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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 8, 2008 10 years ago

Gulf Coast Week

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Museum demolition begins: Demolition day has come at the Tampa Museum of Art.County to sell cable TV ads: The Tampa Bay area could soon have another TV station competing for local advertising money, run by the government.Hotel simplification: A group of downtown Sarasota hotel operators and future hotel developers are banding together in an effort to form a Hospitality Regional Activity CenterAn entrepreneurial helpline: Small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking help in running their company can now get some assistance from the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.Big Cypress plans: Collier Enterprises has submitted plans for the town of Big Cypress, filing for a "Development of Regional Impact" for the 9,000-home project.December tourism mixedBabcock hires LWR exec

Gulf Coast Week

TAMPA BAY

Museum demolition begins

Demolition day has come at the Tampa Museum of Art.

Late last week, workers started demolishing the parking garage at the museum on Ashley Drive in downtown Tampa. Soon, they'll start knocking down the museum itself. The entire demolition project is expected to take about thee months.

The museum long ago outgrew its digs on Ashley Drive, and the building and adjacent garage leaked. Groundbreaking is planned for April on a $33 million building at the northern edge of a redesigned Curtis Hixon Park. A children's museum will be built next door. Meanwhile, the art museum has set up temporary quarters at the Centro Espanol building at 2306 N. Howard Ave.

County to sell cable TV ads

The Tampa Bay area could soon have another TV station competing for local advertising money, run by the government.

In a drive to raise revenue, Hillsborough County commissioners are pondering ways to sell commercials during the cable TV broadcasts of their meetings, similar to the sponsorships that companies like General Motors Corp. and State Farm Insurance buy on public broadcasting TV shows.

The move would mark a first for Hillsborough County, which broadcasts its meetings, seminars and other shows on an exclusive cable TV channel on Bright House Networks (Channel 622) and Verizon's FiOS cable systems (Channel 22).

Part of the issue is the cost to run the station itself. HTV, as the station is called, has 21 employees and a budget this year of $1.9 million, including a one-time $500,000 project to upgrade to digital TV equipment. The bulk of that money goes to televise meetings of the commission, the Tampa Port Authority, Planning Commission, land use meetings and other public information events.

SARASOTA/MANATEE

Hotel simplification

A group of downtown Sarasota hotel operators and future hotel developers are banding together in an effort to form a Hospitality Regional Activity Center, a state-sanctioned system designed to streamline the building process in urban areas.

The center, which requires Sarasota City Council approval, wouldn't alter any zoning codes or development standards. But it would make the review process quicker, easier and less expensive by eliminating redundant paperwork and fees, says Sarasota attorney Dan Bailey, who is representing some hotels in the application process.

Under the current proposal, the hospitality center would cover current hotels, such as the Hyatt Sarasota and the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, both on U.S. 41, as well as potential hotel projects that are planned nearby, such as the ones in the Sarasota Bayside and the Proscenium project.

The City Council is planning to debate the proposal over several meetings in February, including some where it will hear from residents. If the council does ultimately approve the center, the city will have to alter a few sections of its comprehensive plan to make it official. That process could last until the summer.

An entrepreneurial helpline

Small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking help in running their company can now get some assistance from the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County. The source is the EDC's re-tooled rapid response business helpline, now called LINK.

The program is designed to hook up a Sarasota-based business of any size and in any industry with the resources of EDC and its partners. The type of advice and consulting available through LINK includes help with financing, permitting, infrastructure, zoning, site and building searches, employment and training and regulatory issues.

The partners dispensing the advice include companies and agencies such as Verizon, Comcast, FPL, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Sarasota County Technical Institute.

Businesses can access the LINK helpline over the phone at (941) 309-1200, ext. 123 or fill out an online form at the EDC's Web site, www.edcsarasotacounty.com.

LEE/COLLIER

Big Cypress plans

Collier Enterprises has submitted plans for the town of Big Cypress, filing for a "Development of Regional Impact" for the 9,000-home project.

The first homes will be available in 2011, and the application outlines plans for development of about 2,800 acres over a 12- to 15-year period.

Collier Enterprises is a Naples-based company involved in real estate, development, agribusiness and private equity investments.

December tourism mixed

In a lodging survey conducted for the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau, surveyors found that 50% of the properties reported their December 2007 occupancy levels to be better or the same while 50% said it was worse than a year ago.

Lodging revenue showed a similar pattern, according to the survey by Davidson Peterson Associates. The survey reported that 55% of property managers said revenues were better or the same in December 2007 and 46% said it was worse than a year ago.

Properties surveyed included hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, condos, vacation homes, RV parks and campgrounds.

Babcock hires LWR exec

Tom Danahy, who over the past decade has helped turn 30,000 acres of cow pastures in eastern Manatee County into one of the largest master-planned communities on the Gulf Coast, is taking on another large-scale project.

But Danahy will be staying in the Gulf Coast as he leaves his job as president of Lakewood Ranch Communities for a similar position at Babcock Ranch, another large-scale mixed-use project planned for 91,000 acres in Charlotte and Lee counties. Danahy will serve as president of Kitson & Partners, the Port Charlotte-based firm run by Syd Kitson that owns Babcock Ranch.

Danahy, who is well known in the Greater Bradenton business community, having served as chairman of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce among other civic roles, will begin working for Kitson in March. He says the challenge of getting in at the beginnings of another master-planned community that focuses on green and sustainable business practices is what drew him to Babcock Ranch.

Milt Flinn, who had been president of Lakewood Ranch Realty, has been named as Danahy's replacement at Lakewood Ranch.

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