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Guest Column

As a district, Ybor City is more historic than entertainment

By Sara Romeo, Guest Columnist
Published June 29, 2007


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Thank you for the story on what is happening in Ybor City. As a longtime property owner and past retail merchant, I can tell you that I also sympathize with the business owners on the block co-existing with these irresponsible clubs.

The signs reflect a type of vigilant behavior that many feel is necessary to bring attention to what many respectful and law-abiding business and property owners feel is the epitome of the problems in Ybor City right now.

After years of wrangling with the city of Tampa and Tampa Police Department and many greedy, self-absorbed owners, some owners feel that there is no other alternative to get the attention of the lawless attitude stemming from a few owners.

This attitude has spilled out into the entire Historic District and is infecting the birthplace of Tampa. Ybor City business owners have not had the support of the decisionmakers since the early '80s when a group of City Council members began to refer to this landmark district as an "entertainment district".

That moniker caught on and stuck with the city of Tampa, police officers, media, the Ybor City Development Corp., and even the Ybor Chamber of Commerce.

Today, even in city ordinance, the reference is made to "entertainment district" rather than historic district. It is the history of Ybor City, not the entertainment, that drew thousands to the area to rebuild and open artsy mom and pop shops. It was where the artists and creative people of Tampa congregated.

It was the greed-driven entertainment venues that drove everything else out, bringing the district almost to a single use - that of bars and clubs, which, currently are feeling a wave of revulsion by others who have tried for many years to protect and preserve this district.

Ybor City is not and never will be an entertainment district. Rather, it has been accorded a prestigious status shared with only a few dozen other cities across our nation.

It is a federally designated Historic Landmark District, chosen for the distinct architecture of the few remaining buildings that have not been demolished or destroyed by thoughtless developers. It is, in terms of our history, the most important part of the city of Tampa, as it was settled earlier than Tampa.

If we fail to protect this district and give our respect to what is left of this area, we destroy the very heritage of our town.

Thanks must be given in part to the hundreds of people who are now moving back to Ybor City. Many housing projects are under way and will ensure the stability of this fragile environment.

However, it is time for the city to step up and do the right thing by enforcing the ordinances established to protect residents and other business owners.

After all these years, the city of Tampa has another opportunity to help the responsible owners, merchants and residents make this a great place to live, a great place to visit and a great place to learn about our history. I hope they will do it right this time.

Sara Romeo is a former state legislator and owns a building on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.

 

What do you think?

Is Ybor City an entertainment district, a historic district or both? Comment below or send your comments to citytimes@sptimes.com.

 

[Last modified June 29, 2007, 10:42:18]


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