One of the most striking structures in St. Petersburg's skyline is also making waves at street level.
Strollers who amble by Signature Place, the new 36-story condominium complex at 147 Second St. S, are greeted by the sounds of a stunning water wall in the courtyard.
Cantor Development, the complex's developer, has hosted a weekly soiree featuring jazz music and free food for the past five weeks. Last week the organizers decided to scale back the Friday evening event to once a month to coincide with the city's First Friday festivities on Central Avenue.
"First and foremost, the event is for our (potential) buyers,'' said William R. West, Cantor's senior vice president of development. "But we want to engage the public to come by and experience the music and our space.''
The idea of hosting such an event in the water wall courtyard came from Joel Cantor, the company's CEO, whose concept was modeled after Paley Park in New York City.
"We're trying to capture a buzz for people who may not know the space is here," West said.
During last week's event, a couple came by to strike a pose — for their wedding pictures.
The music series will resume at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6.
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Last Monday was a day of redemption of sorts for St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton.
During a candidates' forum at the Wildwood Recreation Center, Newton had a bird's-eye view as council colleagues Jeff Danner, Karl Nurse, Leslie Curran and Jim Kennedy — who are all on the Nov. 3 ballot — shifted uneasily in their seats as residents peppered them with questions. Most centered on recent council decisions that affected predominantly black neighborhoods.
For anyone who frequents council meetings or watches on television, these are the same council members who seem to roll their eyes every time Newton opens his mouth. Don't they realize the meetings are televised?
Even Newton's 11-year-old daughter Chelsea got to ask one of the questions. Lillian Baker, one of the forum's organizers, explained that organizers wanted young people to participate in the process, and Chelsea was one of two students selected to ask a question.
Nurse was the principal target of many of the questions. For the most part, Nurse said later, he expected to be attacked because some forum organizers support his opponent, Vel Thompson. Baker denies that.
Five neighborhoods from the Midtown area hosted a candidates' forum earlier this year. Monday's event was hosted by the Fruitland Heights, Casler Heights, Highland Oaks and Wildwood Heights neighborhood associations.
After the meeting, Danner approached Newton and said, "Oh, so you wrote all the questions." Newton denied it.
When asked about the exchange later, Danner didn't back down. "If you look at the questions, the first four seemed to have some inside information in them," he said. "It just seemed like questions councilman Newton would ask."
Newton said the same questions were asked at an earlier candidates' forum in Greater Pinellas Point, and he wasn't accused of writing the questions then.
"It is unfortunate that we have elected officials who don't believe there are residents who are informed, watch the meetings, read the newspaper and are on top of issues concerning our community," Baker said later.
"If they were watching, they would have seen the explanations as to why we voted the way we did," said Danner.
A key issue at Monday night's forum was the lack of summer jobs this year. Does the city have a plan in place for summer jobs next year?
"Should we get the appropriation, yes. But we won't know for sure until the federal budget is passed. We'll know in November if we'll have the money to fund the summer jobs program," said Danner.
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It's never too early to start making plans for New Year's Eve. The board of directors for First Night St. Petersburg has added a new sponsorship package for individuals, families and small businesses.
The annual event, in its 17th year, is a family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration of the arts in downtown St. Petersburg.
"First Families" is a $250 sponsorship that includes: four First Night admission buttons, four limited edition First Night T-shirts, a First Night poster, reserved parking, reserved seats for the fireworks shows and a special "First Family" discount at a downtown hotel.
For more information, visit online at firstnightstpete.com.
Sandra J. Gadsden is editor of Neighborhood Times. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or [email protected]