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Spain moves uptown, Prana aims at stars

The restaurant more than doubles its space with a move uptown, while the Seventh Avenue nightclub adds three floors.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 1, 2002

DOWNTOWN'S SPAIN GOES UPTOWN: "I always liked that building," Mario Castro said of the early century three-story right around the corner from her restaurant, Spain.

So her three children bought it.

After an extensive renovation in the spring, Castro expects to move her popular downtown lunch spot at 207 E Twiggs St. into the ground floor at 513 N Tampa St. Castro said the old Spain will close in March for the move.

She'll be challenged to keep her lunch hour line stretching from the hot plates out onto the sidewalk, as is usually the case. Spain will go from 1,600 square feet to 4,400, more than doubling its seating capacity.

Ken Garcia of the project's Abell Garcia Architects said the new Spain will have a modern look with a Spanish flair: bright colors, tile and archways, not bordello red-stained glass and wrought iron trim. "At least I hope not," Garcia said with a laugh.

The changes will extend to Spain's menu. In spite of its name, the restaurant serves primarily Cuban and Puerto Rican staples: Cuban sandwiches, black beans and rice, roast pork, plantains. But Castro, a native of Celanova in Spain's Galician region, intends to correct that after the move.

Tapas, paella, veal Catalan, seafood crepes, mariscadain green or white sauce, and Galician dishes -- such as roast rabbit and crab meat stuffed grouper -- will appear on the menu regularly.

Garcia added that the building, which once housed the Ernest Maas Haberdashery, is being considered for local historic designation.

The two upper floors, totaling about 8,800 square feet, will be leased as office loft space. They have no tenants yet.

* * *

PRANA REACHING FOR THE STARS: The swank Seventh Avenue night club has wisely kept most of the ambience from its previous incarnation. Ybor foodies should remember La Mezzanine restaurant, the lamentably late den of odalisque furniture lines and smart fusion food.

Now club owners Carlo and Sam Colucci (the father-son team that brought downtown Clearwater its long-running Liquid Blue club) want to see how high they can stretch the Prana vibe at 1619 E Seventh Ave.

Three more floors are being added atop Prana's loft. Manager Jason Fox says the third floor will be the Sanctuary, a VIP-only room with purple velvet padded walls, gold chandeliers and carpet, a 1,000-gallon shark tank and eight plasma TV screens.

The main access part of the club will move from the first to the fourth floor. The sound and light systems will be doubled. The first floor will be remodeled into an intimate lounge. The fifth floor will be a rooftop deck with five frozen drink machines, a stage for live bands, and views of the port and downtown.

Fox said the club will remain open through the construction, which is expected to wrap up the first week of December and cost $1.7-million.

* * *

DESIGNS ON CHANNEL WAREHOUSE: Yet another 1920s warehouse has been refurbished to lofty work space in the Channel District.

Sandra Dickey is no latecomer. She bought the building four years ago and, painstakingly, has been converting the 1925 building into modern office space ever since. Work has progressed as quickly as cash flow and city regulations would allow. She says a hypothetical second tenant could occupy as soon as next month.

The first tenant is already moved in. Dickey's Images Gallery and Design, which does interior design for hotels and commercial time shares, occupies the third floor.

Dickey brought to bear a considerable amount of her skills on the former Livingston Office Furniture building. Formerly only two floors with very high ceilings, it's now four floors. A new lobby features an iron circular staircase, porcelain floors and mahogany wainscoting.

The building's facade strikes an elegant pose in this industrial corner. Oversized mahogany double doors, hand-carved in Honduras, are topped with a generous transom window and flanked by salvaged iron gas light sconces. An enclosed stairwell was recently added.

A new brick entrance walk and planters complete the picture: the Channel District is rejuvenating, building by building.

"I'm in love with the building," said Dickey, a Tampa native. Good thing. She's had to bring it back from a shabby state. She said prior to her purchase of it, "Bums would live here and light fires and steal all the copper wiring."

Dickey estimates the whole project will cost more than $1.5-million. She intends to lease 6,350 of the building's 22,000 square feet. She has no takers yet, but guesses the space would be ideal for attorneys, computer technicians or architects.

"I would love an architect in here," said Dickey. "Especially with my kind of business."

* * *

ADDITION TO PALMA CEIA SKYLINE: The new building behind Features Costumes will soon lend a burnt sienna tone to the skyline of Palma Ceia Park.

The three-story Palmira Office Block, at 3014 Palmira Ave., will be the headquarters of general contractors Citivest, the folks who are building it.

They and Interiors by Shilah are slated to share third floor space. The rest of that floor, plus all of the second, will be open to other tenants. Project superintendent John Martinez said that's about 7,500 square feet of unclaimed office space.

The building's first floor is lobby space and a 23-car covered parking garage. Its exterior architecture adheres to Mediterranean trend holding sway in South Tampa.

Martinez expects the building to be ready for occupancy in January.

-- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail

Election celebration

We found stars and stripes for Election Day at Let's Have A Party. The store stocks red, white and blue paper goods, flags, balloons and more at 1505 S. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Call 251-9345 for hours.


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