SOUTHEAST SEMINOLE HEIGHTS

 

an area once famed for it's blight. The area was first developed in the 1920s, the third suburb in Tampa after Tampa Heights and Hyde Park - but went downhill in the 60s due to the construction of I-275 and the standard inner city blight reasons. The area is located just west of 275 between MLK and Hillsborough, and gladly will soon take it's place among Tampa's rejuvenated neighborhoods. Just another sign of urban progress.

SOUTHEAST SEMINOLE HEIGHTS - When Stan Lasater and Louie Olivarez bought their 1921 bungalow nine years ago, they weren't convinced their investment was a sound one. The floor had holes, the ceiling was crumbling and central air conditioning wasn't included.

``When we looked at the house we found a dead rat on the porch,'' Lasater said. ``My friends kept saying there was no way you can turn this around.''

But thousands of renovation dollars later, the once-modest house on New Orleans Avenue that they bought for $61,000 has been appraised at nearly $400,000.

``My friends are all jealous now,'' Lasater said. ``Now I wish we would have bought more houses in the neighborhood.''

Lasater and Olivarez's story isn't uncommon in Southeast Seminole Heights, where property values have soared in recent years. To celebrate the neighborhood's rejuvenation, the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association is sponsoring its first home and garden tour from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Nine houses, including Lasater and Olivarez's, and several backyard gardens will be featured. Historic Seminole Heights Baptist Church also will be open for tours.

Tickets cost $10 and will be sold at the church, at Hillsborough and Nebraska avenues. Children 12 and younger will be admitted free.

Ten percent of the ticket sales will benefit the Joshua House, a refuge for abused, abandoned and neglected children.

Crafts and food vendors will set up on a lot next to the church. The church will conduct free youth choir concerts at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Southeast Seminole Heights - bordered by Hillsborough on the north, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south, Interstate 275 on the east and 15th Street on the west - was developed in the 1920s as one of Tampa's first middle-class suburbs.

The neighborhood began to decline in the 1960s with the addition of new suburbs and construction of Interstate 275.

However, in the past few years an influx of new residents, many of them young professionals, have lead to a renaissance for the neighborhood.

The community's success was acknowledged last year by the nonprofit group Neighborhoods USA, which named it national neighborhood of the year.

``We've definitely come 180 degrees,'' said Beverly Morrow, president of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. ``It's a changing community, and it's not finished.''

Tour organizers plan to make it an annual event.

As a prelude to the tour, the civic association is sponsoring a holiday concert at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Rivercrest Park gazebo, Osborne Avenue and River Boulevard. Featured will be the Sunshine Brass Band and several school and church choirs.

``We're a very proactive community,'' Morrow said. ``And we'll continue to be so.''

 

 

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