We're charting a new course.
Starting today, Neighborhood Times adds an online news channel on tampabay.com to serve the communities of south Pinellas. Find it at tampabay.com/news/pinellas/neighborhoodtimes.
The goal of Neighborhood Times online is pretty simple: Expand the newspaper's coverage of our neighborhoods with daily news items that inform readers and generate dialogue about the things that matter to you, your family and your neighbors.
Some of the articles will be written by Times reporters. Some will be the work of newly minted writers — called "neighborhood news watchers" — who are interested in what's going on around them and want to write about it.
This venture is our version of a growing development around the country called "pro-am journalism,'' with professionals on our staff working with community-based amateur writers to expand the paper's coverage, primarily on the Web. Our editors will ensure that the content remains impartial, reporting-based, thorough and rooted in Times standards.
For starters, we have 19 neighborhood news watchers. They are your neighbors. Some are longtime residents who are active in the community, serving on boards and committees throughout the county. Others are students at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. They are all interested in what's new in our neighborhoods.
We're still under construction, but we hope Neighborhood Times online will become a town square of sorts that reflects voices from the countless vibrant neighborhoods across south Pinellas.
With your input, we want to report more of the news that matters: the shop that just opened, the road construction project that's tying up traffic, the neighborhood arts festival, the new police substation, the student production this weekend at the nearby middle school, upcoming neighborhood and government events.
Most stories will be snapshots. Others will explore the aftermath of a church fire or crime or look at trends. We'll look at gentrification in our neighborhoods as well as the burgeoning arts community and its impact. We'll also look at our daily struggle to survive in these tough economic times.
You'll also find us on Facebook and Twitter. Our goal is to give you daily updates on what's going on.
We want to hear from you. So take your time and explore the channel. Navigate the interactive map. Mouse over the various points and click on those points to access news about your communities.
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In June, we broke the news that SPiN, the trendy table tennis social club in Manhattan that is co-owned by actor Susan Sarandon, might be coming to BayWalk.
But with BayWalk management asking for a steep $30 per square foot, the prospect of bringing a franchise to downtown St. Petersburg seemed out of reach.
Michael Perry is co-owner of Bayou Wine and Spirits and Perfect Concepts and one of the investors interested in getting a SPiN franchise in St. Petersburg. When the potential BayWalk deal appeared dead, he said, three other options surfaced.
While Perry declined to name all three, he let slip that one of them sits in the shadow of the St. Petersburg Times' main offices at 490 First Ave. S. That's right. I'm talking about the Tramor Cafeteria.
The spin is that the investors submitted an offer to use the Mediterranean Revival building owned by the Times, but still have other options in downtown St. Petersburg.
Jounice Nealy-Brown, the Times spokeswoman, confirmed that an offer has been submitted by the group but declined to elaborate.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 893-8874.