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New Ybor teahouse, Roosevelt, will rent space to entrepreneurs and creatives

YBOR CITY — The ingredients for a sustainable cup of tea came together in a collaboration of innovation.

Tea leaves picked from an indoor garden.

Cups of pressed corn.

A bar made of glued wood scraps.

Water for brewing from air- conditioning coils.

It's nearly time for a spot of tea — and a feast of ideas — at the Roosevelt, at 1812 N 15th St. The 5,500-square-foot building will be open daily for various business events, programs or workshops. Entrepreneurs and creative types will be able to rent the two-story open space.

The tea bar is a permanent fixture, serving fair trade coffee and kava, a relaxing herbal drink.

But on any given day, the focal activity at the Roosevelt could change.

One day the building might be home to a temporary art gallery. The next, a yoga studio. Or a store with locally designed T-shirts and fresh foods. Musicians will perform concerts and record albums.

Another day may feature a hydroponic gardening workshop taught by Bryan Roberts, a general contractor and one of three managing partners who have worked to renovate the building using sustainable, cost-effective products.

The partners are seeking more people to bring their talents and corporate sponsors to defray costs of the vertical two-story hydroponic garden. A grand opening is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 30.

"You never know where the next good idea will come from," said Rudy Arnauts, a real estate developer and partner in the venture. White paint speckled his hands recently, from a fresh coat applied to the walls of the building that he calls a blank canvas.

"It's the ultimate free market," he said. "We're building global companies from the ground up."

Workshops to teach others how to use the innovations at the building are part of the cornerstone of the team's mission.

Rough Riders, rough shape, Redner rehab

More than a hundred years ago, the building housed horses for Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders. Most recently it was the home of the Tampa Bay Brewing Co. But the structure was in poor shape in 2007 when strip club owner Joe Redner bought it for $650,000. When it rained outside, it rained inside the Roosevelt.

Arnauts approached Redner two years ago with an idea to use sustainable products and technologies there. Redner liked the idea. He agreed to cover a $4,000 mortgage payment each month for the first two years and, in exchange, he had his property maintained and improved while helping to grow sustainable projects. He says it appeals to his altruistic side. In November, managers will use profits from building rentals to start paying rent to Redner.

The managers gathered volunteers and donations to renovate the space without cost, including fly ash concrete for flooring, LED lights and a polyurethane foam made from soybean waste sprayed onto the rooftop. The foam sealed holes and insulated the roof, saving air-conditioning costs.

But the team passed on an environmentally friendly drywall donation that cost significantly more than standard drywall. Sustainability has to make financial sense too, Arnauts said.

It may be a tough economic climate, but Arnauts says they're building a new platform for commerce.

Take the air-conditioning unit in the back of the building, created by Water Source Technologies. It collects 100 gallons of water a day and filters three times — to at least as clean as distilled. It costs about $2,500 more than a typical unit, but this one is a prototype and not yet for sale, said Adam Slaw, the Bradenton company's CEO. The unit will create water for all events in the Roosevelt, including toilet flushing. The building is attached to the city's water system for backup when water from the AC unit runs low.

As for the bar, it was made by Billy Dunn of Liberty Woodworking. He pointed out pieces from the patchwork recently that have been in his St. Petersburg wood shop for as long as 10 years, leftovers from an airport VIP lounge and a wine store.

"I put a ridiculous amount of effort and energy and heart into it," he said.

Roberts plans to build the garden next to large windows in the front of the building, with tea leaves and other herbs to share with neighbors, such as next-door restaurant the Laughing Cat.

The garden is the last step in making the sustainable tea.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at or (813) 226-3431.

Debut day

Official opening date at the Roosevelt is planned for Oct. 30 with a concert by local band Suggestion.

New Ybor teahouse, Roosevelt, will rent space to entrepreneurs and creatives 09/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 4:30am]
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