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Transformational change underway in North Hyde Park, West Tampa

(L-R) James Rue and Gian Carlos Birriel co-own Raw Smoothie Co.

Gian Carlos Birriel is co-owner of Raw Smoothie Co.

Private Island Smoothie Bowl from Raw Smoothie Co. in NoHo.



Havana Square apartments in NoHo.

As a recent college graduate from the University of Tampa, Marissa Killpack wasn’t quite ready to leave Tampa; she found a job in her field and moved to North Hyde Park.

“It’s next to everything and fairly cheap,” Killpack puts it and she takes advantage of everything her rapidly growing neighborhood offers – from the shuttle from her apartment complex to the University of Tampa to a quick walk to the Hillsborough River. 

Tampa is experiencing the fourth-highest population growth of any city in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and reported in the Tampa Bay Times.

As the city gains new people, its neighborhoods are adapting to accommodate the influx.

North Hyde Park, or as the President of the North Hyde Park Alliance Kari Kurtz likes to call it, “Tampa’s hidden gem,” is one of the West Tampa neighborhoods undergoing transformational change. 

North Hyde Park’s boundaries encompass south of I-275, north of West Kennedy Boulevard, west of the the Hillsborough River and east of North Armenia Avenue. 

“Our mission is to encourage a desirable community for people to live, while supporting a growing local employment base with leisure, cultural, healthcare and academic attractions,” Kurtz says regarding the mission of the Alliance. 

Being so close to The University of Tampa and downtown, and its location and affordability, North Hyde Park particularly attracts young adults from college students to young business professionals to its apartment complexes. 

The Vintage Lofts, NoHo Flats, West River Flats, Havana Square and Hyde Park Flats will soon be accompanied by three new complexes.

“We always preach mix-use to [Tampa] City Council,” Kurtz says. “They may even be tired of us stating that we need more business and commercial in the area.”

But regardless of what Council members do, more businesses are moving in. 

Investors move in to West Tampa

“A contributor to the change in the neighborhood has been the renovation of the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory into the Bryan Glazer JCC,” Kurtz says. The Alliance has already seen an increase in people bicycling to and from downtown and more businesses popping up.

In June 2016, The Lab Tampa, a collaborative coffee roastery and cafe, moved into 1703 W. State St. The concept behind a collaborative roastery is to provide equipment for those who want to get into commercial and wholesale roasting but can’t afford to buy thousands of dollars worth of roasting equipment. 

Since their opening, co-Owner Jason Barnett says they’ve collaborated with three businesses: Blind Tiger, Zeal, and Hemp and Coffee Exchange. The Lab has also seen a steady flow of customers -- about 60 a day -- most of them from the surrounding apartment complexes. Their customers are interested in the specialty coffee, Barnett says.

“The whole purpose is to educate people on what the farmers have to go through to get this product out, the months and years the farmers work, really work really hard to do,” Barnett says. “And we basically burn it in a fun way and we grind it and serve it within a couple weeks. That’s kind of the concept and we want to educate people on it.”

As the city continues to boom, so does the coffee scene.

“Our customers want to learn more, but we want to be able to open up to everyone,” Barnett says.

And now, after going without for a year and a half, The Lab has installed air conditioning. Plans call for more drink and food options and more seating for customers.

“If the product is good and the service is good, then people will stay,” Barnett says. “It’s about how comfortable they are personally with the space than how they are physically with the space. At least that’s what we gathered.”

That rings true, too, with Raw Smoothie Co. at 408 North Howard Ave. 

What you get: '90s hip-hop meets graffiti art meets smoothies. 

“It’s a fun vibe when you walk in,” co-owner Jame Rue says. “We’re playing dope music and have truly healthy-for-you options.”

What started in a tent at the Ybor Saturday Market turned into a permanent location starting five months ago. Raw Smoothie Co. is raw, as its name indicates, organic and convenient for those always on the go.

Community building provides important aspect to businesses 

In the same building as Raw Smoothie Co., you’ll find Art District Inc. founded by Mike Traina, a tattoo artist and mural designer, and Burger Culture. Gian Carlos Birriel, co-Owner of Raw Smoothie Co., also owns Birriel's Gym next door. And there's Diamond Pilates, featuring instructors Yolanda and Deecembra Diamond, a graduate of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. 

“We all help each other,” Rue says. 

Speaking of gyms, in North Hyde Park there are a plethora of them: SoHo Cycling, The Athletic Studio, CrossFit 813, CrossFit Hyde Park, Tampa Fitness Boot Camp, Elite Strength and Conditioning, Mi40 Gym, Gracie Tampa South MMA, Wah Lum Kung Fu, and Category 5 Athletics are all within NHP’s boundaries. 

Despite all of the options to get fit, gyms aren’t for everyone. After all, Florida is the Sunshine State, full of palm trees and warmth, and perfect for an outdoor adventure. 

With that in mind, Julian B. Lane Park, a $35.6 million City of Tampa design project, is set to open in Jan. 2018. With it will be a new river community center, tennis, basketball and pickleball courts, a dog park, a water taxi stop, and a turf field for various sports. 

“As they [West Tampa Chamber of Commerce] say, ‘It’s time for West Tampa’,” says Kurtz.

Read more articles by Hannah Farrow.

Hannah Farrow is a freelance writer in the Tampa Bay Area. When she's not writing, you can find her working out, by the water, or in a local cafe reading Patti Smith. View more of her work on Hannah's blog.
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