Monday Morning Memo

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Member Spotlight: Florida School of Woodwork

In a time when many are seeking fresh ways of problem solving, seeing differently and communicating effectively, the School of Woodwork offers an opportunity for people of all skill levels to spend a weekend, a week or several  immersed in craft of designing and making furniture, carving and tuning.

For some, it is the opportunity to study with leading, nationally-recognized makers who travel to the School to teach specific workshops and serve as the School’s foundation in ensuring the highest quality of innovative instruction.

For others, it is the exceptional, well-equipped workshops where students can work safely and confidently in a professional-level environment. For many, it is the daily engagement among a diverse group of people from different backgrounds, coming together to learn and work in a supportive, creative environment.

The heart of their mission is to nurture and sustain this creative spirit of woodworking craftsmanship by proving the best possible education and environment for people who want to engage in intrinsically soul satisfying craft where “thinking” and “doing” come together.

Learn more about the Florida School of Woodworking and their upcoming classes at schoolofwoodwork.com.

Tampa Downtown Partnership’s 33rd Annual Meeting

At the Annual Meeting and Luncheon, the Tampa Downtown Partnership inducts new leadership and celebrates the organization’s accomplishments with our members, stakeholders, and the community-at-large. Join us on June 19 as we welcome keynote speaker, Tim Tompkins, President & CEO of the Times Square Alliance.

This event includes a plated lunch and Keynote presentation. Check-In begins at 11am, program will begin promptly at Noon.

Register today!

Thank you to our sponsors:

Platinum 

Hillsborough River Realty Corporation / The Jeffries Companies
Tampa Bay Times
Tampa General Hopsital

Gold

David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts
Tampa Bay Builders Association
Tampa Bay Business Journal
TECO
University of Tampa
Silver
Baker Barrios Architects
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney
Burr & Forman
Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort, P.A.
Hilton Tampa Downtown
Hill Ward Henderson
Holland & Knight LLP
Port Tampa Bay
Stantec
The Florida Aquarium
Tampa Preparatory School
Tampa Theatre
Tampa Steel Erecting
Trenam
Wells Fargo

More About the Keynote Speaker

Tim Tompkins has been the President of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. The Alliance is a business improvement district that works to improve and promote Times Square – cultivating the creativity, energy and edge that have made the area an icon of entertainment, culture and urban life for over a century.

He is a board member of the NYC BID Association and the Immediate Past Chair of the International Downtown Association. Prior to joining the Alliance, he was the Founder and Director of Partnerships for Parks, which works to support New York City’s neighborhood parks and which won an Innovations in Government Award from the JFK School of Government at Harvard for its work to restore the Bronx River. He has also worked at New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, The New York City Charter Revision Commission, and was briefly the Nationals Editor at the Mexico City News, an English language newspaper in Mexico. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and an M.B.A. from Wharton, and currently teaches “Transforming Cities” and “The Arts and Artist in Urban Revitalization” at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. When not in the most urban and unnatural place on the planet, he enjoys being in New York’s natural areas, ideally sailing or practicing yoga.

Prepare Your Business for this Hurricane Season

With the start of hurricane season fast approaching June 1, the Tampa Downtown Partnership is hosting a team of emergency experts for its Annual Hurricane Preparedness Meeting June 5 at TECO Hall.

If you’re wondering what a direct hurricane hit would be like in downtown Tampa, just ask Lynda Remund, President and CEO of the Partnership.

“If we had a direct hit, the first four floors of the office and residential towers would be under water. That’s pretty significant when you think about that,” says Remund, who has seen plenty of hurricane seasons in her 19 years with the downtown organization.

Fortunately, Tampa hasn’t had a direct hit since 1921, but after watching the devastation and increased intensity of hurricanes in the past decade, there’s a greater sense of urgency for both businesses and residents in downtown Tampa and across the area to be prepared.

The problem is, “people don’t start preparing until we have an impending storm,” Remund says. “It’s really important that we prepare now. It’s never too early to start preparing.”

The event will feature local emergency and rescue experts from the Tampa Police and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Departments, Hillsborough County Emergency Management, Hillsborough County Rescue and Tampa Electric Company. Brian LaMarre, Meteorologist-In-Charge at the Tampa Bay Area Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service, will be there to help paint a picture of how different scenarios could impact Tampa’s downtown.

New re-entry program

Panelists will discuss the biggest change for hurricane preparation, which involves the updated City of Tampa Re-Entry Program.

The program is designed to streamline the process for residents and key personnel returning to an area to assess damage after a catastrophic event.

To prevent gawkers and potential criminals from entering an area after evacuation orders have been lifted, public safety officials will screen vehicles returning to the impacted area. Those vehicles with hang tags displayed will be waved through, avoiding potentially long lines.

The city recently mailed vehicle hang tags to homeowners in areas most likely to be evacuated, as well as business members of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Westshore Alliance. This includes those in zip code areas 33602, 33605, 33606, 33609, 33611, 33616, 33619, 33629, and MacDill Air Force Base. Hang tags have also been provided to apartment management offices. Residents and businesses can order additional hang tags for $5 through the City of Tampa.

With increased hurricane activity, Remund says she’s noticed business leaders are more engaged and aware. One indication is the preparedness event has sold out in recent years.

“The awareness is there for the business community. Over the years I’ve seen them step up to the plate and I’m seeing them have their emergency procedures in place now,” she says. The key is to “have their emergency preparedness statements in their manuals and relay this to their tenants: ‘Should this happen, this is what we’re going to do.’ The business has to be prepared and know if we shut down this is how we’re going to handle it.”

Hurricane event details

  • What: Annual Hurricane Preparedness Meeting of the Tampa Downtown Partnership
  • When: Wednesday, June 5, 8-9 a.m.
  • Where: TECO Hall, 702 N. Franklin Street, Tampa
  • Cost: $22 Partnership members, $27 non-members
  • What’s included: Panel discussion and buffet breakfast

REGISTER

Confirmed Speakers:

Holley Wade – Special Operations Manager, Hillsborough County Rescue
Capt. Bill Wade – President, Tampa Firefighters Museum (prev. Tampa Fire Rescue)
Lee Collins – Manager, ED Emergency Management, Tampa Electric
Assistant Chief Elias Vazquez – Tampa Police Department
Deputy Chief Lee Bercaw – Tampa Police Department
Sheriff Chronister – Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office
Chief Deputy Donna Lusczynski –  Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Brian LaMarre – Meteorologist-In-Charge, National Weather Center – Tampa Bay Area

“How Should Downtown Tampa Prepare for Hurricane Season?”83 Degrees

The Partnership is Hiring

Tampa Downtown Partnership is looking to fill the position of Operations Manager.

Position Overview

The operations manager ensures the delivery of high-quality service through development and implementation of efficient operational systems and quality assurance mechanisms and through effective leadership in managing staff and financial resources related to beautification, maintenance, litter abatement, and ambassador services in Downtown Tampa.  The position supervises facilitation of landscaping and public space maintenance services, as well as supporting the execution of special projects related to public programming.  The operations manager reports directly to the Senior Director of Public Programming & Operations.

Responsibilities

  • Manages all on-street services provided by the Special Services District (SSD), supplemental maintenance, litter removal, beautification, and special program support.
  • Oversees Tampa’s Downtown Guides and Clean Team’s and all related employee relations, to include annual performance reviews, uniforms, equipment purchases/maintenance, hiring, interviewing, training, etc.
  • Works directly with Clean Team and Downtown Guides’ project manager, supervisor, and team leaders to determine priorities, identify and assign project teams, develop assessment and evaluation tools, establish procedures, and oversee planning and implementation. Ensure meaningful goal setting, measurable outcomes and accountability, and deliverables.
  • Negotiates and administers contracts with outside vendors for maximum service and cost effectiveness.
  • Oversees development and implementation of data collection and evaluation tools, and performance measurements to ensure effective delivery of services to all constituents.
  • Assists in convening property managers, public safety stakeholders (i.e. local law enforcement, security providers, emergency preparedness agencies, business owners, etc.) to provide effective communication channels and problem-solving opportunities.
  • Serves as staff liaison to the Special Services District Advisory Committee, facilitating monthly meetings, along with committee chairs, and represents a variety of key downtown stakeholders.
  • Manages Downtown Security Network contact list and works closely with event coordinator for Downtown Security Series programming.
  • Creates and enhances partnerships as liaison with City of Tampa senior staff levels to ensure maximum attention to maintenance within the SSD area.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.

Required Skills and Competencies

  • Excellent written and verbal communications skills, including demonstrated ability to articulate the organization’s philosophy and position to a wide range of audiences. Must be able to document incidents appropriately and timely.
  • Demonstrated ability to work with, and foster partnerships in both the public and private sectors.
  • Demonstrated fiscal and business management skills to develop, manage and track budgets and contracts, handle multiple priorities and execute projects for timely completion.
  • Demonstrated ability to manage and motivate employees; high degree of excellent judgement skills, and problem-solving ability required. Hands-on leadership and pro-active approach are essential.
  • Experienced and knowledgeable in Human Resource applications, policies and procedures.
  • Must be able to interact with all levels of staff, Board members, business and community leaders, and stakeholders.
  • Thorough and excellent attention to detail.
  • Works well under pressure.
  • Ability to work occasional early morning, evening and/or weekend hours.
  • Ability to lift heavy objects.
  • Able to work outdoors.
  • Ability to walk long distances.

Preferred Skills and Experience

  • Familiar with operations of Business Improvement Districts (BID).
  • Familiarity and connections to current industry trends related to clean and safe programming and some urban development.

Required Education and Experience

  • Minimum of five years management experience in service industry, construction management, municipal government, business improvement districts, or convention and hospitality services; preferably in a special services district, urban partnership or closely-related environment.
  • Comprehensive understanding of Downtown Tampa and acquainted with significant stakeholders.
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)

To apply for the position, please email a cover letter and resume to Shaun Drinkard. Please, no phone calls.

Historic Downtown Tampa Church Makes Way for Development

It started with a knock on the office door last summer at the First Presbyterian Church on Zack Street downtown.

After many prayers, what the Rev. Fitz Conner describes as an unexpected journey ended Sunday when his congregation voted to sell the historic church to a developer for nearly $5 million.

If the sale is finalized, the church property could become the latest in a series of historic buildings in the northern downtown business district to be reimagined as residential or entertainment spaces.

The agreement with Property Markets Group isn’t final, but it’s expected to be soon, Conner said. Meanwhile, the congregation of about 615 people will begin looking for a new spiritual home in the coming months.

Along with the owners of vacant buildings on the western half of the parcel, whom Conner said partnered with the church on the sale, the entire downtown block bordered by Florida Avenue and Zack, Polk and Marion Streets will be remade into a residential project. The $10.2 million total purchase price has been agreed to in principle, Conner said.

Conner said he’s been told the Mediterranean Revival sanctuary and former manse, where ministers lived with their families for decades, will be preserved while the rest of the block will be leveled. The church property — with an assessed value of $3.25 million— is exempt from property taxes so whatever is built will likely bolster city revenues. The other half of the block is owned by the Maggiora family and is currently vacant two- and three-story office and retail space.

A Property Markets Group representative declined comment Thursday. A Maggiora family representative could not be reached for comment.

“We’ve prayed, fasted and pondered this for many months,” Conner said. “It’s the start of a adventurous journey for us.”

The church is searching for a new location, though it should be able to stay in its current one for the time being. The plan is to find a new home no farther away than its current location for the 70 percent of its parishioners who live in South Tampa, Conner said.

The church was originally founded in a nearby wooden frame house in 1884 when the city was just beginning to transform from a small port and fishing community. That same year, Henry B. Plant extended his rail line to the Hillsborough River. The current building is nearly a century old, dating to 1922.

In recent years, the northeastern section of downtown has seen a spurt of adaptive reuse and rehabilitated buildings. The Vault, a high-end event space a block to the southwest, was once a bank. Across the street from the church is Le Méridien, a boutique hotel in the old federal courthouse constructed in 1905.

Bob McDonaugh, the city’s economic opportunity administrator, said in an email that he hadn’t seen the plans for the First Presbyterian block but said the trend is a welcome one. And residential projects have found a receptive market, especially with a strong demand from a younger demographic, he said.

“Several years ago, Debra Koehler and her partners did a similar project with Metro 510 (510 E. Harrison St.). That project saved a historic church and provided affordable housing to downtown,’’ McDonaugh said. “There is a market for several price points and amenity packages for downtown workers and students and it sounds as if that project will have no problems finding residents.”

The church’s historic past may well serve its future. A historic property that is being restored can apply for a special exemption that freezes its value for 10 years, McDonaugh said.

“Historic downtown Tampa church votes to make way for residential development” – Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)

How Water Street is Changing Downtown Tampa

Water Street Tampa changes daily in the urban core.

The $3 billion, mixed-use district’s new street grid is taking shape, and new buildings now stand multiple stories high on what were previously moribund parking lots. Meanwhile, at Sparkman Wharf and the newly renovated Tampa Marriott Water Street, there’s a preview of the experience to come in the completed district.

Take a look at how Water Street is changing Tampa.

400 Channelside DriveThis office tower will be 500,000 square feet in 19 stories.

EDITION TampaThis 26-story, five-star, boutique hotel will include 72 hotel rooms and 35 condos that will range from 2,500 to 9,000 square feet. It will be built across the street from Amalie Arena, at the northwest corner of Channelside Drive and Water Street.

JW MarriottThe JW Marriott was the first building to begin vertical construction in Water Street, on the former Silver Lot next to Amalie Arena and across the street from the Tampa Marriott Water Street (formerly Marriott Waterside). It will be 26 stories with 519 rooms, 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space and Tampa Bay’s highest rooftop bar.

1010 Water StreetThis building will include 481 apartments and 32,000 square feet of street-level retail space at the southwest corner of Water Street and Cumberland Avenue.

1077 Water Street: 388 units with residential adjacent garage with retail.*

1001 Water StreetThis office tower will be 380,000 square feet in 20 stories at the northeast intersection of Channelside Drive and Water Street. It is slated to begin construction in the second quarter of 2019 and deliver in the second quarter of 2021 after a 26-month build period.

USF medical school: The 395,000-square-foot USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will be an anchor of Water Street.

Old Ardent Mills site: SPP acquired 3 acres belonging to the Ardent Mills flour mill, which will be relocated to Port Tampa Bay/Port Redwing in Gibsonton.*

815 Water Street815 Water Street, which sits adjacent to the Tampa Bay History Center near the entrance to the Tampa Riverwalk, will include a 21-story and a 26-story tower totaling 420 rental units and a street-level storefront for a grocer.

Sparkman Wharf: The former Channelside Bay Plaza now includes a waterfront dining garden, craft biergarten and recreational lawn as well as 180,000 square feet of loft-style office space and 65,000 square feet of retail space.

“Water Street Tampa construction map breaks down district projects”Tampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)

Local Downtown Businesses “Jumping the Bay”

Suzanne Perry calls it “jumping the bay.”

And a lot of Tampa Bay’s hottest haunts are doing it.

In June, Suzanne and Roger Perry will debut South Tampa’s Datz gastropub in downtown St. Petersburg. Its soon-to-be St. Pete neighbor a few blocks away, game and sports bar Park & Rec, is making the opposite trek. Its second location will open in Tampa’s Channel District this summer.

Star-crossed lovers of the Datz Cheesy Todd burger or Park & Rec’s giant garbage can beer pong will no longer need to traverse the Howard Frankland to get their fix. Although the notion of Pinellas and Hillsborough county businesses expanding across the bay isn’t new, the number of restaurants and bars taking the leap seems to be at an all-time high.

Area business owners say it’s a byproduct of the region’s major post-recession bounce back and the community’s push to support local, rather than corporate, cafes and restaurants.

“I think it’s a natural progression,” said Roger Perry. “If you saturate an area, you start looking at where’s my next place going to be? There’s a big a gap between (Tampa) and St. Pete, and it’s water.”

The Perrys and others say they’re not looking to start a franchise. Several told the Tampa Bay Times they wanted to stay local and had a certain kinship to their respective cross city. What’s yet to be determined: Just how much the clones could effect the characteristics that give Tampa and St. Pete their individual vibe if the trend continues.

Most owners say they work to adapt to their new homes, but at the same time, it’s not like they can remove the city that influenced and fostered the concept’s initial success.

“I believe that it’s really one big city at the end of the day in a lot of ways,” said Park & Rec owner, and Tampa native, Stephen Schrutt. “I think the stigma of Tampa versus St. Pete is definitely not as big of a rivalry anymore. People enjoy both sides of the bay.”

St. Pete’s Bodega and Mandarin Hide made the move about 10 months ago to Seminole Heights — though owners named the Tampa version of the popular cocktail bar Mandarin Heights.

Seminole Heights’ favorite Ichicoro opened its St. Pete ramen spot about two years ago inside the trendy Station House co-working space. Station House will open a Tampa location this summer, Hyde House, in Hyde Park Village.

Tampa Bay craft beer pioneer the Independent opened in St. Pete in 2005 and added a Seminole Heights location, which has grown to be a Tampa mainstay, a few years later. The original location closed in 2012, and then was rebooted on St. Pete’s Central Avenue in 2016. Bavaro’s Pizza Napoletana & Pastaria opened in Tampa in 2009 and now has spots in St. Pete, Sarasota and the Tampa airport. That’s not even close to a full list of Tampa Bay doubles.

Debbie Sayegh, the owner of Cuban eatery Bodega, said her customers would regularly leave Yelp reviews: When are you coming to Tampa? Why aren’t you are in Tampa? I wish you were closer.

“They welcomed us to the neighborhood with open arms,” she said. “We pinpointed Seminole Heights from the beginning because we enjoyed going there to eat.”

Sayegh said she tried to adapt the restaurant to Seminole Heights, while still bringing the color scheme and decor inspiration that makes Bodega, well, Bodega.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily bringing the St. Pete to Tampa or vice versa,” she said.

The Perrys put up a survey on social media a few years ago, with St. Pete being the clear winner over other Tampa Bay cities for their next Datz.

Suzanne Perry said driving across the bridges can be like a psychological block — even during non-rush hour times when a drive between the downtowns can take as little as 25 minutes. For that reason, Perry and the other cross-bay businesses aren’t worried that opening a second location will somehow cannibalize the success of their flagship stores.

They also suspect that the new locations will pull from different suburbs than their current spots.

“Driving from Wesley Chapel to downtown St. Pete?” Schrutt said. “That’s far.”

But Pasco County to downtown Tampa? That’s more realistic.

Schrutt said Tampa and St. Pete have become similar markets: St. Pete’s comeback started first, but Tampa has followed up strong. Now both cities have high-rises under construction and a population of millennials and Gen Xers who opt to avoid driving. They enjoy experiences — whether it be a trip to a food hall like Armature Works near downtown Tampa or going out for drinks before or after a Lightning game.

“They want to live in areas they can walk,” Schrutt said. “They’re starting to live a lifestyle of: Monday through Friday I drive to work, but Friday through Sunday, you’re walking, Ubering — trying not to deal with traffic.”

That’s why Schrutt loves the location of Park & Rec in Tampa: It’s a two-story space attached to the Towers of Channelside, where he imagines a lot of his future customers will live. It’s a short walk from Sparkman Wharf and the burgeoning Water Street development.

But not every local staple is rushing to cross the bridge.

Roberto Torres opened Blind Tiger Cafe in Ybor City in 2014. It’s been steady growth for the coffee shop since then with the addition of three new locations relatively close by, in Seminole Heights, SoHo and Westchase.

Torres said he can saturate the Tampa side of the bay market further before going across the bridge. He doesn’t want to spread his resources too thin. He used his whole milk order as an example: He gets 200 gallons a week from one distributor. With all of his locations within a few miles of each other, it’s easy to get that milk around.

“Going to St. Pete,” he said “that’s a bigger undertaking.”

He estimates he can open 20 cafes in Hillsborough County before it makes sense for his business model to expand to St. Petersburg. He plans to announce more coffee shops over the next year.

For now, at least, Blind Tiger will be will be exclusive to Hillsborough. In the meantime, Torres said he’s watching, much like the rest of Tampa Bay. He’s interested to see how the bay jumpers adapt to their new cities.

One thing he knows for sure about multi-city Tampa Bay business owners:

“They spend a lot of time in their cars.”

“Hey, you got St. Pete in my Tampa. No, you got Tampa in my St. Pete.”Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)

Inside Look on Construction of Downtown Tampa’s Medical School

The 13-story tower that gleams with its prismatic shape is more than 75 percent finished as hundreds of workers hammer away inside.

“There’s been a lot of firsts for the entire team. I don’t think there’s ever been a time where we felt we couldn’t accomplish [projects on the site],” Skanska USA Building Inc. Project Executive Brian Yarborough told the Tampa Bay Business Journal while giving a tour inside the $173 million building.

The building, which sits on the corner of Channelside Drive and Meridian Avenue, will soon house 1,800 University of South Florida medical students.

“Not only are we on a tight site with it being downtown, but we also had the challenge with the added logistical coordination the tenants required and access to the site, we’ve also been coordinating with [Strategic Property Partners] for their projects and their work that’s underway,” Yarborough said.

The day of the TBBJ tour was the 639th that the building has been under construction as part of a 28-month schedule. The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will be the anchor of the $3 billion, mixed-use Water Street district that Strategic Property Partners is building in collaboration with Cascade Investment between the Channel district and central business district.

Yarborough said the team talks with SPP almost weekly.

More than 100,000 square feet of space in the 395,000-square-foot building will be dedicated to basic, translational and clinical research. Clinical trials will be conducted at a state-of-the-art cardiology office, which houses nine exam rooms and spaces for imaging and stress tests. A bioinformatics visualization suite, vivarium and research offices complete the research component of the building.

Tampa General Hospital, which acts as the university’s teaching hospital, recently won approval from the University of South Florida Board of Trustees’ Finance Committee to lease space inside. The hospital will have a $20 million, 25-year lease for a total of 25,000 square feet to have joint USF Health/TGH health care-related services.

On the first floor, or ground floor, TGH is slated  create a co-branded imaging center and a TGH urgent care clinic; the ninth floor lease would be to create a heart health co-location; and the 12th floor would be used for an executive wellness area, according to USF documents.

The ground floor will also have retail space. To the west will be a plaza shared with SPP.

“The fact that we have retail on the ground floor is a compromise. We would not have built a building with retail if SPP had not wanted to activate the ground floor level,” USF Director of Design and Construction Stephen Lafferty said while inside the building.

Lafferty said the design includes a range of deliberate efforts to foster collaboration and connection based on novel thinking about how medical students learn. He described the feeling of goosebumps while touring the building knowing the impact it will have on fostering the development of quality practitioners.

“Earlier we had faculty from the college of medicine out here and to see them come into their building and their reactions, it reenergizes [Skanska],” Yarborough said.

 

The building has flexible wet lab space, tissue culture rooms, dry labs and more. There is a lot of flexibility built into the design.

“We don’t know what science, education is going to look like 10 years from now,” Lafferty said.

“There’s a huge difference in costs between flexibility and adaptability. You could adapt something and that’s very inexpensive and cost-effective, but to give you ultimate flexibility – that is very expensive,” Lafferty said regarding the high costs in the building.

The building is unusual in that it is completely concrete, not steel, which means there will be little to no vibration — important for the study of medicine.

It’s also built to withstand a category 3 hurricane as the critical infrastructure was put up 21 feet above sea level.

“In the worst case scenario, certainly the first floor would be washed away, but the intent is everything critical would be up there,” Lafferty said.

The building is slated to be ready for its first class in early 2020. But the project is already having a positive impact on admissions — as the volume of applications is well up, Lafferty said.

“Medical Education RedifinedTampa Bay Business Journal (subscription required)

Learn About the Origins of University of Tampa's Iconic Minarets

The stainless steel minarets that flank the University of Tampa campus stand out against the city’s skyline. The tops end in crescent moons, a whimsical contrast to layered skyscrapers.

When Stephanie Carlos, 75, learned of the Tampa Bay Times’ new Florida Wonders series, the towers were her first thought.

“I’m kind of closing my eyes and picturing Tampa, and it just popped in my mind, the minarets,” she said. “And I thought, well, okay, there’s a question.”

Carlos recently joined the Times on a tour of the university’s distinctive Plant Hall, a building that was once the area’s most elegant resort.

The former hotel now holds administrative offices and classrooms and takes its name from the hotel’s developer, Henry Plant, a tycoon who extended railroad lines deep into Florida in the late 1800s.

The minarets and the building they stand on are iconic reminders of a glorious past and a signature for a city being transformed yet again.

When you think Tampa, you think minarets.”

So says Lindsay Huban of the Henry B. Plant Museum.

Huban, the museum’s membership and operations manager, points to prominent images in the community as evidence. Here is the University of Tampa’s black-and-white sketched insignia, an architectural rendering of Plant Hall placed above the school’s name.

Another is the Bank of Tampa’s logo, which depicts the classic minarets in gold. The minarets were actually painted gold in 1981 for UT’s 50th anniversary.

The fact that the minarets are used even now as a symbol of the city shows just how far Henry Plant’s empire reached. When he extended his railroad line to Tampa in 1884, only about 700 people lived in the area.

By the time of Plant’s death in 1899, he had amassed a railroad and steamship system, Huban said, that stretched from Prince Edward Island in Canada to Puerto Rico and Honduras. He built eight hotels in Florida, including locations in Winter Park and Punta Gorda. But the Tampa Bay Hotel, with its minarets, gingerbread woodwork and four grand parlor suites, was his crown jewel.

“This is the only one that is still standing,” Huban said. “This was the biggest and best one.”

Plant initially fell in love with the state in the 1850s when he brought his first wife, Ellen, to recover from tuberculosis. In that pre-Civil War era, the trip was lengthy: Traveling to Jacksonville often meant taking a train, going on a horse-drawn carriage and ending the journey in a canoe.

At the time, Huban said, the state had a land grant program that gave developers acres in exchange for train track laid within certain areas. Plant’s roughly 60 miles of track earned him a significant amount of land.

With the Tampa Bay Hotel, Plant envisioned a place that would serve as a community center for visitors and residents of Tampa. His hotel would eventually house the city’s first performing arts center, a race track and the best restaurant in town.

For the design, Plant wanted something “exotic,” Huban said.

Architect J.A. Wood designed the resort with an eye toward a Moorish Byzantine style popular during the Victorian period.

The red-brick building, a quarter of a mile long, was the first in the state to completely use electricity, earning it the description of a place where “you can read a book any time of day.”

The price for a room started at $5 a night, a stat that led to a laugh from Carlos. But that was about two weeks’ pay for a hotel employee, who would have earned about 40 to 60 cents per day.

The hotel remained open only for about 40 years, from 1891 to 1932. It was only fully occupied in 1898, the start of the Spanish-American War. It was then that about 30,000 troops came to Tampa and staged at the hotel before journeying to Cuba to fight the war. The hotel welcomed Theodore Roosevelt, before he became president, and American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. Those guests helped the structure earn its designation as a National Historic Landmark.

After Plant died, his family began selling off parts of his property. In 1905, the city of Tampa bought the Tampa Bay Hotel and its 125 surrounding acres for $125,000, a fraction of the $2.5 million it cost Plant to build the structure.

The city ran the hotel until 1932, then it proposed that the recently founded university lease the building and preserve part of it as a museum.

Since the transition from a hotel to a university, the minarets have experienced their own growing pains.

In the late 1980s, it was discovered that the minarets had sustained fairly extensive termite damage to their wooden frames. All of Plant Hall was fumigated. Old photos show the building draped in a striped tent.

The minarets are rarely, if ever, open to the public. Those affiliated with the university can see them up close on certain occasions, like alumni or family weekends. The structures span five stories, making up half of the building’s height.

“I think it’s definitely a badge of honor if students have been in a minaret,” said Monnie Wertz, an assistant vice president at the university.

Visit on a random weekday, even during the summer, and you’ll find students bustling in and out of Plant Hall, sitting on its plush, leather chairs. The hall is home to the school’s science wing.

Students are proud of Plant Hall, Wertz said, as a symbol of the city and because it’s so unique.

“Most people when they’re going off to college aren’t sitting in classrooms that used to be someone’s bedroom or have a fireplace in them,” Wertz said.

As Carlos walked through the well-preserved writing and reading room, with its wood-paneled desks and copies of letters written from the hotel, she envisioned a relative.

“My uncle’s aunt would have been just the lady around here,” Carlos said. “She was a school teacher, and I could just see her around all this stuff.”

By the end of our interview, Carlos still hadn’t had her question answered. But that’s partially because it’s unanswerable.

When she asked Huban what the minarets represent, her response was direct and succinct.

“Nothing.”

“Just decor?” Carlos asked.

“It’s just decor,” Huban said.

Huban gets that question all the time. In fact, she said, it’s the most common question the museum hears — every single day.

The answer is so simple, it’s almost disappointing.

“There’s no secret meaning behind it,” she told us as we stared at the minarets shining against the blue sky.

“It was just something that looked different, something that would catch your attention, and it works now, 130 years later.”

“UT’s distinctive minarets loom over the city of Tampa’s skyline. A reader wondered: Why?” Tampa Bay Times (subscription required)

Downtown Calendar

Your Downtown Calendar

The following is just a sample of upcoming events in Downtown Tampa.  Visit the Downtown Tampa Events Calendar for a more comprehensive list.

Ariana Grande – Sweetener World Tour

Tuesday, May 28, begins 7pm
Amalie Arena
With her powerful vocals and astonishing range, Ariana Grande has emerged as one of the most magnetic and massively successful performers in pop music today. With 2016’s critically acclaimed Dangerous Woman, Grande both boldly defies expectation and reveals the full force of her voice. Find some tickets and see Ariana performed all of her hits live in Downtown Tampa. For more info, go to Ariana Grande – Sweetener World Tour.

TBBJ Elite Lunch & Learn

Thursday, May 30, begins 11am
Tampa Downtown Partnership Office
New to the Tampa area or want updates on what is going on downtown? Join TBBJ Elite and the Tampa Downtown Partnership for lunch and a walking tour of our downtown. Get an update on recent and planned developments including public parks, multi-use towers, and downtown transportation options. The tour will cover exciting renovations and growth happening at our arts and culture venues as well as projects that are giving new life to historic buildings. SPACE IS LIMITED! For more information, go to TBBJ Elite Lunch & Learn.

Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria

Friday, May 31 to Sunday, June 16
Stageworks Theatre
Four young Latino men have a chance meeting at Burrito World in Omaha and discover they share the same name! Even though their ancestral roots are different, not only do they share a common name, they share a common dream: to stage a show of Latin standards that puts forth a positive image to counteract Latino stereotypes. Enter Maria, a beautiful woman who provides a romantic interest as the gentlemen vie for her attentions. Performed in Spanish and English, this show features some of the most evocative Latin music ever written, sung in four and five-part harmony. For more information, go to Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria.

Taking the Stage at the Straz Center

Hedda Adapted by Lucy Kirkwood from the play by Henrik Ibsen – Through Sunday, June 2
That’s the Spirit – Thursday, May 30, begins 6:30pm
The Southern Momma Cledus T Judd Comedy Experience – Friday, May 31, begins 8pm
Dawson Dance Academy Annual Recital – Saturday, June 1, begins 5pm
Broadway’s Eric Petersen Sings “Swinging Thru Broadway” – Saturday, June 1, begins 7pm
Broadway Star of the Future Awards Showcase – Sunday, June 2, begins 2pm

On the Marquee at Tampa Theatre

The Biggest Little Farm (2019) – Through Tuesday, June 4
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – Sunday, June 2, 3pm to 5:15pm

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