St. Petersburg Times Online
Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Northern rural region rapidly became suburbs

The north woodlands quickly gave way to residences and two-fifths of the county's growth.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 3, 2001

The north woodlands quickly gave way to residences and two-fifths of the county's growth.

TAMPA -- Through the first half of the 1990s, the area along the northwest flank of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard was home to thousands of birds and squirrels but not a single person.

By the time the 2000 Census was taken, its population was 2,256 humans -- new arrivals to subdivisions such as West Meadows and Richmond Place.

Pockets of such intense development changed the character of Hillsborough County's far north suburbs during the 1990s and helped generate two-fifths of the county's population growth, as reported in census figures released last week. The area's population grew 45 percent, transforming great swaths of land from rural countryside to suburban subdivision.

New Tampa, where the population grew from 7,000 to nearly 27,000, accounted for more than half the population growth for the city of Tampa.

Westchase lured 6,000 new residents. Cheval and the subdivisions around it accounted for another 7,000.

North of Tampa, the big land tracts still available for wholesale homebuilding are chiefly in New Tampa, said Jim Hosler, research director for the Hillsborough Planning Commission. That suggests the current decade will bring a slowing of growth, if the 1990s didn't already slow things down compared with the Carrollwood boom of the 1980s.

"You've probably seen the most rapid decades of growth in northwest Hillsborough," Hosler said. "It's hard to see the vacant land in the northwest compared to what we had in the '90s."

Growth was most dramatic along Hillsborough's borders with Pasco and Pinellas counties. It was slowest, and in some cases non-existent, in long-established neighborhoods east of North Dale Mabry Highway.

Carrollwood's 10-year growth of 18 percent was slightly slower than Hillsborough County's overall growth of 20 percent and Florida's growth of 24 percent. Neighborhoods around Lake Magdalene lost population slightly.

Generally, the areas that gained the most population also became younger. Across northwest Hillsborough, the number of people older than 18 increased 43 percent, while the number younger increased by 50 percent.

Older neighborhoods in Carrollwood and Northdale recorded increases in the proportions of adults.

Such changes are significant to the Hillsborough County School Board, which not only must build new schools for outlying areas but expects declining enrollments from aging neighborhoods closer to downtown.

Some neighborhoods boom with children at first, then lose enrollment as the children leave home, then regain it as the parents move to retirement homes, selling the old house to a new family, said Jack Davis, the school system's assistant superintendent for operations.

"There's kind of an ebb and flow to the cyclic human growth pattern," Davis said.

North of Tampa, the proportion of white residents dropped in every census tract except south Westchase, where it remained 83 percent. But the census' racial statistics are open to debate because the 2000 Census gave each person a choice of 126 potential combinations of racial and ethnic categories. In 1990, they had five.

The 2000 Census was the first to let people designate themselves as Hispanic, and 16 percent of those north of Tampa did so. Higher concentrations of Hispanics were counted near Upper Tampa Bay and the neighborhoods closest to multiethnic Town 'N Country.

Eight percent of the residents were black, up from 5 percent in 1990. African-Americans made up more than a third of the population in two University North census tracts, but less than 15 percent in any other area north of Tampa. African-Americans still comprised a smaller minority in the suburbs than countywide, where they made up 15 percent of the county's residents overall, up from 13 percent in 1990.

- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or

To learn more

Data and maps with details of the 2000 Census are available at:

United States government:

St. Petersburg Times:

The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission:

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.