Tampa Heights Victorian townhome project moves forward

Investors take notice: The Tampa Heights neighborhood is developing into a prime area for people wanting to experience the local urban lifestyle and as the place where businesses want to set up shop.
A sure sign of that is construction of new housing to meet the demand of those looking to relocate.
In October, a 15-unit Victorian townhome project was approved by the City of Tampa's Architectural Review Commission in a vote of 4-0. Clearwater-based design firm, Stylistic Design Developers, initially proposed a plan with no direct walk-up entrance. The firm returned with a redesign featuring the walk-up entrance, which helped sway the unanimous vote. The consultant on the project is Invision Design & Development.
At a January rezoning hearing, the project got the green light to move forward. The property, at 302 E. 7th Ave. (northeast corner of 7th Avenue and Morgan Street), is a vacant lot where the historic Tampa Heights Hospital once stood.
The land was purchased last spring, and the hurdles that come with construction had to be cleared. According to Shane Ragiel, president of the Tampa Heights Civic Association, there now needs to be a buy-in from the city before anything else can be done with that plot of land.
Ragiel says the developer has made itself available to attend general meetings and address any of the association’s concerns. “[The developer] has been great about talking us through everything and showing us his vision.”

“We [Tampa Heights Civic Association] like to support development that supports the neighborhood. When we can meet in the middle and marry the desires of the developer and the desires of the neighborhood, we make sure to lend our support,” he says.

THCA then works to continue that relationship because oftentimes, it doesn’t end with one development. “Sometimes, they fall in love with the neighborhood, like all of us did, and they continue to look for areas of opportunity.”

The association wants certain assurances, including that the developers are going to keep green space.

“These are old historic tree-lined roads with great sightlines and great green space,” Ragiel says. “We wanted to make sure the developer cared about the neighborhood; that they weren’t going to slap some homes down, make some money, and dip out.”

Ragiel shares that residents have good things to say about the townhomes. “A lot of people are excited to see development in areas that are vacant right now.”

Ragiel says there has been a big residential influx recently and points to people who are moving from inside Tampa wanting to be close to the urban core.

“Tampa Heights has always been a historic neighborhood; it’s seen every story that Tampa has had to tell,” he says. “There are a lot of first-time homebuyers, people just getting out of college, starting their careers, wanting to start families moving to the neighborhood.”

There are also many residents who have been in the neighborhood for decades. “Those are also the same types of neighbors that we make sure we’re valuing; they stuck it out when it wasn’t easy to stick it out. We like the diversity.”

Ragiel is excited about the growth that Tampa Heights is experiencing. “It’s great to see a revival,” he says. “Because of the ebb and flow of the neighborhood, it became a forgotten area.”
Ragiel and his husband relocated to Tampa Heights three years ago from Carrollwood. They sought to move to a historic community within the urban core where they could be involved with the neighborhood, and everybody knew everyone else.
While there are still many homes and buildings that go back to its roots, the area is rapidly growing with additions like the restaurant Ulele, King State coffee roasters, Shuffle neighborhood bar, Armature Works food hall, and the Tampa Riverwalk extension. New businesses and public spaces make it easy to see why the developers chose Tampa Heights for the townhomes.
“We [the association] really try to make sure we highlight and protect a lot of these really cool pocket businesses that we see in our commercial corridors,” explains Ragiel. “It’s part of the perk of being in the urban core. You want to have a very walkable, bikeable neighborhood with those types of amenities.”

“I think the perception of Tampa Heights has changed, but at its core, it’s still the same it’s always been -- that authentic neighborhood,” he says. “I think that’s why there’s been a lot of interest. A lot of new businesses and people looking to come to the neighborhood may have never considered Tampa Heights before. Now they’re starting to give Tampa Heights a second look.”

Ragiel says the city has shown renewed interest in Tampa Heights and hopes that continues. “With systematic things that have occurred -- redlining and with the installation of the interstate -- it’s easy to see that the neighborhood fell out of fashion and fell out of focus.”

“But the city and county are starting to make moves to try to correct what has been done, as well as picking ourselves up and dusting things off and trying to bring as much interest to the neighborhood from businesses and people.”

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Allison Koehler is a Cleveland-area native who now lives in Tampa by way of Detroit. She resides in Seminole Heights with her partner, Phil, and three children -- one human and two cats. When she isn't writing, she's watching pro football, listening to music, or streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime.