Ybor City: Rediscovering its history, building for the future

Construction cranes and hard hat crews are a common sight on and around Seventh Avenue in Ybor City, where a 176-unit boutique hotel is expected to open in 2020. Work is just beginning on a 240-unit apartment complex across from Coppertail Brewing Co., off Adamo Drive at 26th St. An opening date is anticipated in 2021.

Residential growth is spurring new retail, shops, restaurants, and offices. Long perceived as an adults-only entertainment mecca, Ybor is now a hub for new technology companies, creatives, and startups.

To be sure, bars, night clubs, hookah lounges, tattoo parlors, feral chickens and cock-of-the-walk roosters still add to Ybor’s character.
 
But this new Ybor of “live, work, and play” is in many ways a rebirth of the old Ybor, with its walkable street grid, bakeries, millineries, grocery stores, and social clubs.

Lauren and Michael Mincberg are among the entrepreneurs and risk-takers who believe in new life for Ybor.

The couple recently opened the Ybor Beverage Co. at 1925 6th Ave., on the first floor of the headquarters for Sight Real Estate, a company owned by Michael Mincberg.

Sight Real Estate is on the third floor, with additional offices leased on the second floor.

The coffee and wine bar serve java for the morning crew and craft beer and wine for the after-hours crowd. The couple envision Ybor Beverage as a community gathering place where people can meet up before or after work.

“We already have regulars,” says Lauren Mincberg. “That’s a really good feeling.”

Lauren Mincberg is co-owner of Ybor Beverage Co. at 1925 Sixth Ave. in Ybor City.Initially, the Mincbergs thought to create a conference space on the first floor for people working in the building. Then, they had a better idea.

“Why don’t we turn this into something for the people and the community?” Lauren Mincberg says.

The interior design invites people into an airy, breezy space with an open bar and a comfortable sofa and chairs add incentive to settle in and stay for awhile.

Collaborators and investment partners

Local and Floridian companies are partners in the concept including Zeal Coffee Roasters, Dakin Dairy Farms, Natalie’s Juices, La Segunda Bakery, Alessi Bakery, and Coppertail Brewing.

“It gives it a little bit more character and stays true to the neighborhood,” she says. “It was part of the reason we thought the concept would succeed.”

In addition to coffee and pastries in the morning, Ybor Beverage’s menu adds small plates and charcuterie boards for later.

Monthly wine tastings and yoga on the rooftop, with guest instructors, are in store for the future. “We want to rotate (yoga) instructors from all over the place,” Lauren Mincberg says.

The Mincbergs currently are Davis Islands residents but formerly lived in Ybor. Michael Mincberg’s company worked on several bungalow and casita rehabilitations in Ybor.

His company also had a hand in the apartment development across from Coppertail Brewing.

“It’s a special place to us,” Lauren Mincberg says. “Ybor was one of our favorites. It has character and culture that some areas lack. It’s very unique.”

The potential for more growth is evident, the couple say, in the new construction all around, including the boutique hotel, Hotel Haya, which will be part of the Chicago-based Aparium Hotel Group.

The hotel, at 1400 Seventh Ave., represents more local investment with partners including Darryl Shaw, Ybor landowner and owner of the Blue Pearl Veterinary Services; and Ybor City’s Capitano family.

The contractor is another locally based company, EWI Construction.

The design by Alfonso Architects pays homage to the historical genes of the building, which for many years was occupied by Los Novedadas restaurant.

“It’s a great addition to the area and it shows Ybor is growing and expanding,” says Lauren Mincberg.

However, new development within the core of Ybor’s street grid is just part of what will shape Ybor’s future, says Michael Mincberg. “The Adamo corridor is going to be key to economic transition and economic growth there.”

The corridor is a major transit route for daily commuters between Tampa and the Brandon area. It will entice more investments and visitors who will sample Ybor’s shops, restaurants, and its place in Tampa as a place to be 24/7.

“You’ve got work and play here already,” Michael Mincberg says. “The big thing is going to be job growth.”

Meet neighbors Scoop Shop and DRIP

A stroll through Ybor’s streets reveals more shops and restaurants are drawing customers or will be soon.

Chill Bros. Scoop Shop opened in October at 1910 Seventh Ave. Its name is derived from the locally well-known family name of Chillura.

The shop’s operating manager, Jose Chichande, says the owners researched the best ice cream parlors in New York and Los Angeles to find out what customers want.

Maximilian Chillura is an ice cream aficionado, Chichande says. He learned how to make gelato during a stay in Italy, he adds.

“It’s a passion project for Max,” Chichande says. “He loves ice cream.”

The shop makes its own ice cream, using only natural ingredients with no preservatives. It sells more than 20 unique flavors. Some favorites include guava pastel, olive oil topped with salt, and orange dreamsicle.

“Ybor is changing,” says Chichande. “It’s more like a cool place to visit.”

A second Chill Bros. is planned soon for Bay to Bay Boulevard.
 
Next door to the Scoop Shop, DRIP (Do Really Inspiring Projects) promises a “creative place for everyone.” People can paint their own pottery and design a T-shirt. In the future, beer and wine will be offered.

DRIP also will be available for special events, fundraisers for school programs, and holiday parties. A DRIP poetry slam is an open mic competition every second Friday.

Other developments opening or coming soon include:
  • Copper Shaker -- a craft cocktail bar, also serving tapas, at Seventh Avenue and 15th Street;
  • Barterhouse Ybor -- a restaurant, with seafood specialties, and a bar replicating a 1940s Ybor speakeasy, at 1811 N. 15th St.;
  • Tucker/Hall -- national public relations and communications consulting firm is relocating its headquarters in Ybor at 1308 Seventh Ave.;
  • RedStar/RockBar -- a popular Seminole Heights bar opened a second location at 1717 Seventh Ave.; 
  • Metro Inclusive Health (METRO) and CAN Community Health -- a health clinic that will open in the historical German American Club at Nebraska Avenue and Eleventh Avenue. The building is slated for restoration.

For more information, visit these websites and Facebook pages:

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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