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Tunnels on Pinellas Trail to temporarily close due to mural paintings

Two Pinellas Trail tunnels will temporarily close due to mural paintings, but the trail will remain open. The Pinellas Trail tunnels in Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs will close from Sept. 13 to Oct. 4. Users are encouraged to take additional care while traveling through the work zone, according to the county's announcement. The mural paintings are part of the graffiti abatement program, which was created by Creative Pinellas that’s meant to deter graffiti vandalism. Here's a look at what the murals will look like. 

Pinellas County expands rental assistance program

Pinellas County residents who are struggling to pay their monthly rent and were not previously eligible for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program may now have access to financial help. In a press release Tuesday, the county announced renters can apply for financial assistance if they have experienced a significant reduction in income since March 13, 2020. The hardship is no longer required to be a direct result of Covid-19. Program application and policies have also been streamlined, and priority will be given to applicants who are facing an active eviction in court. The program can now provide up to 18 months of financial support, and applications that were previously denied may now qualify. Visit pinellas.gov/erap for more information.

Softball-playing seniors sought for Kids and Cubs Club

Men and women age 74 and over are invited to try out for the historic “Kids and Kubs” Senior Softball Club. The slow-pitch seniors club will hold tryouts in September and October, at dates to be scheduled, at Northshore Park Field, 901 North Shore Blvd. Pickup games are now being held at Northshore Field every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m., weather permitting. These are open to the public and there is no age restriction. For more information, visit the group's website.  

Florida-based First Watch restaurant chain files for IPO

The Bradenton-based breakfast chain First Watch Restaurants Inc. filed an initial public offering with plans to raise up to $100 million. The chain, which is backed by Advent International Corp., plans to use the proceeds to pay off its debt that totals more than $294 million, according to the IPO filing on Tuesday. The stock would be traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker FWRG. “Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, First Watch remained committed to invest in growth throughout 2020 and 2021 and continued to open new restaurants,” the company said in its SEC filing. The company has 42 new restaurant openings in fiscal 2020 and 18 in the first half of 2021. In total, First Watch has 423 systemwide restaurants. 

The Greenhouse brings back its Entrepreneurial Academy program

The Greenhouse is bringing back its Entrepreneurial Academy, a 10-week remote course that teaches entrepreneurs how to start a business. It's open enrollment and the program starts Sept. 13. Find out more about the program here

St. Pete’s 2050 vision plan wins Florida award of excellence

St. Pete's 2050 vision plan, a roadmap for the city's future on housing, resiliency and other priorities, was recognized by the American Planning Association Florida Chapter and received an Award of Excellence. The award was for the Comprehensive Plan-Large Jurisdiction category. VHB and the City of St. Petersburg jointly worked on the plan. The St. Pete 2050 consultant team also included Destination Better Garth Solutions, Landwise Advisors and Sasaki. Read more about the plan here

Clearwater Marine Aquarium to turn Winter the dolphin’s former home into $10M manatee rehab

Clearwater Marine Aquarium unveiled plans to transform Winter's home into a rescue and rehab habitat for manatees. Officials estimate it could cost nearly $10 million to renovate the space. “Right here, where Winter’s legacy began, a new legacy will emerge as Clearwater Marine Aquarium furthers our commitment to saving Florida’s iconic species, the manatee,” CEO Frank Dame said in a statement. Winter was known for having a prosthetic tail and was the star of the "Dolphin Tale" movies.  The location will be ready to accept the influx of manatees affected by the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) occurring on the east coast of Florida as well as those in need of care from boat strike wounds and cold stress syndrome. CMA estimates they will be adding approximately 12 more “beds” for manatees. Clearwater Marine Aquarium has received $95,000 in federal funding for the project. CMA is seeking additional grants to help offset the costs and is planning to launch a fundraising campaign, according to the announcement. 

 

Tampa-based McKibbon foundation makes $5M donation to fund new tech program at Florida university

The McKibbon Family Foundation, led by philanthropists John and Letitia McKibbon, today announced a $5 million contribution to Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. The gift was presented during a recent event celebrating well-loved and influential professor emeritus Rocco M. Angelo’s 90th birthday. The donation will be used to establish an alumni center, new technology-focused programming, and scholarships for hospitality students. John McKibbon, Chairman of Tampa-based hotel management firm McKibbon Hospitality, graduated from FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality in 1975 and has been committed to giving back and supporting the school and its future hospitality leaders ever since. 

Hillsborough transportation group to approve amendment to extend Tampa’s Riverwalk with $24M grant

The Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization is scheduled to review an amendment needed to fund $24 million toward the extension of the City of Tampa’s west Riverwalk to the north. The extension would take place north from Interstate 275 to Columbus Drive. The six-phased project entails building 12.2-miles of multimodal, car-free paths connecting three neighborhoods on the west side of the Hillsborough River to downtown Tampa. It will also connect to transit stations, the water taxi and the TECO streetcar. The City of Tampa received notice last year of a $24 million award from the U.S. DOT under the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grant Program. The funds would cover 80% of the project with the remaining 20% to be covered by the City. In order for the funds to be transmitted, the TPO Board is being asked to amend the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) to reflect that the City of Tampa has been awarded the $24 million grant. The meeting on the amendment will be held on Sept. 14. 

Candidate Ken Welch tests positive for Covid

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Ken Welch revealed over the Labor Day weekend that had tested positive for Covid-19. "It's so important to get tested, and get vaccinated," Welch wrote on Sept. 4. "I feel fine, but with this knowledge I'm isolating and not spreading the virus to others."

Changes coming to beach and boat ramp parking

Beginning in October, Pinellas boaters and beach-goers will have to make sure they bring their credit cards. On Friday, Pinellas Parks and Conservation Resources announced that parking terminals will transition to accept credit card payments only. The terminals will also require the corresponding vehicle’s tag number to be entered. As part of the update, parking terminal modems will also upgrade to 4G-LTE. The department said in a statement that the move “will improve communications reliability and provide faster transaction speeds.” Parking terminals are located at Fort Desoto, Sand Key Park, and Fred Howard Beach access locations, all county boat ramps, and the Sutherland Bayou, Belleair, and Park Blvd. ramps. Upgrades are scheduled for Oct. 4 through Nov. 1.

Health advisory issued for several Tampa Bay beaches due to high levels of bacteria

The Florida Department of Health has issued a health advisory for several Tampa Bay beaches due to high bacteria levels in the water. The health department does not recommend swimming at Bahia, Ben T. Davis, Davis Islands, Cypress Point, E.G. Simmons and Picnic Island beaches. Health leaders say water samples showed above normal levels of enterococci bacteria.

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