “One of the most interesting things about this project was the speed at which we moved from conception to opening. We were laying the foundation before we had completed the design. It was an exciting, dynamic process facilitated by the cooperation of the City of Orange Beach.”

The hotel was constructed by Robins and Morton; 65 year-old construction and engineering company that consistently ranks among the 100 largest U.S. builders in the United States. This was the second hotel Robins and Morton built for Innisfree Hotels and the two companies are currently constructing a third project; building a Hyatt Place Hotel at the Pensacola International Airport. Project architect was Istvan Peteranecz AIA of Behar Peteranecz Architecture.

Hotel Development Orange Beach AlabamaThe Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach has several notable design features including the bright orange exterior and visually vibrant interior design. The bright colors were chosen because they speak to the name Orange Beach but also because they promote a guest experience in keeping with Innisfree’s corporate motto of “providing fun and memorable experiences.” Exceptional hotel amenities include a beachfront zero entry pool, 3,700 square feet of Gulf front meeting space and a fitness room that overlooks the beach.

This is the second brand level development award Innisfree Hotels has received this year. Last year they were selected by Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG owns 4,400 hotels under 7 brands) to receive a Developer of the Year award for the Holiday Inn Resort on Pensacola Beach in 2011. Julian MacQueen, CEO and founder of Innisfree, accepted the award at the IHG Americas Investors and Leadership Conference held on October 26th 2011 at the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas.

Mr. MacQueen says, “It is an incredible honor to receive two major brand development awards in a 24-month period. The creativity to pull off this size deal during these most uncertain times came though a collective effort between Bibb Lamar, Bruce Finley, and the entire board at BankTrust of Mobile and Innisfree Hotel’s development team. I could not be any more proud to be part of this beautiful product.” Bruce Finley Executive Vice President and Senior Load Officer at BankTrust Financial Group says, “BankTrust is very pleased with the way the project turned out. The folks at Innisfree are professional and a pleasure to work with.”Hotel Development Orange Beach Alabama.

Innisfree is a hotel management and development company built on the concepts of exceptional service, guest satisfaction and return on investment. For more than three decades, Innisfree has expertly managed dozens of hotels in partnership with many of the world’s most recognized hotel brands. Today Innisfree owns or manages 3250 hotel rooms, has approximately 900 employees and pays in excess of $2,000,0000 in lodging sales taxes and $3,200,000 in real estate taxes annually.

Announcement and celebration lunch will take place at Hampton Inn & Suites in Orange Beach Alabama at 12 noon on July 12th, 2012. Innisfree CEO Julian MacQueen, Glenn Goerke, Senior Director of Development and Steve Crabill, Vice President and Managing Director Development at Hilton Worldwide, parent company to the Hampton Inn Hotels brand will be on hand for interviews and comments.