Parking plan weighed
City transportation officials finalized a residential parking permit plan for the SoHo area and will seek City Council approval within the next couple of weeks.
The plan will allow one parking permit and one guest pass per SoHo resident, and a few small areas will allow two-hour parking for nonresidents. Parking will not be allowed on at least one side of the street on blocks within the boundaries of Kennedy Boulevard to the north, Swann Avenue to the south, Armenia Avenue to the west and Fremont Avenue to the east.
Over the last six months, transportation officials have studied resident parking in the neighborhood, which has had problems with bar and restaurant patrons illegally parking and clogging its streets. The proposed plan would provide 344 spaces for residents and their permitted guests only.
If City Council ultimately approves the plan, residents will need to obtain hang-tags for their vehicles to park on their streets. For guests, they may buy 24-hour passes for $3, seven-day permits for $7 and monthly permits for $28.
Jim Corbett, the city's parking manager, said the city will scrutinize the need for monthly guest permits closely, he said, so residents may not buy bundles of permits for their friends who visit SoHo bars and restaurants.
Residents will get mailed notifications before the plan goes before City Council for a first reading.
Help for abused kids
At 30,000 square feet, Mary Lee's House is big enough to combine under one roof all of the agencies necessary to investigate, prosecute and offer treatment for cases of child abuse.
But the building at 2806 N Armenia Ave. is designed to look small.
Children entering the building will find a receptionist sitting shaded by an artificial oak under an artist's blue summer sky. The tree continues next door into a playroom complete with drawers of toys for children of all ages and a large television playing the Disney Channel.
Nearly every wall in the center, which focuses on efficiency and making children feel comfortable, is lined with children's drawings.
New to Tampa, but based on designs from more than 300 other similar programs nationwide, Mary Lee's House celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. The facility combines the Child Protection Team, originally housed at Tampa General Hospital, with the Children's Justice Center formerly of Twiggs Street, downtown, the Crisis Center, of North Tampa and other agencies.
"Things flow much better. It's kid friendly and worker friendly. When we need to talk to someone we just walk down the hall and find them," said Dr. William Brooks, director of the Hillsborough Child Protection Team.
The House has medical examination rooms located on the same floor as deposition rooms with closed-circuit cameras. Here, children can offer testimony to a courtroom over closed-circuit television or detail their situation to a panel of experts while only seeing one person.
The goal: to increase conviction rates in cases of sexual or physical child abuse, while ruling out false alarms.
"Ruling out abuse is just as important as ruling it in," said Brooks.
Mary Lee's House is named for Mary Lee Farrior, a local philanthropist who seeded the project with a $1-million donation. More donations are needed. For information, visit www.maryleeshouse.org or call (813) 250-6650.