Southwest Florida Roundup
Florida Southern College's Wright Stuff
Each year, 30,000 people visit Florida Southern College just to see the buildings. A dozen Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures on the 100-acre Lakeland campus comprise the largest single-site collection of Wright architecture in the world.
Florida Southern's 12th Wright designed building was completed in 1959, but the college decided a few years ago to add a 13th "as a venue for properly welcoming and educating visitors about Wright's work and legacy," says Cary McMullen, Florida Southern's publications editor.
Working from architectural plans created by Wright in 1938, the school began construction on the new building in 2011. The 1,700-sq.-ft. structure, built using Wright's signature textile block construction, includes more than 5,000 pieces of colored glass inserted into perforated concrete blocks.
Wright, who died in 1959 at age 91, intended the building — named the Usonian House — as faculty housing. Instead, it's now home to Florida Southern's Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center, the first stop for campus visitors.
Inside, visitors will find Wright photographs, architectural drawings and Wright-designed furniture and furnishings. A screening room will show a documentary film about Wright and his work at the college.
College officials hope the novelty of a new Wright building will more than triple the number of visitors. Admission to the Usonian House is $7. Visitors can also arrange campus tours ranging from a 90-minute docent-led tour for $20 to a $55 "behind the scenes" tour that requires 3½ hours.
McMullen says revenue from the tours and gift shop will be used to help restore and maintain the other Wright buildings. The school recently received $400,000 in matching grants from the state for repairs and maintenance.
Sarasota-based stand-up pouch container maker Redi- 2-DrinQ is planning a major expansion, including moving into a 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility and adding 25 jobs. The company's pouches are used for a variety of drinks, including cocktails sold under the company's ShotPak brand. ShotPak flavors include Kamikaze, Purple Hooter, Mojito, Strawberry Daiquiri and Margarita. The company's expansion will cost $7 million. Redi-2-DrinQ will get $3,000 in incentives for each job it creates and a maximum tax refund of $75,000.
Gov. Rick Scott has appointed Leslie K. Cook Citrus County's new property appraiser. Cook, who had been the assistant property appraiser, replaces Geoffrey Greene, who died in January.
Rick Michael is director of Lee County's Economic Development Office. Michael, a former manager of Marion County's Office of Economic and Small Business Development, replaced Jim Moore, who retired last August.
Michael Kappitt is now senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Bloomin' Brands, which owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and others.
BRADENTON — RND Automation & Engineering, a robotics equipment maker, is moving from Sarasota to a larger 12,000-sq.-ft. space in Manatee County. The company, which employs 12, plans to hire eight within the next five years, which will qualify it for $8,000 in incentives from Manatee County.
BROOKSVILLE — Zemplen Barrels Wineries is seeking Hernando County's approval to open a commercial winery.
FORT MYERS — Colonial Commons spent $2.3 million to buy a 26-acre site east of the city, where it will develop a 330-unit apartment complex.
HARDEE COUNTY — PFMan, a high-precision parts maker, will open a 20,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Wauchula, where it will employ 50.
LAKELAND — A 388,000-sq.- ft. O'Reilly Auto Parts distribution center has opened, creating 160 jobs.
LEE COUNTY — Gartner has been offered nearly $5-million in incentives to expand its facilities in the county rather than move elsewhere. The deal includes $1 million from Lee County, $480,000 from the state's Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program and $3.7 million from the state's Quick Action Closing Fund. Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm that employs more than 700 in Lee County, must create 400 jobs to qualify for the full package.
MADEIRA BEACH — The oldest store in Publix's 1,077-grocery chain was torn down to make way for a larger Publix, which is expected to open by the end of the year. The store was built in 1957.
PALMETTO — Air Products and Chemicals, a liquefied natural gas company, has opened a $56.8-million manufacturing facility at Port Manatee. The expansion results in 250 jobs.
POLK COUNTY — The 216-room Streamsong Resort hotel has opened on land once mined for phosphate. Developed by Mosaic Co., the resort also has two golf courses.
SARASOTA — Arthur M. Guilford, the 68-year-old regional chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, plans to retire at the end of January 2015. A national search for his replacement is under way. Hoveround, which makes electronic wheelchairs, laid off 20 at its Sarasota headquarters.
ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg College has started work on a $14-million building in the city's Midtown neighborhood. The 45,000-sq.-ft. building will include classrooms, labs and community space. » A 46,788-sq.-ft. shopping center west of the city has sold for nearly $4 million to a Clearwater-based investment group called Isla Del Sol Shoppers Village.
TAMPA — City officials are considering proposals to build two major projects on city-owned land in Ybor City, an historic neighborhood near the Port of Tampa. One is for a new hotel and the other is for a multifamily residential development. The $421-million road project connecting Interstate 4 with the Selmon Expressway has opened. The toll road is expected to reduce truck traffic through Ybor City and improve access to the Port of Tampa. » The Wyndham Tampa Westshore has been renamed Quorum Hotel until the spring, when it will be permanently rebranded as a Holiday Inn. Once the property becomes a Holiday Inn, Quorum will remain as the management services company and continue to handle hotel operations.
WEEKI WACHEE — A Florida Park Service master plan suggests that Weeki Wachee Springs State Park needs $8.7 million in improvements, including $2 million in parking lot improvements and a new $1.5-million bathhouse and concession center at the Buccaneer Bay water park.