A new, Boston-based owner hopes to make one of Tampa’s oldest and hippest commercial areas new again.
The scene is Hyde Park Village
, where one of the biggest things it has going for it is what it’s not: a mall.
It’s a comparatively peaceful place for a commercial development, about six blocks tucked into an increasingly affluent residential neighborhood and designated historic district, where people can wander among shops and restaurants and often find something they didn’t know was there.
It’s been that way for at least three decades, through boom and bust.
And while Hyde Park Village has never sunk to the levels of distress afflicting downtown Tampa’s Channelside Bay Plaza, for example, “It’s definitely had its ups and downs,” says Ed Turanchik, a Tampa attorney who represents the new owners, WS Development.
For South Tampa fans of the Village, the good news is that WS Development says it doesn’t plan to change the essential character of the place. It’s going to remain a strollable, walkable, outdoor retailing and restaurant arcade, a venue that grew organically over decades rather than being built from scratch like many new commercial developments.
Turanchik calls that character unique, and says it even served as a model for Disney World’s design of the Celebration community near Orlando.
Tim Alexander of WS Development says the company is determined to preserve the character.
“We recognize the uniqueness of the village, both the commercial attributes and also how it blends into the neighborhood,” he says. “Our goal is to re-establish and revitalize that connection.”
The construction the company is undertaking to achieve that goal has caused problems for the merchants and customers there this summer -- dust, traffic congestion and scaffolding across storefronts -- and that’s likely to continue for several more months. But the results, the company promises, will be worth it.
And by the way: The shade that’s been lost as trees were removed will be coming back with new trees, the company promises.
The Village should become even more pedestrian-friendly, as sidewalks are being widened, streets narrowed to slow traffic and on-street parking added in some spots.
Brick facades are being whitewashed and industrial-look black steel awnings added, although that can’t be done on the historic buildings.
More festivals and outdoor sales are being planned. New restaurants and stores are being recruited as tenants, and the owners are aiming for a mix of local, regional and national retailers and various kinds of restaurants.
“It’s very important for us to curate a mix of different types of shops and restaurants, and it’s extremely important to have local tenants and businesses mixed with the nationals,” Alexander says.
The firm has gone out of its way to recruit the particular kinds of businesses it wants, some proprietors say.
“They’re good about working with smaller business,” says Gayle Zerr, owner of Florist Fire
, open since May. “They really wanted a flower shop, and we clearly can’t afford what West Elm or Pottery Barn can, so they’re working with us.”
Creating synergy in numbers
John Cooper of the new On Swann
restaurant says he’s not worried about being located close to other restaurants because their nature is more complementary than competitive.
One casualty of the construction was a popular spot in the village, the patio seating at Timpano’s
restaurant. It will return when the construction’s done, says Gabby Soriano, local marketing and public relations rep for the owners.
Another is shade, including that over Timpano’s. Many of the trees lining Swann and Dakota avenues were removed, which has caused complaints.
It was necessary, Alexander says, because the roots for years have been cracking sidewalks. The trees were dying, and uneven sidewalks created pedestrian hazards and potential barriers to the disabled.
The company is replacing them on what Alexander says will be at or close to a one-to-one ratio, and it’s starting with fairly large new trees, with 8- to 10-inch trunks.
To prevent pavement-cracking, it’s using a relatively new system called Silva Cells, marketed by a San Francisco company named DeepRoot Green Infrastructure
According to the company’s website, the system suspends pavement over a rigid framework of soil-filled cells, allowing roots to spread horizontally underneath. The company says it allows urban trees to grow to full size without breaking up pavement.
It’s also raising the level of some streets to control flooding.
Alexander says preserving trees was one of the top concerns of neighborhood groups that WS Development met with before starting its renovation.
“That rang through loud and clear,” he says. “We also felt strongly about maintaining the tree canopy.”
Trees in the village square and fountain won’t have to be replaced, says Soriano.
What’s next for Hyde Park Village? New building
The current construction phase should be done by November, but another phase will start almost immediately -- renovating the facades of buildings around the village square, and tearing down and replacing a currently vacant building known as “H Block,” on the east side of Snow Avenue at the southern end of the village. A two-story building, roughly the height of the adjacent parking deck, will replace it, Alexander says.
The company doesn’t say how much it’s spending on the construction.
There are some residences in the Hyde Park Village buildings, but the company doesn’t own them, and doesn’t plan to add any residential development, Alexander says.
The surrounding Hyde Park neighborhood is one of Tampa’s oldest residential areas, settled by Europeans since the 1700s, according to Tampa historian Rodney Kite-Powell.
One of the city’s first subdivisions, it was named in 1886 by Obadiah H. Platt for his hometown, Hyde Park, IL.
But it took the construction of Henry Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, now part of the University of Tampa, starting in 1888, to make it a real neighborhood. To help lure the hotel, the city agreed to build a bridge across the Hillsborough River on what is now Kennedy Boulevard.
The building housing the Wine Exchange dates from 1905 and the Village was an established commercial area by the 1920s. But it first became a unified, planned development after a controversial rezoning in 1985, Turanchik says.
What followed was the heyday of Hyde Park Village, as South Tampa residents, some of whom had opposed the rezoning, decided they liked the results.
It was anchored by the upscale Jacobson’s department store at Swann and Dakota avenues, and included some of the city’s trendiest restaurants, including the popular Cactus Club and upscale watering hole Selena’s.
“It was the gathering place, the new, hip place,” says Turanchik.
But Jacobson’s went bankrupt in 2002 -- the 2001 opening of International Plaza sped its demise -- and Hyde Park Village entered a period of ups and downs.
In the early 2010s, says Cooper of On Swann, it started to be plagued by deferred maintenance.
By 2013, the previous owners, Vornado Realty Trust, seemed uncertain what to do with it, Turanchik says. The company’s main portfolio consisted of strip malls; it was considering tearing down the southern part of the village and building condos.
Another new tenant, Andrew Smith of the Salt Pines
lifestyle shop, says the former owners “were letting it go into disrepair, not putting a lot of money into it, not actively pursuing tenants.”
bought it in 2013 for $45 million. Numerous new stores have come in and more are coming in, and “trendy” and “hip” appear to be the watchwords.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn welcomed the new ownership and specifically asked that they bring in Vinyard Vines
, a preppy men’s clothing retailer. He likes their ties.
The Vinyard Vines store opened in August, along with a reincarnation of Goody Goody
, a casual burger spot that drew Tampa kids for decades on Florida Avenue near downtown, and SuitSupply, a trendy, European-influenced men’s store.
New on the square is London Philips
, a locally owned “men’s boutique,” where upscale males can sip local craft beer and artisan bourbon or get a haircut while shopping.
, something of an homage to the fondly remembered Cactus Club, opened in 2015 next to the relocated Wine Exchange, the Village’s oldest continuously operating business.
Another new addition is Sprinkles
, a cupcake shop which will soon install the innovation it’s best known for, an ATM-like cupcake vending machine for those with sudden or after-hours cupcake cravings. Red velvet will always be available.
Cooper’s On Swann prides itself on its charcuterie boards, a sharing menu, a bar with fresh and innovative drink recipes and chef Chris Ponte, who has developed a following at Clearwater’s Café Ponte.
The Village is also using a merchandising concept called pop-up stores, temporary locations for stores not intended, in some cases, to be permanent.
Currently open pop-ups include Dark Cycle, which sells cycling togs, and ivivva, a girl’s athletic wear brand.
Coryn Enfinger of Dark Cycle
says the temporary store is intended to boost local exposure for the online business she and her husband started seven years ago.
The Village just completed its annual fall festival, complete with face-painting and pumpkin decorating. Look for a holiday tree-lighting Nov. 19.
“We want to bring it back to life, make it a place the community can come together,” says Soriano.