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Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) broke ground on its new shelter for victims of domestic violence Tuesday morning. With an increasing number of domestic abuse cases in Pinellas County, providing refuge for victims has become a challenge for CASA's current thirty-bed shelter.

CASA's director of advancement Nicole Worthington hopes that its new, 100-bed shelter will give more victims a safe place to call home.

Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) is holding a groundbreaking Tuesday to give abused women and children a place to live.

The shelter, located in St. Petersburg, is no longer adequate to serve the number of people who need help.

Has Florida Found the Secret to Saving the Economy?

May 29, 2014

Florida is surging because tourism leaders massively reinvested in their businesses throughout a recession that took statewide unemployment to 11.4%. When consumers had money again, Orlando and Miami had new stuff for tourists to do, from Harry Potter to Legoland, with new attractions opening every season. Those new products, created because tourism players large and small had the guts and vision to invest when Orlando’s hotel occupancy fell below 50%, drew new customers and ignited 600,000 new jobs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are reporting that long-time owner Malcolm Glazer has died. Buccaneers.com says Glazer passed away Wednesday. Here's their report:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are saddened to announce the passing of Owner/President Malcolm Glazer earlier this morning at the age of 85.

Megabus Arrives, Bringing Bargain Fares

May 20, 2014
Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

It's now possible to get to Orlando or Miami from Tampa for less than it costs to drive with the arrival of a new  inter-city bus service called Megabus.  To celebrate its arrival in Tampa, the company has been offering $1 fares during the first two weeks. That drew a crowd to the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa recently, and WUSF was there to see what the new bus service was like.

Funding Flows to Ports, Including Port Tampa Bay

May 19, 2014
Port Tampa Bay

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday celebrated the soon-to-open, $915 million PortMiami tunnel.

And when the new state budget arrives on his desk, Scott will get to decide on spending $139 million more over the next year to continue the rush to upgrade Florida's seaports.

The port funding --- tied to expanding global trade and attracting the larger cargo ships expected to traverse a widened Panama Canal --- has been packaged at more than $117 million for the fourth consecutive year.

$1 Bus Rides to Miami Take Off Today

May 15, 2014
Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Get to Miami or Orlando for just a buck? It's possible. Megabus, a new city-to-city bus service took off Thursday morning.

Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA,  has partnered up with Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) to bring its intercity bus service to Tampa. People can reserve their seats online for a promotional fare starting at a dollar and ride the double-decker bus to other metro cities.

82-year-old  Mary Ellen Ahrens is a Winter Haven resident who boarded the first departure Megabus to Miami.

Duke to Build Natural Gas Plant in Citrus County

May 13, 2014
Duke Engery

Continuing a series of major changes, Duke Energy Florida on Tuesday said it plans to build a $1.5 billion natural-gas power plant in Citrus County while also shutting down two old coal-fired generating units.

Duke, the state's second-largest electric utility, indicated last year that it was likely to move forward with such a plan. But the announcement comes after other high-profile changes that have included shuttering a damaged Crystal River nuclear plant and scrapping plans to build two nuclear reactors in Levy County.

When the U.S. trade and travel embargo with Cuba is lifted, whether next week or next decade, Daniel hopes this relationship puts him at the front of the line of U.S. tobacconists interested in the Robaina farm. Currently, the region produces enough tobacco for 4 million cigars a year. “I call it my ‘Cuba Plan,’ and whether they want to admit it or not, every cigar manufacturer in the U.S. has one to some degree,” Daniel said. “They need to. When Cuban tobacco is allowed to flood the U.S. market, it will be a game changer, and they need to be ready.”

The Orlando-area SunRail commuter train has gotten more than twice the anticipated number of daily riders since it opened on Thursday. Transportation officials say the demand is expected to slacken once they start charging for rides later this month.

Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Olson says SunRail started with a bang.

“This is history that occurred here in Central Florida," he says. 

WUSF News is the proud recipient of not one, but five 2014 Green Eyeshade Awards. These are regional awards for best journalism in 11 states in the Southeast, given out by our peers in the Society of Professional Journalists.

Since 1950, The Green Eyeshades have recognized the very best journalism in the southeastern United States, in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Free SunRail Rides Start Thursday in Orlando

Apr 30, 2014

SunRail, the first commuter train in Orlando history, starts rolling Thursday. There are 12 stops, starting in the north at DeBary in Volusia County; then Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood and Altamonte Springs in Seminole County; and Maitland, Winter Park, Florida Hospital, Lynx, Church Street, Orlando Health and Sand Lake Road in Orange County.

Florida's blueberries were a boutique endeavor six to seven years ago as demand for the fruit was taking off. A decent farm had 5 acres of bushes. Growers today are planting 20 acres at a cost of upward of $25,000 each as the state continues "on the way up" in a global niche, said Bill Roe, a marketer with Noble Worldwide of Winter Haven.

Amidst all the hoopla about "green carpets" and Bollywood film stars coming to Tampa for the Bollywood Oscars Saturday, a lot of behind-the-scenes action is taking place. A lot of business connections are being formed, as well.

WUSF has won two regional 2014 Edward R. Murrow Awards.And they both went to…. drum roll please…. WUSF reporter Bobbie O’Brien. For Best Feature Reporting for her story on Autism Defined by Those with the Diagnosis that she did with our intern, Andrew Casey; and for best Sports Reporting for Veteran Athletes Give Super Effort in Super G.

Internet Retailer Amazon to Start Collecting Sales Taxes

Apr 17, 2014

Floridians who rely on Internet giant Amazon.com will have to soon start paying taxes on their online purchases.

A spokesman for the Seattle-based company confirmed Wednesday that Amazon will collect the state's 6 percent sales tax on May 1.

The move follows the decision by Amazon to build two distribution centers in the Sunshine State.

Amazon will open "fulfillment centers" in Lakeland and Ruskin. Each will be more than 1 million square feet. Amazon officials say when both are open, more than 1,000 full-time jobs will be created.

Belleair Commissioners Approve Rezoning Measure

Apr 16, 2014

Belleair commissioners approved the RM-10 rezoning measure that affects the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Six years after saying they wanted to explore alternative sites to downtown St. Petersburg for a new ballpark, the Tampa Bay Rays still are in search of a location.

“Tampa is obviously very, very attractive on the list, and we expect to at some point, hopefully sooner, look there as well as some other parts of the region,” Rays owner Stuart Stern­berg said Tuesday during a panel at the MLB Diversity Business Summit.

The Tampa Bay Times has won a Pulitzer Prize for an investigation into the squalid conditions of Hillsborough County's homeless housing program.

The Times' award was among the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes announced at Columbia University on Monday.

The paper received a tip from a homeless man that the Tampa Port Authority chairman operated a squalid trailer park for the homeless.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The future of one of the largest wooden structures in the world will be decided Tuesday. Belleview Biltmore hotel near Clearwater is up for demolition if a rezoning measure is approved.

The Belleview Biltmore Hotel, built in 1897, hosted business giants, local socialites and even presidents back in the day. It closed in 2009 for renovations but with the housing market crash it never reopened.

Now, a rezoning measure would allow developers to bulldoze it and build condos in its place.

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