10/100/1000: The Finalists

These nine ideas have what it takes to change Tampa Bay for the better.

click to enlarge POP GOES THE BLOCK: Cafe Hey might have temporary new neighbors this June. - Nathan Bangs & Associates/Keller Williams Realty
Nathan Bangs & Associates/Keller Williams Realty
POP GOES THE BLOCK: Cafe Hey might have temporary new neighbors this June.

The 2012 10/100/1000 Challenge, a joint project of Creative Loafing and Creative Tampa Bay, drew a wide array of interesting ideas for making our region a better place to live. The following nine projects (listed in alphabetical order) were named finalists. Read about the winner of the $1,000 prize, reachIT.org, here.

INDIE POP-UP BLOCKS
Tampa Independent Business Alliance | Keep St. Petersburg Local
The idea is to transform a seemingly unfriendly city block into a thriving main street filled with local businesses.”

The Tampa Independent Business Alliance and Keep St. Petersburg Local are hoping to energize moribund city blocks with pop-ups — businesses open for a limited amount of time in temporary spaces. The groups plan to stage their pop-up demos during Independents Week June 17-23; potential sites are in St. Pete’s Midtown area and the 1500 block of Franklin in Tampa (already anchored by a destination restaurant, Cafe Hey). The Pop-Up Blocks concept has its roots in the international phenomenon of pop-up shops and restaurants, and in Urban Charrette’s creation last year of a “complete street” in downtown Tampa, during which bike lanes, cafe tables, landscaping, even a bus stop — all temporary — showed how a block of Madison Street could be transformed. Pop-Up Blocks’ prospective retail components include a flower shop and a photo studio. The project will require cooperation from city governments and from owners and landlords, but Urban Charrette’s Taryn Sabia is hopeful that it will “1) get their permission and 2), their blessing and excitement.” tibatampa.com, keepsaintpetersburglocal.org

IN|SITE ART
Artists Advisory Committee
“inSITE ART will rejuvenate blighted downtown Tampa buildings by placing vibrant, professional art installations in their storefront windows.”

It’s happening throughout the country and around the world: Enterprising artists install their creations on a temporary basis in vacant storefronts, at once showcasing neglected real estate and their own artworks. But it hasn’t happened on any scale in Tampa Bay yet, and that’s why the City of Tampa’s Arts Council of Hillsborough County's Artists Advisory Committee — a volunteer group of eight practicing artists from different fields who live in Hillsborough — are raising funds to bring art to locations on N. Franklin and Tampa streets, including the S.H. Kress Building. “We thought we could recreate what so many other cities have done successfully,” says committee member and acclaimed photographer Suzanne Williamson. “Use art as a change agent to revitalize unused spaces and demonstrate how important art and artists are to the process of creating culture.” insiteart.wordpress.com

LAUNDRY LOVE PROJECT
Current of Tampa Bay, Inc.
“Assisting low-income people with meeting a basic need — washing clothes and linens.”

In CL’s 2011 Best of the Bay issue, the editors gave Current of Tampa Bay an award for Best Young Hopefuls, citing the USF-based group and their leader, Jason Sowell, for organizing volunteer projects that “meet specific needs people can’t meet themselves.” With this year’s 10/100/1000 Challenge, CL’s readers got a chance to voice their support, too, their votes making Current’s Laundry Love Project the Readers’ Choice and automatically landing the proposal in the Top 10. But even without the votes, there’s a good chance that Laundry Love would have wound up a finalist. Their proposal said it best: “Imagine the struggle of having to choose between putting food on the table or providing clean clothes. This should not be a choice one should have to make, but unfortunately is the reality that many families wrestle with. … With volunteer support, Laundry Love Projects partner with local laundromats to become places of relief by paying for laundry fees, providing laundry supplies and refreshments, visiting with participants and entertaining their children. $1,000 will provide clean laundry for more than 70 families and fund all necessary laundry supplies — detergent, fabric softener, bleach, laundry bags, coloring books, crayons, bottled water and more.” laundrybycurrent.org

OPEN BOOK EXCHANGE
Bluebird Book Bus
“Give a book, take a book, and share a love of reading with the neighborhood.”

In the few months since Mitzi Gordon launched her Bluebird Book Bus, the bookshop-on-wheels has become a ubiquitous and welcome presence at arts events on both sides of the Bay. Now she’s trying to be even more creative in the way she shares books with people. Picking up on an international movement which has only just recently spread to Florida, she hopes to seed the Tampa Bay area with six Little Free Libraries: birdhouse-like mini-shelters where people can leave books for others to read, or take volumes that interest them. Adapting the design from a template originated by a group of Wisconsin booklovers, she sees the book exchanges as a means of establishing community — and maybe the next step toward transforming her mobile bookstore into a non-profit that, like the Little Free Libraries, makes books available for free. thebluebirdbus.com

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