Neighborhood Fights FDOT and Wins

March 11, 2015 0 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Riverside's battle for a more thoughtful Fuller Warren Bridge design isn't the first time a neighborhood has clashed with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). During the early 1990s, Tampa's Seminole Heights took on the FDOT and won. Here's a look at the results, 20 years later.

Aerials of Hillsborough Avenue in 1995 and 2015.

Known for its impressive collection of craftsman style bungalows, Seminole Heights is a historic streetcar suburb, three miles north of Downtown Tampa. Similar to Jacksonville's Springfield, the area had an economic downturn in the late 20th century but has experienced a resurgence over the last decade.

During the 1990s, still recovering from the dark days of urban America's 1980s, the neighborhood found itself in a fight for its life. FDOT had plans to widen Hillsborough Avenue through the heart of the neighborhood.

DOT saw the road as part of a six-lane divided highway with turn lanes running from Pinellas to Polk counties. Their $33.5 million plan to widen Hillsborough Avenue only included the cost of a chain-link in the budget. On the other hand, the historic district's residents envisioned a four-lane boulevard with trees, period streetlights, landscaped medians and brick crosswalks. Something had to give.

Putting the entire widening project in jeopardy, with help from the city council and Metropolitan Planning Organization, Seminole Heights residents convinced FDOT to make concessions by embracing their four-lane boulevard concept. In 1995, FDOT reached a compromise with the Tampa City Council, allowing it to move forward with its roadway widening plans. FDOT would build a four-lane boulevard with eight-foot tall brick walls, and the city would maintain them and the surrounding landscaping. In the event of congestion, FDOT would consider expanding the roadway to the six lanes it initially demanded.

20 years later, now featuring mature landscaping, this stretch of Hillsborough Avenue shines above the rest of US 92's path through Hillsborough County and the dire traffic congestion predictions have not materialized. Now the neighborhood has developed into an urban dining destination. In the last few years, many of its buildings have been renovated into an assortment of uses including craft beer bars, coffee shops, vegan/organic cafes and upscale sandwich shops. Many of these businesses, such as Fodder & Shine, Angry Chair Brewing, Jet City Espresso and Cappy's Pizza, line North Florida Avenue. Connecting Seminole Heights with Downtown Tampa, the narrow roadway, along with Highland Avenue is a one-way FDOT roadway that places an emphasis on fast moving automobile travel over transit, bicyclist and pedestrians. As the corridor's commercial district continues to revitalize, Seminole Heights may find itself in the position of having to wheel and deal with FDOT to make improvements to this thoroughfare.

Next Page: Photo Tour of Seminole Heights

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