Clearwater Beach Named America’s Best Beach by TripAdvisor TripAdvisor this February that the world- famous white sand Clearwater Beach was No. 1 in its annual list of the 25 Best Beaches in America and one of the 25 Best Beaches in the World at 20. Not far behind was St. Pete Beach at No. 4 in the U.S. making St. Pete/ Clearwater the only Florida destination with two beaches in the Top 10.
HOTTEST YEAR ON RECORD by Bob Griffin
You complained about the heat all last year, including December. If you thought it was the hottest year ever, you were right. NOAA and NASA now declare that 2015 was the hottest year on record (in the past 136 years, since record keeping began). The temperatures around the earth were .29 degrees warmer than 2014. It was 1.62 degrees above the 20th century average. December was the 10th month in 2015 that actually set a heat record.
“It is getting to the point where breaking heat records is the norm,” says Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist with Texas Tech. For the most part, scientists blamed man-made global warming with a touch of El Nino. The dominant force affecting rising temperatures, however is the increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
December Caps First-Ever $40 Million Year Of Bed Tax Collections
For the first time ever, Pinellas County’s calendar year tourist development tax collections crossed the $40 million mark. In total, 10 of the 12 months in CY2015 saw double-digit increases, leading to an increase of more than 12% year-over-year for a total of over $40 million. Just two years ago, Pinellas County crossed the $30 million threshold for the first time ever, becoming one of the state’s five high impact tourism counties. This growth has resulted in a record average daily rate (ADR) of $136 and a 76% occupancy rate. In the past five years, bed tax collections in Pinellas County have increased by 57.5%, ADR has grown by 31.9% and occupancy jumped by 12.9%—all of this without the additional 1% bed tax that started being collected on Jan. 1, 2016.
Neeraj Kumar Mahani has joined the Loews Don CeSar as Executive Chef. Mahani, most recently served as Area Chef at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fl. He will oversee all culinary operations at the 277-room hotel, to include banquets, weddings and the property’s seven food and beverage outlets. While at The Breakers, Mahani was a part of the culinary team responsible for 10 hotel food and beverage outlets and was involved in producing catered affairs for Fortune 500 companies, conventions, associations and social events. Loews’ Don CeSar Resort & Spa is located at: 3400 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. www.loewshotels.com.
Gulfport Tuesday Fresh Market Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary Customer traffic has also steadily increased over the years, and the Market now routinely has several hundred visitors on a typical day, numbering up to 3,000 visitors on highseason days. A current roster of weekly and occasional vendors is on the Fresh Market’s website gulfportma.com or visit the Market’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/gulfportfreshmarket.
St. Pete Beach Tidbits
Honor Walk at Upham Beach The 2016 Brick Campaign will continue until Friday, March 18, 2016. Installation of the bricks occurs this summer. Visit stpetebeach.org.
Friends of Library Book Baskets Bids close Friday, March 18, for the Spring Book Basket Silent Auction at the SPB Library, 353 73rd Ave. Tax deductible proceeds go toward the new SPB Library. Organized by Ron Waters, Friends board member and Bookstore Manager, the Auction features 10 baskets including a Basket of Nesbo, Art & Sculpture, Erotica, Large Print Mysteries, Rome, World War II Europe, Passover, Carl Hiassen’s Florida, Baseball and A Book Box of Americana. The Holiday Book Auction raised nearly $1,000 in donations.
PAG Community Church to hold 75th Easter Sunrise Service Pass-A-Grille Beach Community Church holds its 75th Easter Sunrise Service on Sunday, March 27, 7 am. The community embraces this inspirational service. Last year over 1,500 worshipers attended. The service is held at Pass-A- Grille Point, between 1st and 2nd Avenues, at 7am All are invited to arrive early for music and meditation. Two additional services, with traditional Easter music and a brass choir, will be held at the church at 8:45 & 10 am. Following the Sunrise Service, the youth group hosts a pancake breakfast in the Church Fellowship Hall. Charge ($7 pp or $25 family) supports the group’s next mission trip. All are invited. Palm Sunday Services will be held at the church, located at 107 16th Ave., St. Pete Beach on March 20 at 8:45 & 10 am. A Maundy (Holy) Thursday service will be held on March 24 at 7 pm For more information on these services and other church activities please call the church office at 727.360.5508 or access the website www.pagchurch.org.
The Sunset Lounge Experience debuts at the Trade Winds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach, May 21. Brought to you by the producers of Chillounge Night, the ultimate outdoor lounge party, the Sunset Lounge Experience promises to be an innovative, tasteful and exclusive gathering for a select few. Casual chic comes to life here. Trendy lounge furnishings offer seating for 280 guests. Guests can reserve an intimate private daybed for two or join the mix and mingle crowd in our centrally located lounge seating area. All guests will have reserved seating. Special hotel package deals can be made available. For info, contact Rainer Scheer 941.448.0995 or firstname.lastname@example.org. www.chilloungenight.com.
Improvements designed to slow erosion on Upham Beach on the north end of St. Pete Beach are expected to begin early next year. The project, which is estimated to cost about $11 million, will be paid for by Pinellas County and state of Florida funds.
The improvements will involve the installation of four permanent rock structures known as Tgroins designed to limit beach erosion. The permanent T-groins will replace five sand-filled temporary T-groins that have been in place since 2006 to stem erosion at the beach, which has been among the highest eroding beaches in the state.
The rock structures are expected to perform better in slowing erosion and holding sand on the beach than the temporary structures. Once the rock structures are installed, the beach is then planned to be nourished with approximately 150,000 cubic yards of sand. Keeping a strong beach helps protect homes and businesses when storms strike and attract visitors who use the beach for recreation.
The estimated cost for construction is $8.8 million, and the cost for nourishment is estimated at $2.2 million. Pinellas County was appropriated $3 million from the state during the 2015 legislative session to share in the cost of the project.
The total project costs will be shared between the state and the county’s bed tax allocation dedicated to beach stabilization and nourishment. The county will seek additional state matching funds next year.
The county is currently finalizing the bid documents and anticipates advertising the project later this calendar year.
Videos can be found at www.youtube.com/pcctv1.
St. Petersburg Tidbits
St. Petersburg 2nd Saturday Art Walk March 12
The Waterfront Arts District, Central Arts District, EDGE District, Grand Central District, and the Warehouse Arts District become one arts destination for the St. Petersburg Second Saturday ArtWalk on March 12 from 5 to 9 p.m. Free ArtWalk trolleys encompass the arts districts. Free parking – 1st Ave N. & 1st Ave S. from 15th St. to 30th St., The Clay Center of St. Petersburg, MGA Studios and the Carter G. Woodson Museum. Download the map and list of participants to plan your festive art evening at stpetersburgartsalliance.org.
New Preservation Resource
St. Petersburg’s website has a new feature that makes it easy to view the city’s various designated historic resources, including local and national historic districts and individually listed or eligible to be listed properties. The February issue of Florida Trend spotlighted St. Petersburg. It is the largest insert ever produced for a community! Check out the digital edition of “The Changing Face of Paradise” and share with colleagues, employees, and others who are interested in all that is happening in St. Petersburg.
City Council approved the new Commercial Revitalization Program. The program will help address the issue of lack of capital which has been cited as a barrier to redevelopment in South St. Petersburg, the Skyway Marina District and other areas of the city.
The Commercial Revitalization Program will provide grant awards to commercial projects that enhance business districts by redeveloping properties, decreasing vacancy rates, adding to the tax base, creating jobs, leveraging private sector investment and improving quality of life for surrounding neighborhoods. Based on the scope and impact of the proposed project, an applicant may be awarded at one of three thresholds – $25,000, $50,000 and up to $100,000.
LEADERSHIP ST. PETE® (LSP) Class of 2016 to raise funds for renovation project at Alpha House.
Pinellas County’s only residential maternity program, ALPHA House provides housing and supportive services to homeless pregnant women and teens, new mothers with infants and families experiencing crisis pregnancies. The LSP Class of 2016 agreed this cause strengthens the St. Petersburg community by providing a safe environment for the mothers and children to thrive during these most fragile moments of their lives. Since 1979, ALPHA has served more than 3,000 women, teens and infants annually in their residential and outreach program.
Approximately 90 percent of those who have gone through the ALPHA House program made a successful transition into permanent housing and independent living. Planned improvements of ALPHA House include a safe play area for the toddlers, better security cameras, locks on doors, repairs to the perimeter fencing, an automatic gate, landscaping and shade in a courtyard gathering area and interior space improvements that are long overdue. Costs for the project are estimated to be $125,000, which must be raised by April 2016 to make necessary improvements to ALPHA House.
The project is expected to be completed by May 8, 2016.The LSP Class of 2016 is seeking donations from individuals and businesses or in-kind contributions of products or services to complete the project.
Send tax deductible funds to the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce at 100 2nd Avenue North, Suite 200, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 ATTN: Brittany Walsh. Please make checks payable to LSP Project or donate online at stpete.com/alpha.
Treasure Island Tidbits
Treasure Island Police Officers’ Ball is to be held in the Grand Ballroom at The Club at Treasure Island on Saturday, April 16, 7 pm – 12 am. This black tie, formal event will feature live entertainment, cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres, a three-course dinner, a live professional ballroom dance presentation and dancing to the big band sounds of the Helios Swingtet. At 10 pm, one of the 300 ticket holders will win a $10,000 grand prize.
Tickets: $125/person (tax deductible) with tables of 8 or 10 available. Tickets can be purchased at the Treasure Island Police Department – 8am to 4pm. By cash or check only Co-sponsors of this event are The Club at Treasure Island, Fred Astaire Dance Studio (Central Ave) and the Helios Swingtet. Bruce Nye, the “Elvis Guy” is performing at Gators in Treasure Island on Monday & Tuesday nights at 7:30 in March.