When the City of Tampa broke ground on the initial phase of the Nehemiah Project in 2014, Mayor Bob Buckhorn shoveled the ceremonial dirt holding a little girl named Legacy in his arms.
Earlier this month, Legacy stood on her own two feet, helping Buckhorn hold his shovel as he and other community leaders broke ground for the second phase of the project.
Legacy represents hope for the future of Sulphur Springs, one of the poorest communities in Tampa. The goal of the Nehemiah Project is to revitalize the area. It's named after Nehemiah, a biblical figure who rebuilt the protective wall around Jerusalem within two months.
The project began in January 2014 when Buckhorn announced that the city would invest $1.4 million to build new, single-family homes in Sulphur Springs.
"To create sustainable change, we need more good, steady homeowners who will take pride in their property and in the neighborhood. Those are the type of buyers we want for these new homes,'' Buckhorn told 83 Degrees
in May 2014. "My hope is that our public investment will be the catalyst to transforming Sulphur Springs into the type of neighborhood that it can and should be."
Eleven initial parcels were chosen to be rebuilt first because of their proximity to each other, the Sulphur Springs Elementary school and Springhill Community Center. All 11 homes were built and sold by December 2014.
Groundbreaking of the project's second phase took place Sept. 10. Plans are to continue the revitalization, creating 24 homeownership opportunities on 18 lots. Proceeds from the sales of the homes will be used to build at least six additional homes.
"Families are now returning to Sulphur Springs and to help us rebuild and restore a great neighborhood," Buckhorn said in a prepared statement
. "I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in the history of the Springs brings us."