North Hyde Park Sizzles As Tampa's Next Hot Neighborhood

Call North Hyde Park a diamond in the rough that needs a bit of polishing to shine.

It is one of the city's older neighborhoods, an enclave of modest homes mixed in with warehouses, light industrial and a smattering of restaurants and shops. Census counters four years ago found fewer than 700 households.

But this emerging neighborhood, north of Kennedy Boulevard and the prestigious zip codes of Hyde Park, is no longer the neglected step-child. It is in the spotlight of the InVision Tampa master plan that seeks to re-invent downtown and its connectivity with surrounding neighborhoods.

"It's a natural pallet, the next Van Gogh in development," says Attorney Ron Weaver of Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson. "It's a new engine and it has available land. North Hyde Park has an explosion of opportunities."

Weaver is vice chairman of the North Hyde Park Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 business and property owners who  monitor the changing landscape of the neighborhood. The alliance's contact list reaches even wider.

The group's first speaker at its inaugural meeting nearly two years ago was Anthony Everett, director of the Central Florida division of Pollack Shores Real Estate Group. Pollack Shores is developer of NoHo Flats apartment complex on Rome Avenue,  just south of Interstate 275. It is a short distance northward to West Tampa, another historical neighborhood also poised for redevelopment.

Young professionals and some University of Tampa students are living, working and studying in already completed NoHo Flats apartments. By May, all of the complex's 311 apartments will be ready for leasing. Next door is the Vintage Lofts at West End, an apartment complex built prior to the recent economic recession.

"People are looking to move back to the urban core," says Everett. "I think you'll see continued growth."

North Hyde Park, in particular, is attractive, Everett says, because it falls between downtown and the West Shore district and has easy access to Interstates 275 and 4. "As you have more people working, going to school, you'll have greater housing demand," Everett says.

The neighborhood also is garnering attention as the future home of the Tampa Jewish Community Center South Campus. The community center's representatives last year signed a 99-year lease with an option to buy the historical Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory on North Howard Avenue. Among the proposed amenities are a swimming pool, gymanisium, pre-school, kosher cafe, wellness center, event venue and theater for film and stage productions.

Nearby construction plans also are nearing completion for Chabad Life and Learning Center on Armenia Avenue, and Clinical Research of West Florida on Howard.

An influx of people moving into apartments and condominiums in downtown, the Channel District, and soon into North Hyde Park, is building demand for more places to shop and dine. Businesses are beginning to pop up, noticeably along the stretch of Kennedy between Ashley Drive and Howard Avenue.

A sample of new hot spots include the Oxford Exchange, Ducky's Sports Lounge (partly owned by Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria), Fire Bar & Grill and Jersey Mike's Subs.

Established places that add to the sparkle along this gateway corridor include Mise En Place and Buddy Brew Coffee, a locally-owned cafe that has expanded its coffee brand into Oxford Exchange and onto the shelves of Whole Foods.

Some older busineses are newly made-over. ABC Liquor looks smarter in a larger more upscale building. Miguel's Mexican Seafood Restaurant & Grill boasts new courtyard seating and a larger parking lot. Premiere Cosmetic Surgery Center and upscale consignment boutique, Mosh Posh, are replacements for Second Image Thrift Store.

There are cautionary signs, however. Kennedy still has vacant lots going to waste and empty buildings in need of tenants.

Progress has been too slow, says Benjamin Buckley, chairman of the North Hyde Park Alliance. He is hopeful InVision Tampa will change that. "The government needs to take the leadership position," Buckley says. "You see how one thing starts leading to another. But we need more of that."

The most often cited challenge for this area and the city at large is how to improve public transit.

"Transportation is going to affect the development pattern," says Everett. A multimodal system, with light rail, "would be a good direction for us."

But some already are betting on the growth of commercial and residential life, north and south of Kennedy.

Years of patience paid off for Jana and Richard Radtke.

They watched as developers tried and failed to build medical offices on Kennedy, across from the recently-opened Ducky's Lounge. Instead, they bought the property and opened Primrose School of South Tampa.

Now they are eyeing a revitalized Kennedy and a North Hyde Park renaissance that signals a new deal for the western gateway into Tampa's downtown. It is in fact also challenging the notion of where downtown begins and ends as more development takes hold on the west side of Hillsborough River.

Shaping Urban Growth

The line that traditionally has divided South Tampa and anything north of Kennedy is fading.

"It's an ideal location for us," says Jana Radtke, co-owner of Primrose. "It's just been perfect. I think what we're seeing is a redevelopment of everything around us."

Immediately behind Primrose, construction crews are building Broadstone Hyde Park, a 259-unit apartment complex south of Kennedy sandwiched between Cleveland and Platt streets. A few blocks north are NoHo Flats.

Up and down Kennedy construction hammers are pounding out the latest projects in the University of Tampa's master plan. And, Tampa General Hospital will soon move ahead with plans to build a medical complex and rehabilitation hospital on the former site of Ferman Chevrolet auto dealership.

This tandem activity is noted in InVision Tampa plan which tags the area, including North Hyde Park, as the future "med-ed district."

It is easy to see why.

Hospital officicals two years ago rezoned the auto dealership's approximately 10 acres in preparation for Tampa General's first major step away from its Davis Islands base. The hospital's corporate offices already are relocated to a renovated building on Kennedy.

"I think we'll start moving on it to some degree later this year, at least clearing land and a bit of prepping it," says Jim Burkhart, the hospital's chief executive officer.

Construction and an opening date are likely a couple years down the road, he says. But Burkhart also expects to see spin-off businesses popping up in the vicinity including bio-medical, research, technology and medical suppliers.

"It's a great incubator of new start-up companies and there is great synergy for that," Burkhart says.

The Next Med-Ed District

Partnerships with University of Tampa, University of South Florida and Hillsborough Community College will only be strengthened by Tampa General's expansion plans. "We're an academic medical center," he says, and that already gives opportunities to students pursuing healthcare careers including nursing and physical therapy.

University of Tampa is a major anchor for the area with a rich history. Its 105-acre campus was originally the site for the Tampa Bay Hotel built by railroad magnate Henry B. Plant. The minarets of Plant Hall have long been one of Tampa's most iconic symbols.

In recent years, university officials launched a master plan to address its increasing enrollment and boost its academic and research presence in the community. More than 7,200 students attend the private university. UT's website boasts a $750 million annual economic impact to the city.

New construction includes the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex, Bob Martinez Athletic Center, the 11-story Frank P. Urso Residence Hall on Kennedy, and the Peter J. Schoomaker ROTC and Athletics Building. Also under construction is a seven-story multiuse building that will house classrooms, faculty offices, meeting rooms, the Campus Safety Center and the Sykes College of Business Entrepreneur Center. The business center will be an incubator for student and faculty business ideas but also offer opportunities for collaborations from the community at large.

An investment of about $400 million is being made in the school's expansion, says Dan Gura, VP of development and university relations.

"We do not see an end in sight," he says. "We could easily see the med-ed label applied especially if Tampa General proceeds with its development of the old auto dealership."

More construction dollars will flow into the area and more opportunities for housing and retail will spring up, he says. "It will continue to be a hot spot," Gura adds. "From now on Kennedy will be a major thoroughfare but things will not stop at Kennedy."

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer living in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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Kathy Steele is a freelance writer who lives in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. She previously covered Tampa neighborhoods for more than 15 years as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. She grew up in Georgia but headed north to earn a BA degree from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY. She backpacked through Europe before attending the University of Iowa's Creative Writers' Workshop for two years. She has a journalism degree from Georgia College. She likes writing, history, and movies.