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Developers hope palms unify Tampa community

Hundreds of costly trees, many of them palms, planted in the last year add to the lushness of Tampa Palms.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 12, 2001

TAMPA PALMS -- Tampa Palms is living up to its name -- at least half of it. Some of the new tropical trees gracing these neighborhoods hail from California, not Florida.

In the past year, as homes and apartments have gone up in Tampa Palms Area 4, developer Lennar Homes has planted hundreds of trees, many of them palms. There are sabal palms. Washingtonia robustas. And even medjool palms from Southern California, which surround the recently opened Club Tampa Palms.

The graceful trees, standing between 10 and 30 feet tall, line the medians along Tampa Palms Boulevard and the entrances into such neighborhoods as Ashington and Grand Reserve. The trees were planted to attract more home buyers to the area and to add to the aesthetics of the growing neighborhood.

"It gives you a sense of community," said Rob Ahrens, president of Lennar's central and west Florida land division. "Although Tampa Palms is broken up, what you'd like to do is have people consider it one big community."

Many of the trees Lennar has planted are intended to make up for the improper clear-cutting of 1,700 trees for the Ashington Reserve subdivision two years ago. The company has agreed to replant 2,435 throughout New Tampa, including palms, oaks and pines.

Several residents said they are pleased with the increased lushness of Tampa Palms, but would like to see more landscaping in some of the subdivisions, Remington in particular.

"The landscaping is one of the reasons we moved in," said Sydney McDermott, who moved with her husband and two children from Atlanta to Tampa Palms last summer. "It's like home.

"When you drive in, it looks nice, not like a lot of other neighborhoods with no trees."

Joe Erickson, whose family lives in Remington, said homeowners want their neighborhoods to look attractive.

"We like all the landscaping, but it does cost us," he said. Homeowners pay annual dues to the North Palms Homeowners Association, which maintains the neighborhood's common areas.

Even the Area 4 neighbors have noticed the landscaping.

And since Area 4 is part of the greater Tampa Palms development, "You want everything in Tampa Palms to have palms," said Tom Picciano, field superintendent with the Tampa Palms Community Development District.

The taxing authority oversees landscaping in the older sections of Tampa Palms, including about 1,800 palms in Areas 1 and 2. "It looks nice. But it doesn't look as good as us," Picciano said with a laugh.

Lennar, the developer of Area 4, has invested a small fortune in the increased landscaping. The Washingtonias cost between $200 and $300 a piece. The sabals, between $100 and $150 each.

The most pricey trees of all: the Canary Island date palms. Cost? About $5,000 each. These trees, which have a larger trunk than the Washingtonias or sabals, have a pineapple-shaped nut just beneath the fronds. Three Canary Island date palms mark the transition from Tampa Palms Area 2 to Area 4 along Tampa Palms Boulevard.

Others can be found at the subdivision entrances.

Ahrens said he hopes Area 4 becomes notable by the dozen or so Canary Island date palms spread throughout the area. But he worries because the tree is finicky. It blossoms in arid conditions.

A few have even died.

"We're going to try and hopefully use it as a signature tree," Ahrens said. "If they fall off, we'll have to replace them. We'll have to come up with plan B, whatever that would be."

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