Boating ties belie roots of shore life
Affluent homeowners and community leaders drop anchor in Bahama Shores, begun by a yacht owners group.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 1, 2001
[Times photo: Bill Serne]
A Cuban laurel tree spreads its roots near the neighborhood entrance at 6230 Third St. S. Many initials and carvings are on the limbs. Tommy Todd, owner of Tommy Todd Lawn and Landscape, says the tree is the signature of Bahamas Shores.
Just mention the mammoth Cuban laurel tree standing sentinel in the front yard of 6230 Third St. S, and Tommy Todd is enraptured.
"That was my tree when I grew up," said Todd, owner of Tommy Todd Lawn and Landscape. "We lived right across the street. That tree is the signature of Bahamas Shores."
Todd has lived in St. Petersburg's Bahama Shores neighborhood, which boasts waterfront views, all his life.
He continues unabashedly: "I've only lived here for 50 years. I was born and raised in this neighborhood. Basically, it is a very unique community down here in south St. Pete. We're only 10 minutes from downtown and from the interstate system. We're a very accessible neighborhood. You won't get me on the Northside. . . . We get a lot of value for our homes."
Bahama Shores is at the south end of St. Petersburg, tucked away between 56th Avenue S and Bahama Shores Drive and Fourth Street S to Tampa Bay. A community of large homes that hug the waterfront and wide, tree-lined streets, the neighborhood recently has been sprucing up its Fourth Street corridor by planting an abundance of royal palms, crepe myrtles and low-maintenance ornamental shrubs.
The neighborhood is home to local figures such as former council member Larry Williams and former Eckerd College President Peter Armacost.
The community got its start as a yacht club homeowners association, Todd said, adding that the club was situated where Westminster Shores, a retirement community, now stands. Westminster Shores, which is at Bahama Shores' northern edge, is best known among locals for its starring role in the movie Cocoon. At the time of its film debut, the community was called Sunny Shores Villas.
Compared with Todd, a former president of the Bahama Shores Homeowners Association, Ryan and Debbie Cox are relative newcomers to the neighborhood.
"We've lived here for 16 years. We were looking for a home in south St. Petersburg, and my wife grew up near here and we found the house. The neighborhood was a bonus," Ryan Cox said.
"There's a wide range of housing options, all the way from on the water to $100,000 homes. There are babies, grade-school children and young professionals and retired people, a nice cross section of people. We like the community here."
Bahama Shores has a close relationship with neighboring Pinellas Point, home to the city's signature pink streets. The two neighborhoods, which have some measure of affluence in common, a few years ago united to oppose a moderate income housing project that had been proposed for the area.
"Bahama Shores has always been a good neighbor to Pinellas Point," Brent Fisher, president of the Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association, said recently.
South of Bahama Shores, Pinellas Point also has a waterfront boundary.
Waterfront homes on Bahama Shores Drive face Tampa Bay. Besides large houses and well-known community figures, the area is home to Westminster Shores, which had a starring role in Cocoon when the area was known as Sunny Shores Villas.
"I think the Pinellas Point area is the best area of town," Fisher said. "We have the best waterfront. We have the most mature trees, the best parks and space and the residents are fantastic. It's racially and culturally diverse. The excellent thing about Pinellas Point is that we have always been able to live and work together."
Not everyone gets a sense of community from a neighborhood, however.
"Community for me is my church community," said Bill Carpenter, a gay and lesbian activist who moved to St. Petersburg four and a half years ago and settled in Pinellas Point.
"Probably for me, the biggest community is the gay and lesbian community, and that is not a physical place as much as it is a community of people who are working together," Carpenter said.
Others, though, like Todd, an old-timer whose St. Petersburg roots are as solid as the massive Cuban laurel in Bahama Shores, find that sense of community right where they live.
Communities of St. Petersburg