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Food tasting festival has new location and new day

This year's fundraising event will be held at Palm Lake shopping center in Tampa Palms.

By SUSAN THURSTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


TAMPA PALMS -- Taste of New Tampa will be closer to home this year, pleasing folks who didn't like last year's location at University Mall.

The New Tampa Community Council selected the Palm Lake shopping center on Amberly Drive because of its prime spot along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and its willingness to share some of the costs. About 5,000 people are expected to attend the eighth annual event from 1 to 4 p.m. May 12.

Organizers hope moving the event back to New Tampa will encourage more people to attend. Last year's Taste of New Tampa raised less money than usual, largely because residents did not want to travel to University Mall on a Sunday evening.

"It was on the edge of our area, not in the heart of New Tampa," said Lynn Grinnell, president of the council, which promotes local businesses and quality of life issues. "There weren't quite as many people who were inclined to go there on a Sunday evening."

The food-tasting festival marks the council's largest fundraiser of the year. Organizers hope to raise about $15,000 to benefit local PTAs and college scholarships for students at Wharton High School.

Tickets will sell for $5 a person or $15 for a family of four. Participants will get free samples of food and beverages from several area restaurants, including Winner's Grill, Sushi Tsu, Circles New Tampa Bistro and Louis Pappas Market and Cafe. Businesses also will have booths promoting their services.

University Mall offered to host Taste of New Tampa again this year, but the council decided to keep it in New Tampa and schedule it on a Saturday to draw more people. About 35 to 40 restaurants are expected to participate, said Gary Nager, co-chair of the event. Palm Lake tenants who aren't taking part will remain open for business.

Council members spoke with people from Muvico Theaters, St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church and others about hosting the event, but chose Palm Lakes to help the shopping center increase its visibility. The center, which is changing its name to the Shoppes of Amberly, has struggled since it lost its major tenant, Food Lion, in 1994, but recently landed Lifestyle Family Fitness and Peabody's Billiards and Sports Cafe.

Tampa Palms activist Bob Doran said he supported the event, but feared the area doesn't have enough parking to accommodate the estimated 2,000 cars.

"Traffic is a major concern," Doran said. "This event is going to be for three hours. You're going to have major traffic coming in and out."

The council is trying to secure parking in the office building across the street from the shopping center and, possibly, in the nearby Somerset subdivision, Nager said. Most of the cars will park along Amberly Drive. Police officers will direct traffic.

To promote the event, the council hopes to erect banners along Bruce B. Downs north and south of Amberly Drive. The council wrote a letter to the Tampa Palms Community Development District last week asking permission to install signs on its property, but some supervisors objected based on recent civil court ruling against Hunter's Green.

Hunter's Green was sued over planting landscaping in the median of Bruce B. Downs that blocked drivers from seeing oncoming traffic. Last month, a jury said the trees and bushes contributed to an accident that killed a girl and permanently injured another, and ordered the developer and homeowner association to pay about $10.6-million in damages.

"If they want a blimp, that's fine. But I don't want any obstruction of turn views," said Supervisor Andy Miller.

Members of Tampa Palms Owners Association, which must approve the size and dimensions of any sign, shared similar concerns.

"The main thing we're worried about is another lawsuit," said president Bill Edwards.

Nager assured them that the council did not want to do anything that would jeopardize safety. He planned to ask the city for a variance to the New Tampa overlay district before going back to the CDD or owners association. The overlay district prohibits certain signs and banners.

"If we can't have signs, we can't have signs," he said.

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