04/23/09 Human Interest
TAMPA — Local cyclists are a diverse community — not just the stereotypical weekend warriors clad in spandex.
To tout their many shades and to advocate for openness, riders of all types will hop on beach cruisers, fixed gears, mountain bikes and more Sunday, as part of Tampa's first "Queer Mass."
The slow moving ride will be modeled after a "critical mass," in which a group of riders take over a lane of traffic. The idea is to raise awareness, letting cars know that cyclists have the right to be on the road....
GANDY/SUN BAY SOUTH — Monroe Middle School resumed classes on schedule Monday after three teenagers reportedly caused more than $60,000 in damage during spring break.
Two former Monroe students were arrested and another is being sought in connection with the vandalism, which occurred April 7.
Jonathan Dow, 19, faces charges of burglary, criminal mischief and preventing extinguishment of fire, while a 15-year-old boy is facing juvenile charges. They were arrested at the school....
Essay contest will help find home for grand piano
The folks at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center are no strangers to community outreach. They've long taught music classes and have 44 community partners. But a new program has changed the way they are able to reach out.
Holland America Cruise Lines contacted the center's Patel Conservatory and asked for help in finding organizations needing pianos that the company wanted to donate. Since then, more than 50 charities have inquired about the instruments, said TBPAC spokeswoman Wendy Lee....
DAVIS ISLANDS — Tampa General Hospital is not the ideal place for a kid's party. But for children staying in the pediatric ward on their birthday, an iPod, a video game or a Fisher-Price dragon can help make their day a bit brighter.
Supporting this belief, the L.V. Thompson Family Foundation recently donated dozens of toys, movies and games to the Childlife Therapy Program at TGH.
The program operates a playroom for children to escape poking and prodding, and the stress that can come with a stay in the hospital....
YBOR CITY — Ask the right person in Historic Ybor and they'll tell you a tale of a neighborhood divided.
In the western half, businesses, condos and bars flourish, while the east is mostly industrial.
The dividing line is a pair of streets clogged by semitrailer trucks, which some say detract from the district's historic feel.
But relief is on the way.
The only question is how long will it take?...
DOWNTOWN — Ask bicycle advocate Alan Snel if Tampa is a bike-friendly city, and he'll give you a matter-of-fact answer.
"Tampa has a reputation of not having a large bicycle infrastructure," he said.
Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena hopes to change that reputation.
But first, she says, city administrators need to change the way they think about bicyclists.
"We need to recognize bicycles are not just a recreational mode of transportation," she said....
03/02/09 Human Interest
His craft once took years to master and each job a week to complete. But these days, cobbler Ron Johnson can repair your shoes while you eat at Sbarro in the food court.
The industry has changed since Johnson, owner of Shoe Doctors in the University Mall, was an apprentice. An aging customer base and cheaper shoes has led to a steady decline in the shoe repair business nationwide....
TAMPA — To people packed into urban apartment and condo complexes or tightly bunched suburban houses, a community garden can offer a moment of quiet contentment and the makings of a healthy snack. But to Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern, it offers much more.
For her, urban gardens symbolize the foundation of the type of green-based local economy that can bring communities together and help pull the nation's economy out of the dumps....
02/19/09 Human Interest
YBOR — The big H's of the hotel industry may soon see competition from a new W in Ybor City.
Ybor's Hilton Garden and Hampton Inns already provide midrange options for traditional travelers, but a new concept by W Hotels hopes to attract the business of an emerging Generation Y business class.
The company, which owns the Westin chain, has created Aloft Hotels featuring hip bars, modern lobbies and specially branded Rubik's Cubes in some rooms....
12/18/08 Human Interest
On any given Wednesday outside the Salvation Army building in Tampa Heights, scores of homeless men and women lean against the fence or gather in small groups shouting hellos and quietly chatting. They talk about trying to find day labor. They talk about where they're headed next.
A man in a worn green jacket walks from group to group freely, carrying a leather-bound planner. He tells the homeless his name — Lee Hoffman — and offers information about getting off the streets....
12/04/08 Human Interest
Group helps promote merchants
Locally owned restaurants, spas and shops are teaming up in Palma Ceia to create the area's first merchant group.
The Palma Ceia Business and Design District aims to create a commercial district reminiscent of other cities' downtown areas by collaborating on improvements.
More than 50 businesses belong to the group, which hopes to increase commerce through cooperation and shared marketing. They also aim to improve the neighborhood and make the district a shopping destination. A fountain and two sculptures have been donated to the district as part of this continued goal....
Resident issues challenge to raise cash for upgrades
Charner Reese can remember learning how to swim at the Davis Islands pool when she was a kid. Now she's asking her neighbors to join her to make sure the pool is taken care of.
At the Davis Islands Civic Association's meeting on Nov. 12 she issued a challenge. If area residents can raise $5,000 in six months, Reese will match the amount to total the $10,000 required to open and maintain a community account for capital improvements....
CULBREATH HEIGHTS — The prospect of a 100-foot-tall cell phone tower on the property of Coleman Middle School worries some parents.
Coleman, at 1724 Manhattan Ave., is near Dale Mabry Elementary, St. Mary's Episcopal Day School, and a municipal pool and football fields.
Ari FitzGerald, an area mother, would be able to see the tower from her house. She doesn't think the tower should be so close to children and said cell phone technology is too new to know the effects of radio waves over long periods of time....
11/06/08 Human Interest
TAMPA — It can be a little tough for Danielle O'Connor to find a moment to relax.
As a mother of two toddlers with an Army reservist husband deployed abroad and a budding green clothing business, O'Connor is strapped for time to be sure.
"Not having the kids for a couple of hours is a big thing for me," she said.
She toyed with the idea of joining a gym, but the cost of a membership combined with that of child care made the prospect daunting. Then O'Connor, who lives in Seminole Heights, received an e-mail outlining a new program offered by the U.S. Department of Defense and the YMCA....
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....