The old Waterworks building in Tampa Heights, neglected and empty for years, is now a hive of activity.
Welders, carpenters and masons are reshaping the 110 year old brick structure into a sleek new restaurant.
"Ulele" named after the adjacent fresh water spring along the banks of the Hillsborough River is a passion project for Richard Gonzmart of the Columbia Restaurant Group. Gonzmart will spend around $5 million to create what he's called his legacy.
"It's coming back to our roots where my mother and grandparents lived, where I was born. It's making a difference and building self-esteem pride in a once thriving community," said Gonzmart.
Managing partner, Keith Sedita is sworn to secrecy on the menu that will reflect the cuisine of Tampa's native Americans and early settlers, but did say citrus wood will be used to fuel the grill.
The expansive outdoor seating planned for Ulele will look out over the Hillsborough River and Ulele spring. The City of Tampa is spending nearly $7 million to restore the spring to a more natural state and surround it with a park that will rival nearby Curtis Hixon. It'll feature floating docks, an event pavilion, a playground and even a dog run.
Part of the expense of this project involved removing two full feet of top soil. It was contaminated by oil and gas spilled over the years when Tampa Police serviced their squad cars. But when it opens this summer, walkers and bikers will for the first time be able to travel the length of Tampa's Riverfront nearly uninterrupted from Tampa Heights to the Florida Aquarium.
The five acre park and restaurant may just be the beginning. Plans for offices, homes and retail on the adjacent 50 acres to the north and west are on the drawing board now.