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Grand Central

Mapping a future together

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2003

CITY TIMES turns a year old today.

I've found the perfect gift: a piece of art.

It's a map that symbolizes our mission.

SOUTH TAMPA is a union of neighborhoods, some interlocked like jigsaw pieces, others neatly delineated. You know some of the big ones: Beach Park, Hyde Park, Palma Ceia.

But how about North Bon Air? Or Courier City?

There are 32 neighborhoods south of Kennedy Boulevard. City Times draws about 20 more into the fold; among them, Tampa Heights and Ybor City.

NOT LONG after we debuted in January 2002, a South Tampa reader left a message. Her voice was filled with warmth and enthusiasm.

"We needed something like this," she said, "to bring us all together."

Others had tried.

Maybe we just tried harder.

WELCOME to an edition celebrating South Tampa's neighborhoods -- their unique and colorful features, but also the strength of their union.

Its centerpiece is a map created by Hyde Park artist Charles Greacen, who (along with cartoonist Bill Jenkins) so often delights us with SoHo Scribbler cartoons.

This week, you'll meet Sue Lyon. She leads the city's most powerful alliance of neighborhoods. You'll hear about people who unite to battle bullets and bulldozers.

IN 2002, as we told your stories, we lived through a few of our own.

Reporter Susan Thurston, tsunami of energy, bought her first house. So did Stefanie Boyar, our Harriet Potter of photographs.

Social columnist Amy Scherzer lost her father, and page designer Gina Bowden-Pierce lost her mother. Ron Matus uprooted his wife and his life to join our staff as a writer.

EDITORIAL assistant Jay Cridlin, who gifted us with stories while manning newsroom telephones in Tampa, earned a full-time reporting job. So did Janet Zink, who freelanced all year for our homes section.

Their work appears in Brandon Times, a sister publication that debuts today in eastern Hillsborough County.

Shannon Breen, who compiles the events calendar, got her first dog, which she named Eleanor Rigby. Olivia Gifford, who assembles the Crime Report, got married.

They're the core of a crew made whole by the talents of others; among them, a dozen or more freelancers who liven our pages with unique voices.

RECENTLY, we gathered at the St. Pete Times Forum to celebrate what had been accomplished in a year.

What was that, exactly?

We married the soul of a hometown weekly to the proud heart of Florida's largest daily newspaper.

You were part of it. You shared your lives with us.

I DON'T NEED a map to find my way home to South Tampa.

But this one serves to remind us that we live in a very special place.

-- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or .

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