When the newly renovated Urban Style Flats in St. Petersburg officially opens on Friday, Mayor Bill Foster and other city officials will be part of the celebration.
Credit for the renovation goes to businessman Phil Farley and his team. But the city officials will be applauding a partnership that is bringing other teams to the apartment complex — namely teams from South Korea, Canada and the Netherlands that will compete in the International Baseball League.
The teams will be in the Sunshine City for a spring series that will include play against Major League and college teams. Thirteen games are scheduled at Al Lang Field.
Urban Style Flats, at 300 10th St. S, just east of Tropicana Field, is the former Graham-Rogall apartment complex, which was part of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority.
Farley says the mayor played a key role in getting the teams into the apartment complex.
"I met with them (Farley's team) early when they were renovating that property," said Foster. "They really had it set up nicely, and it was in close proximity to Al Lang Field and the Azalea complex," where the teams will practice.
Foster said his vision was for Urban Style Flats to serve as a residential home for the international baseball community.
"He (Farley) was able to design his residential footprint so it will have laundry accommodations, a restaurant and other amenities. And transportation is going to be easy there."
The price was good, too, Foster said. "He (Farley) gave us competitive rates." Rates start at $499 for a studio.
As word of the partnership gets out, other teams have expressed interest in the league.
Although the official opening is not until Friday, the apartment complex already has a number of locally based residents living in 25 units. "We have students from Eckerd, St. Pete College and USF, as well as hospital employees," Farley said last Friday. "Word is already spreading about our competitive rates and other amenities. We've leased 10 units this week."
A restaurant, Urbane, will open soon on the ground level. It will offer three meals a day, seven days a week, and be open to the public.
The complex has made arrangements with a Korean grocer in Tampa to provide dinner each evening for the South Korean team, which will lease 36 units, or about two floors.
A local vendor, Island Flavor & Tings, will initially serve as the restaurant operator.
So far, only one of the apartment complex's three towers is open. Passing motorists may have noticed the cool blue LED lights at the top and bottom of the high-rise. There are LED lights throughout the common areas, Farley said, and all the windows are tinted to help cut utility costs for the tenants.
From the look of things, the transformation at Urban Style Flats will be a welcome addition to the cultural fabric of the city in more ways than one.
The Yard pub replaces Shackleton's Folly
It quietly opened in November, in the spot that was once the home of Shackleton's Folly at 4300 Sixth St. S.
Since that time, the Yard, a kid-friendly sports bar/gastro pub, has drawn a steady following by offering karaoke and a diverse mix of live music two to four nights a week and volleyball on its spacious outdoor courtyard.
In addition to a new menu and staff, visitors will find fewer, but larger, LED HDTVs, new seating areas and a stage.
Co-owners Michael Perry and Farley have come up with a pretty good combination of reasonably priced menu and happy hour specials. The pair also owns Bayou Wine and Spirits, also in the Coquina Key plaza.
"We do so much here, it's hard to explain in broad terms what the Yard is," said Perry. "Mostly we just try to create a neighborhood pub. We want to do exceptional food at a reasonable price with good service," he said. The bar has about 20 staffers.
The Yard is open seven days a week, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at email@example.com or at (727) 893-8874.