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DeSantis announces funding for Howard Frankland, Westshore Interchange

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state will be funneling $2 billion into three major highway projects in Tampa Bay. The projects include major enhancements to add capacity to the Howard Frankland Bridge, which is currently being reconstructed; the modernization of the Westshore Interchange in Tampa, which is the region's top transportation project as the Westshore District the largest employment center in Tampa Bay; and improvements for the downtown Tampa interchange between I-275 and I-4, which is an area DeSantis describes as a choke point and is one of most congested interstates for freight movement. "All of these projects represent historic investments in the region," DeSantis said. The full announcement can be found here

USF ranks as America’s fastest-rising university

U.S. News and World Report released its latest higher education rankings on Monday, and the University of South Florida is once again America’s fastest-rising university. Over the past 10 years, USF has risen 48 spots in the publication’s ranking of public universities, climbing from No. 94 to No. 46 over the last decade. USF has gained 67 spots among all universities, private or public, going from No. 170 to No. 103 in the overall rankings. No other university in the country has risen so far so quickly, and this marks the third year in a row that USF is ranked in the top 50 among public universities.

City council withdraws consideration on historic overlay for Mirror Lake neighborhood

This week, the St. Pete City Council unanimously voted to formally withdraw the consideration of the historic designation for the Mirror Lake neighborhood. As a result, there will not be a public meeting on Oct. 14. Councilmember Gina Driscoll, who introduced the proposal on potentially designating Mirror Lake as a historic designation, made the request to withdraw her request on pursuing it further. The Mirror Lake neighborhood extends between 8th and 4th Streets and between 1st and 5th Avenues North. It’s home to the city’s largest concentration of historical landmarks – a total of 11 buildings in the neighborhood carry the designation. However, a historic designation would affect other properties–with several councilmembers feared it could hinder growth. 

City council OKs zoning change for land Jabil plans to sell to multi-family developer

The St. Pete City Council approved changing the zoning for property Jabil Inc. owns. The property is within a 93-acre site at the northwest corner of the Gandy Boulevard and I-275 interchange. Jabil is under contract to sell the massive site to Greystar Development East LLC, a subsidiary of South Carolina-based Greystar Real Estate Partners, which is one of the largest multi-family developers. Greystar would be able to develop up to 500 multi-family units on part of the property that was approved for the zoning change.  

Citing Florida’s Covid rules, Patton Oswalt cancels Clearwater show

Comedian Patton Oswalt has cancelled his Dec. 30 appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall. “This difficult decision was made due to the rising number of COVID cases,” he said in a video posted to social media. “Also because I have an ego, but my ego is not big enough to think that people should die to hear my stupid comedy.” In announcing the cancellation of this and three other Florida appearances, Oswalt told his Instagram followers that “every other venue on the tour – even the Texas ones – were cool about requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. I’m really bummed about this.”

Startup hub Embarc Collective hits 100 mark on members

The Tampa startup hub Embarc Collective is now home to 100 members, making it the fastest-growing startup hub in the state of Florida. Today, Embarc Collective’s 100 member companies have added a total of 234 team members and raised a total of $107M in venture capital since 2019. Embarc launched in March 2019 through $10 million in backing from Lightning owner Jeff Vinik. Embarc had to postpone the physical opening of its 32,000 square-foot space due to the pandemic. It opened its doors in 2020. Members of Embarc include startups such as TrustLayer, BlockSpaces, RxLive, Edgility and others. 

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

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