Preserving Tampa’s History – Tampa Theater

Stepping into the Tampa Theater, one of Tampa’s largest historic preservation projects, is an experience like no other.

A Superior Example of ‘Atmospheric’ Design

The ornate Mediterranean-style structure has maintained its historic feel and original charm. Statues and columns flank the stage. Taxidermy doves and peacocks perch on fairytale terraces. Tiny twinkling bulbs fill the ceiling, giving the impression that you’re sitting under a clear blue sky.

The Tampa Theater was built in 1926 as one of America’s most elaborate movie theaters. Designed by John Eberson, the theater is the architect’s favorite example of his “atmospheric” style.

“I have been wintering in Florida for the past several years, and it is from this state that I got the atmospheric idea. I was impressed with the colorful scenes that greeted me at Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa. Visions of Italian gardens, Spanish patios, Persian shrines and French formal gardens flashed through my mind, and at once I directed my energies to carrying out these ideas.”  – John Eberson, Tampa Tribune, October 15, 1926.

A true master of his craft,  Eberson was a European stage designer and architect. With a unique background in electrical engineering and theatrical design, the architect coined the ‘atmospheric’ concept blending the new media of film with theaters’ stage drama roots.

Over the course of his career, he designed over 500 atmospheric movie palaces. Eberson’s designs were an ode to European architecture, with large coved ceilings that give the illusion of sitting outside in a courtyard with facades on either side.

Saved By a Dollar

A great example of the power of community, the Tampa Theater was saved from demolition in the 1970’s.

As suburbs proliferated in the 1960’s and people flocked to their TV screens, movie theaters struggled to stay afloat. Many of the finest movie palaces in the USA were demolished as the land beneath them became more valuable than the theater’s operations.

In 1973, the community rallied around the Tampa Theater. Mounting pressure convinced the City to buy the theater for a whopping dollar. And this became the national model on how to save an endangered theater.

Thanks to passionate advocates defending spaces that preserve history, culture and important architectural wonders, we can still stroll down Franklin Street and appreciate the intricately detailed design of the third best historic movie theater in the nation.

A lot of care goes into restoring historic buildings that inspire future generations. Allow our skilled craftsmen to help you be part of Tampa’s story.  

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A Stroll Through Tampa’s History, One Building At A Time – The Tampa Bay Hotel

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From its humble beginnings as an Indian fishing village to its rapidly growing skyline, Tampa’s history is best told through some of its iconic buildings. Tampa’s history is dotted with interesting anecdotes and colorful characters, interestingly tied to beautifully crafted buildings that still stand.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought on what it takes to revitalize landmarks. What it takes to honor a building’s history by respecting its architecture and craftsmanship. So, in my quest to celebrate craftsmanship and honor history of Tampa Bay through the complex and at times divergent architecture that lines its street, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Tampa Bay buildings and what makes them so special.

Tampa Bay Hotel

Of course, I have to start with the Tampa Bay Hotel…

Henry B. Plant, the transportation magnate that extended the railroad to Tampa in 1884 and started a steamship line from Tampa to Key West to Havana, Cuba, opened the Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891. The 511-room resort hotel cost $3 million to build and furnish and was the place to see and be seen in Tampa until 1930 when it closed due to the Great Depression.

Hotel Architecture

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Plant chose the Moorish Revival architectural style, adopted by architects of Europe and the Americas in the wake of the Romanticist fascination with all things oriental. The hotel has six minarets, four cupolas, and three domes, which were restored in the 1990’s to their original stainless steel state. To this day, the Tampa Bay hotel is one of the most extravagant examples of Moorish Revival architecture in the United States.

Tampa Bay Hotel’s Notable History

Officers of the Spanish-American War at the Tampa Bay hotel, 1898. Courtesy of  the Florida Memory ProjectSome of the most notable celebrities that visited the Tampa Bay hotel were Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, Stephen Crane, the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill and Ignacy Paderewski. But it is its role during the Spanish-American War and in baseball history that makes it such an interesting landmark.

When the Spanish–American War broke out, Plant convinced the United States military to use his hotel as a base of operations. Generals and high-ranking officers stayed in its rooms to plan invasion strategies, and enlisted men encamped on the hotel’s acreage. Most notably, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders stayed at the hotel during this time.

Babe Ruth signed his first baseball contract in the hotel’s Grand Dining Room. Even more impressive, in 1919, Ruth hit his longest home run during a spring training game at Plant Field, adjacent to the hotel.

From Hotel to Hall

1024px-Old_Tampa_Bay_Hotel16Nowadays, the former hotel is known as Plant Hall, part of the University of Tampa. You can stroll by Plant Hall any day and visit its minarets and Moorish domes. To learn about Gilded Age tourism, the elite lifestyle of the hotel’s guests, and the building’s use during the Spanish–American War, you can visit the Henry B. Plant Museum, located in the south wing of Plant Hall (401 West Kennedy Boulevard). The building was completely renovated and restored, and the original furnishings, architecture and artifacts still adorn the walls.

The entire building (Tampa Bay Hotel) is one of 46 U.S. National Historic Landmarks in Florida since the 1970’s.

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Craftsmanship – The Dying Art Of Creating Beauty

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A craftsman, in essence, is an artist in the eternal pursuit of beauty, honoring his medium with experience, discipline and respect. While tradesmen deliver what is expected, a craftsman takes his time to hone his art with meticulous attention to detail.

There’s a strong call to rescue the dying art of craftsmanship across many professions: From software engineering to graphic design, and yes, even construction. A call for skilled tradesmen to exchange their automated processes for exquisite finesse, trade in bulk manufacturing for one-of-a-kind pieces. Why? Because craftsmanship inspires awe; delivers beauty; and creates bonds. We all need more beauty in our lives.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to appreciate true construction beauty in Tampa. It’s with awe that I walk within historic buildings, observing how each detail shares its unique story. You can’t get that in modern prefabricated boxes that even an inexperienced teenager can assemble.

Many say that craftsmanship is the quality that comes from creating with passion, care, and attention to detail. Appreciation is not lost on a carpenter’s detailed woodwork, or the intrinsic care it takes to make artisanal tiles. Those with an eye for beauty will always value the work that goes into creating something inspiring. And while the need for speed and economy robs our landscape of quality production, one must stop and honor those that still dedicate their lives to the dying art of craftsmanship.

May we remember that while production cost and speed are important, quality is what creates bonds. Let’s not forget the value of quality in everything we do. May we strive for a world full of craftsmen and appreciate the time and commitment creating beauty requires.

Allow the skilled craftsmen at Eclipse to bring your project to life to inspire generation upon generation.

Time, Cost & Quality – Choose Two

I bet you’ve heard the saying: Time, cost and quality – Pick two. Sometimes represented as the project management triangle, other times called the “triple constraint”, these three determining factors can guide the success – or failure – of your commercial construction project.

The triple constraint model goes something like this:

  • You can have something FAST & CHEAP but it won’t be good QUALITY
  • You can have something CHEAP & GOOD QUALITY, but it won’t be FAST
  • You can have something FAST and GOOD QUALITY, but it won’t be CHEAP

If you’ve ever dealt with construction, you might have heard a contractor say: “You want it good, you want it fast, or you want it cheap? Can’t have it all!”. And as he walks away with a chuckle, you think: “I’m spending good money, you determined your timeline… of course I want quality!”

And so the everlasting battle between construction experts and clients carries on. Those that work in construction know what it takes to do their job. Clients, as with anything else, don’t care about what it takes to deliver what they want. They care that you deliver what they envisioned on time, on budget and looking good.  

Frankly, I’m tired of having of having this conversation with clients mid-project. So let’s nip it right now: The triple constraint is not a way for us in the construction business to threaten a client. We don’t enjoy having to pull it out when they ask to shave two weeks off the schedule without cutting corners or affecting the budget. Or explain why swapping tile for waterfall concrete countertops will add time and manual labor to their project plan.

It is also not a way for construction professionals to cop out. Granted they don’t change the project plan midway, even the cheapest client out there deserves acceptable finished, sticking to the established budget and delivering when promised. There are standards, and those should never be compromised.

For both sides, it’s a matter of setting priorities and sticking to the plan. If we establish at the beginning that the priorities are time and money, don’t question why you can’t afford marble. If you want everything custom-made with high-end materials, know that it will come with a price tag and take some time.

The time/cost/quality conversation should be had at the beginning of every project. Establishing priorities right off the bat will lead the design and project plan, set everyone’s expectations throughout the project and avoid uncomfortable conversations down the line.

So, what will it be? Time, money or quality? Choose two.

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What’s the Deal with Due Diligence?

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Have you been thinking about remodeling your restaurant or starting a construction project from scratch? Just as with everything else that involves being creative, daydreaming about the possibilities can be so much fun: Build a grand entrance here, install floor to ceiling French windows there… Visualizing how much more profits you’re going to have as a result is also exciting.

Not to rain on your parade, but there are also excruciatingly boring things that come into play, such as zoning regulations, applying for permits and licenses, and conducting due diligence.

What does due diligence entail?

         Due diligence is an essential component of every single construction project. Before anything can get started, you need to know whether the project is viable. For example, what if you love a site, but it’s marshlands and it wouldn’t hold a building? Or what if your budget is not adequate to cover everything your project requires? Or what if you have a winning bid, but it has gaping holes that could later result in delays in construction, or worse yet, litigation?

Also, due diligence is not a catch-all phrase to take care of the details. An adequate diligence will include several different aspects to delve into:

  1. Site conditions due diligence: Is your site appropriate for what you want to do? Will your business need to expand and will you have the space for it? Is there a risk of sinkholes? Can you do the excavations you’d need to do? Are there any hazardous substances within the land? These are all things you’ll want to know before choosing a location.
  1. Legal due diligence: Are your rights as a project owner covered under the terms of the contract? What happens if the labor or materials are subpar? What happens if your contractor skips town? What if somebody sues you for an act or omission on the part of the contractor? If there’s a lawsuit, could you litigate locally or would you have to travel to their headquarters in another state? Do you even know? These are all things you need to be clear on before you sign a contract.
  1. Budget due diligence: The name of this one should be self-explanatory. However, it is very often that construction projects go over budget because either the Master Plan/Master Budget missed an important element, or due to someone’s oversight, or due to a natural disaster, or [insert unexpected event here]. This is also why it’s important to have a contingency budget; but even to set aside funds for one, you need to conduct due diligence to see what would be a list of foreseeable risks.
  1. Risk due diligence: Do you know who you’re entering into a contract with? Do you know their history? Have you seen a portfolio of their work? Would you be able to place a mechanic’s lien in any of their assets? Are there warnings after warnings from people who have worked with them in the past and got burned?

Construction requires a lot of preliminary work before you can even get started. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Depending on your type of project, there may be additional considerations. You can do this on your own and hope you’re doing it well, or you can trust experts (such as, say, those awesome people from Eclipse Building Corp.) to do it for you. It might take a lot of time and effort, but it is always worth it. Don’t risk it. Give us a call and see how we can help you.

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Scheduling Your Construction Project

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How many times have you set out to do something, only to find out it takes much longer than anticipated. Say, driving from Pinellas to Hillsborough when there’s a crash either on Howard Frankland, Courtney Campbell, or Gandy. It sucks. Suddenly, your 40-minute drive turns into an hour and a half.

Same goes for your Tinder date who takes forever to get ready, or your restaurant order on a busy night. So if there can be delays in something as simple as driving, dating, and eating, imagine all the things that could come up while working on a large scale project involving construction or renovations.

When you have so many things to keep track of (site inspections, permitting, obtaining insurance coverage, contract negotiations, surveying, site excavations, HVAC, plumbing, etc…) it’s extremely easy to miscalculate chronological order or to have an issue in one area affect and cause delays in another. It is for this reason that you have to prioritize having efficient scheduling tools before you get started.

How to do effective scheduling

As a whole, a project can seem overwhelming. So start things off by breaking it up into manageable phases. It will seem a lot less staggering and it will help you come up with a more realistic overall schedule to complete the project.

Next, create subheadings for which subcontractor will be responsible for which phase of the project. This is a good way to hold them accountable and keeping everyone on track.

Have checklists for everything. When there are a million things to do, it’s easy to overlook a few steps or a couple of details. And don’t worry about reinventing the wheel. Whatever project you’re working on, there should be a template of a similar one that has already been completed.

Once you have a structured schedule, monitor its progress. This is crucial if you want to be able to foresee possible glitches and delays and plan for them accordingly. Include milestones that you can tick off your list.

Monitor your budget. The last thing you need is to realize midway through that you blew your available funds on something else. This would be the equivalent of begging for a lawsuit.

You can find software that will help you keep track of all of these tasks and assist you in keeping your project organized. Just keep in mind that even with the most efficient of tools, you still need an actual human to review everything to make sure it’s all running smoothly. If you’re ready to get the party started, go for it. But if you’re still hesitant because all of this is going over your head, don’t lose any sleep over it. Give us a call. At Eclipse Building Corp., all of this comes as second nature to us. Let us help you.

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Litigation in Construction II: Alternatives to Suing Someone

 

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Welcome back to our blog! (Because you’ve been reading regularly, we hope!) Last week, we discussed issues that often lead to misunderstandings within the construction industry. The items are meant to be as a guideline of things to keep in mind before entering into a construction contract. That said, they are not meant to substitute legal counsel. So don’t be cheap and get a lawyer if you need one.

Today, we’re discussing alternatives to litigation. The reason these are so important is that (a) they’ll save you money, and (b) they have a better chance of preserving relationships with other vendors within the industry. At the end of the day, you never know what’s around the bend, and you might have to deal with some of these people again in the future.

Alternatives to litigation:

Pay close attention to that contract.

Often, people will only skim the pages, or straight out sign without reading. Or they read it, don’t understand everything, and sign it anyway. The reality is that it doesn’t matter what Joe told you. If you end up in Court, what matters is what’s on the contract. So don’t just ask for verbal clarifications. Get absolutely everything in writing and include it in the contract.

Also, you want to make sure there are no inconsistencies. For example, if Clause Number 5 refers to Addendum A, and Addendum A contains contradictory information that what’s on reflected on Clause Number 5, which one are you bound to if there’s a dispute? You can’t afford to chance it. Iron out all inconsistencies before you sign that line.

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).

You could always include a provision that in the event of a dispute, all parties involved to go mediation or arbitration instead of Court. Why? It’ll probably cost less and in the case of mediation, you’ll actually have a professional trying to steer the conversation into reaching a resolution. However, make sure you pay attention to who’ll have to pay for this. Are you guys splitting all costs 50/50, or is the person raising a concern responsible for all costs?

Talk it out

This one may make some people roll their eyes (especially attorneys), but the reality is that you have nothing to lose by trying to reach an agreement with the other side by simply having civilized conversation to see if you can meet somewhere in the middle. If you’ve talked to no avail, then do ADR or file your lawsuit.

Whether the issue is regarding payment, a failure to perform, or construction defect, the only winners in construction litigation are the attorneys. So think about it: even if you have the money to battle it out in court only on principle, would you rather go on vacation with your family, or pay for your attorney to go on a nice vacation with theirs? Because that’s the only real good that will come out of this.

You know what else is an alternative to litigation? Hiring us. I mean, there are no guarantees in this world, but at least we have the experience and expertise to back up our claims that we’ll get things done right. Contact us, and let’s talk.

Litigation in Construction II: Alternatives to Suing Someone

Welcome back to our blog! (Because you’ve been reading regularly, we hope!) Last week, we discussed issues that often lead to misunderstanding within the construction industry. The items are meant to be as a guideline of things to keep in mind before entering into a construction contract. That said, they are not meant to substitute legal counsel. So don’t be cheap and get a lawyer if you need one.

Today, we’re discussing alternatives to litigation. The reason these are so important is that (a) they’ll save you money, and (b) they have a better chance of preserving relationships with other vendors within the industry. At the end of the day, you never know what’s around the bend, and you might have to deal with some of these people again in the future.

Alternatives to litigation:

Pay close attention to that contract.

We’ve mentioned the contract a lot, have you noticed? This is for a reason. So often, people will only skim the pages, or straight out sign without reading. It doesn’t matter what Joe told you. If you end up in Court, what matters is what’s on the contract.

Also, you want to make sure there are no inconsistencies. For example, if Clause Number 5 refers to Addendum A, and Addendum A contains contradictory information that what’s on reflected on Clause Number 5, which one are you bound to if there’s a dispute? You can’t afford to chance it. Iron out all inconsistencies before you sign that line.

Alternate Dispute Resolution.

You could always include a provision that in the event of a dispute, all parties involved to go mediation or arbitration instead of Court. Why? It’ll probably cost less and in the case of mediation, you’ll actually have a professional trying to steer the conversation into reaching a resolution. However, make sure you pay attention to who’ll have to pay for this. Are you guys splitting all costs 50/50, or is the person raising a concern responsible for all costs?

Whether the issue is regarding payment, a failure to perform, or construction defect, the only winners in construction litigation are the attorneys. So think about it: even if you have the money to battle it out in court only on principle, would you rather send your kids to college or send your attorney’s kids to college? Because that’s the only real good that will come out of this.

You know what else is an alternative to litigation? Hiring us. I mean, there are no guarantees in this world, but at least we have the experience and expertise to back up our claims that we’ll get things done right. Contact us, and let’s talk.

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How To Plan for Site Emergencies

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So you finally made up your mind about getting started on your construction or renovation project. You hired a contractor, have a great project manager, and everything’s running smoothly… until there’s an accident or some sort of emergency right on your work site. Do you have a contingency plan to deal with it?

From natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods (which are pretty common in our beautiful Florida), to immature behavior like violence in the workplace (let’s be careful in hiring the right workers, please), an emergency can throw your project off course. Regardless, no matter how careful you may be, unforeseen issues may come up, so you might as well have a contingency plan to deal with them.

So what can you do to make things run as smoothly as possible (and diminish your legal liability while at it)?

  1. Have adequate insurance: Contractor liability, general liability insurance, bid bonds, Worker’s Compensation, flood insurance… The list is long, and it’s crucial for you to understand what each of them is for, so that in the event that someone gets hurt while on premises, or a hurricane destroys what you’ve already built, you are adequately covered. Study each policy carefully; and if some of the terms go over your head, ask for clarifications from your broker and/or attorneys, and get everything in writing. 
  1. Designate an A Team: Who’s in charge of contacting emergency personnel and all of those insurance companies mentioned above? When disaster happens, there’s no time for everyone to scramble, trying to figure out who’s in charge of what. Designate who’s getting each task done beforehand, and have all of those contact phone numbers and email addresses handy (everyone should have them saved in their number, or at the very least, easily retrievable from their email inbox). And don’t just tell them what they need to do. Train them properly.
  1. Have a plan: Everyone on your team needs to know where your alarms, fire extinguishers and first aid kids are. Everyone needs to know what are the evacuation routes. Everyone needs to know who to contact if there’s a natural disaster that prevents them to report for duty or to ask about when it’s safe to come back to work after a site has been damaged. 
  1. Make sure everyone’s accounted for: Always have a log of who’s working where, and designate someone who will do a head count after an evacuation. If someone’s missing, refer to that log and either go back for the missing person if it’s safe to do so, or let first responders know.

At Eclipse Building Corp., we make sure that your project is done on time, on budget, and minimize your liability by prioritizing our workers’ and contractors’ safety. If you’re planning on renovating or building from scratch, contact us. We’ll do things by the book for you.

 

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Should You Have a Contingency Budget?

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Have you ever planned a family vacation, only to realize midway through that your credit card bill will go through the roof this month? Have you ever bought a pre-owned car, only to realize that it needs so much maintenance and so many replacement parts, you would’ve been better off getting a new one?

It happens. You plan, you save, the unexpected comes up. And while it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something similar could happen in construction, how do you know how much you should be setting a side as part of a contingency budget? And if you plan everything well, do you really need one?

How much to set aside?

         The amount that you should set aside for it will depend on the type of project and the likelihood of foreseeable risks occurring. The higher the risk, the higher the budget. There are several things you can do to avoid risks: Have great insurance. Have a business attorney review your contracts (for example, you want to have indemnification clauses in there in case someone sues you because of something a subcontractor or someone else did). Comply with codes and regulations, so that a cinder block is not falling on someone’s head.

All this said, regardless of how careful you are, there will still be things that pop up unexpectedly, and if you have money set aside to deal with it, you project will move along smoothly.

If I plan things well, do I really need one?

         Ok. Let’s say you planned everything down to the last brick you’ll need. You hired a reputable construction company, have a stellar project manager, and even an Owner’s Representative. How could anything go wrong, right? Then you get a hurricane watch, that not only delays your project, but when it actually hits your town, it damages portions of what has already been completed. Did you plan for that? What if everything gets flooded after one of the many typical thunderstorms we get during the summer in Tampa? What if you have several injured workers and your Worker Comp’s insurance rates go up? I could continue adding items to the list of things that are hard to plan for, but you get the picture.

The best way to plan for the known and for a list of potential variables is to hire an experienced construction company that has been around the block long enough to know how to deal with unexpected plot twists.

Eclipse Building Corp. can help you plan your construction or renovation with realistic expectations. We can also deal with all of the pre-construction issues such as planning and permitting, and post construction aspects, such as maintenance and warranties. Give us a call and let’s talk about your project. We will get you from A to Z beautifully, and on budget.