Ybor City

 



2000

Ybor City began as a separate, distinct town - and through the years has slowly lost most of its unique identity to that of its larger neighbor Tampa. The city was founded by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and Ignacio Haya to house workers for their cigar factories - which they recently relocated from Key West.

Ybor City was the cigar capital of the world - with almost 150 cigar factories producing a quarter of a billion cigars per year. The city was laid out with the strict latin grid pattern, with avenues running north/south and numbered streets running east/west.

Ybor City's location near a railhead and major port, along with Florida's subtropical humid climate, made it a perfect economic spot with which to produce and export cigars. By 1895, Ybor's population had grown to about 15,000 people. Most of these were immigrants from Cuba, Spain, Italy, and various caribbean and latin countries. This gave Ybor City its unique characteristics, much removed from the "bland" white next door Tampa.

Through the years heading up to World War 2, Ybor merged with Tampa. The cigar factories closed, the work was repetitious and boring, machines could do it. Most of the children of the original immigrants moved away, to West Tampa or jobs and homes in other neighborhoods.

Gradually Ybor City became just another inner city neighborhood, devoid of commerce and prosperity. By 1955, a policy of 'urban renewal' was slated to give Ybor City a new life. Planning was bad, however, and instead of renewing anything the city simply bulldozed. Tampa mayor Dick Greco once called it a policy of "urban removal". Interstate 4's construction split the city, further contributing to its decline.

The area continued its slide into an urban wasteland - Dick Greco stepped in again with Jim Walter in the late 1960s with a bizarre proposal. Put a big wall around Ybor City, building huge bullfighting ring and fill it all up with tourist oriented merchandise and latin themed restaurants.

It is surprising how close this actually came to reality. In 1965 Greco and his supporters got a bill passed legalizing bullfightning in Florida. The hitch was that it had to be "bloodless" bullfighting, where the bull does not get killed at the end as is normally the case. Plans were drawn up for the wall (it was supposed to be a bit like St. Augustine), and vendors were courted to build in the area. A "test" bullfight was held near Brandenton but ended when the bull ran amuk and was shot by police. The idea for a walled city was quickly forgotten.

By 1985, Ybor City was almost completely dead. The area's "hub" building, Centro Ybor, stayed open until that year, when the very last of the old cigar workers quit going there daily to play dominos, most of the other old timers had died.

In 1996 developer Yaromir Steiner purchased the empty Centro Ybor with plans to develop it into a nightlife and entertainment destination - the same company developed Miami's CocoWalk. A revamped $45 million Centro Ybor opened in October 2000. The neighborhood's rise from the ashes had begun as well, restaurants and businesses moved in. The nearby cruise terminal and popularity of the Channelside area also helped.

LIVING IT UP: Ybor City is known largely as party central.

there's been a lot of activity in the neighborhoods south and east of the historic district. Two residential projects, Camden Ybor City apartments and the 16 townhomes in Las Palmas de Ybor, were completed last year. Up next: the Ybor Village Lofts on Fifth Avenue between 19th and 20th streets.

set to break ground on the first phase of the Ybor Village Lofts in early August. All but one of the eight units have been presold. They range from 912 to 1,453 square feet, have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a price tag of $138,000 to $220,000.

OF INTEREST: With Tampa property values soaring and interest rates at historic lows, it's a good time to consider a home equity line of credit to consolidate debt,

With good credit, homeowners can get a home equity line starting at 4.75 percent for up to 100 percent of the value of their homes.

They can use the extra cash to pay off high-interest, non-tax-deductible credit card debt or car loans.

loan payments fluctuate along with the interest rate, but it would take ages for the prime to reach the rate of most credit cards.

Club 609 South beach no its Club 1509 Ybor City

Club Madonna sobe no its Club Flamingo Ybor City see www.yborstrip.com

Club Polyethers sobe no its Club Platforms Ybor City

The Forge south beach no its Bernini Ybor City

Mezzanotte south beach no its La Terrazza Ybor City

Club Cameo Theatre sobe no its Club Masquerade Ybor City

 

Iron grillwork, globed streetlights and brick walkways of Ybor city takes you back to an era when women walk the streets in Spanish dress and ethnic clubs rang out with the sounds of Latin music.

Vicente Martinez Ybor, the city's namesake, established his cigar factory in Tampa after leaving Cuba, from the opening of the factory until the 1930s, Ybor City flourished, and is still recognized as the premier cigar capital in the country.

The cigar-rolling machines and the increasing popularity of cigarettes preceded Ybor City's decline. Today, 100 years of decayed elegance has been restored into antique splendor, Ethnic restaurants, art galleries, antique stores and unique shops line its picturesque walkways.

The cigar factory itself is Ybor Square, a shopping and dining; Ferlita Bakery is the Ybor City State Museum and Park. Currently one of the hottest nightspots on the West Coast of Florida, Ybor City has a variety of clubs that cater to all tastes. 7th Ave, the main stretch, is shutoff for pedestrian use on weekend nights.

The Columbia Restaurant, one of Ybor City's architectural splendors, also offers live flamenco dancing on most nights. In the heart of Tampa Florida, a scant few miles northwest of Downtown, you can find the wonderfully electric, Ybor City. In the past few years, Ybor has contracted something of what I'd like to refer to as a double disorder for cities. Anyone who's been there during the day, and then returned that evening knows exactly what I'm talking about.

By day, Ybor is a bustling place consisting of offices, shops, art galleries, cigar factories, restaurants, and microbreweries. It's filled with workers, shoppers, and refugee business people form Downtown hoping to escape the deli scene in favor of a more flavorful Lunchtime spot.

By night, like the enigmatic transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, Ybor becomes a completely different place. The shops and offices are suddenly abandoned in favor of bars, coffee shops, tattoo parlors, and street-aide hot dog vendors, You can find all manner of what barhoppers, street performers, poets, musicians and even the Armageddon advocates many already,

it was founded by Don Vincente Martinez Ybor, in 1886, as a cigar making district. When the world renowned cigar maker moved his factory to Tampa, Ybor city became it's own quarter with it's own Hispanic influences, and as a result the city took on that particular type of style.

When the ban on Cuban tobacco came around, Ybor City lost its purpose. What was left, however, was the flavor character to the old Cuban Quarter, which remains intact even to the present day.

The turn of the century Spanish villa motif is still prevalent in much of the architecture and landscaping. There are a lot of people comparing the new designs for Ybor to Miami's Coconut Grove. This can be both a good and bad. If they can adhere to the original state of Ybor's design while making the changes, it won't affect anything very drastically. It will just make it look newer. If they try to make it exactly the same, then it will be just that- a carbon copy of what we see in Miami.

There are two pieces of property slated for zoning for something else apartments. Up until now, the only apartments Ybor City had to offer were some scattered second floor residences above stores and bars, never separate complexes dedicated specifically for living. Know this was about to change. Approximately 450 residential units are going to be incorporated into the Centro Ybor project. As of now, there are small shops, selling everything from unique hats, to gargoyles, to antiques.

These shops are scattered in random places in between bars, and galleries and restaurants. The historic Centro Espanol building is to become the new entertainment and retail complex & Centro Ybor; it will boast a huge shopping array, movie theaters. And rumors about a deal in the works with probably one of the most prominent tourist attraction restaurants-The Hard Rock Café.

Tampa as a city could use one. It would fit in perfectly in Downtown or in the newly developing Waterfront District or even in Hyde Park, which seems to be pricey and upscale enough to stand a Hard Rock appetite, where there is a Hard Rock, Bruce, Sly and Arnie are usually not far behind with their next installment of Planet Hollywood.

The decision was made close off Seventh Avenue to vehicles on weekends. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Ybor City's streets pack in anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 people on an average weekend, and that number is steadily climbing. The diversity of bars, is the industry's greatest strength. There is something for everyone.

Las Palmas de Ybor is a new condominium in Ybor City, scheduled for groundbreaking around the first of the year. The Docobo Corp. is building and developing the condo- the location makes the project special. Mostly luxury homes are the $200k to $600k price ranges.

Las Palmas de Ybor is scheduled to welcome its first residents around the middle of 1999. It's targeted at active, young homebuyers who want to take advantage of the nightlife and dining of Ybor City. "It's very youth-oriented". This is the first lifestyle oriented development available in an urban setting in Tampa.

" The new condominium will be at Fourth Avenue and 17th Street, just three blocks from the heart of Ybor City's entertainment district. Even people who don't care about living within walking distance of restaurants, bars, discos ought to find plenty to like about the location. Probably no other new condominiums-with the possible exception of some on Harbour Island-offer such quick and easy access to downtown.

Residents of Las Palmas de Ybor will be able to get downtown in five minutes for less and they'll be able to avoid the most heavily traveled roads. Las Palmas de Ybor is also within five minutes of the Ice Palace and the other Attractions of the burgeoning Channel District. And because of the proximity to interstates 4 and 75, and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, all just a few blocks away, residents will be able to reach Tampa International Airport, the West Shore business district and even the Brandon area within 15 to 20 minutes.

And Because Las Palmas de Ybor is off Ybor City's main drag, residents will be able to enjoy peace and quiet when they want it. Plans for Las Palmas de Ybor call for four buildings, with four units in each building, Prices will start at $82k making the condominium affordable for most first time home buyers. Even single people.

Infact Ybor will cost as little as $520 a month --much less than rent would be for a comparable two-bedroom figure is based on a sales price $520 a month figure is based on a sales price of $82k with a 5 percent down payment and a 30 year mortgage with the interest rate of 7 percent. The figure doesn't include taxes, insurance or condo fees.) Each unit at Las Palmas de Ybor will have two bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a spacious living room and a large eat-in kitchen.

The living rooms open onto a covered porch. Each bedroom has a full bathroom and a walk in closet. Standard features include ceramic tile in the kitchens and the bathrooms. Central air conditioning and heating, a refrigerator, a range and a dishwasher, plus hookups for a washer and a dryer. The exterior and the common areas have been design to compliment the flavor of Ybor City, with historical Victorian, design. Lush landscaping and a decorative security fence.

"This is the next step in the revitalization of Ybor City," The commercial part of the revitalization is already a success," and it's time to get going with the residential part. This will be the first condo in Ybor City, for. For a directory of dining, shopping, nightclubs, event, (e.t.a.) see www.ybor.org

If developers, investors, preservationists and natives have their way, Ybor City will see a return to its residential roots.

The transformation of Ybor into a hub of Tampa's nightlife was a slow one that started in the 1980s, when clubs of the moment would open and close as fast as the flicker of a mirrored ball.

Seventh Avenue gradually began buzzing with bars and restaurants, and the opening of the shops, movie theaters and restaurants of Centro Ybor in 2000 infused the historic district with a steady hum of activity. Even in the middle of a weekday, restaurants bustle with business.

The push is on to develop residential areas. Supporters hope the area will see a turnaround similar to what's happened in Hyde Park, Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights.

Residential development "is an extremely high priority," said Vince Pardo, executive director of the Ybor City Development Corp.

"There's been a lot of development over the past few years of the commercial core. To keep the retail we have and bring in new retail, we need to have a good residential basis around the commercial core."

New construction and renovation of historic houses on the streets south of Seventh Avenue are gradually establishing that basis.

In addition to being able to walk to Ybor and stroll back home on weekend nights, residents can also hang out by the community pool and work out in the fitness center

People have also been buying and restoring historic houses in Ybor, most of which were built between 1900 and 1925.

"Just drive down Fifth Avenue and you see where homes that were pretty much abandoned have now been rehabilitated and people are living in them," says Del Acosta, administrator for Tampa's Architectural Review Commission.

The Florida Department of Transportation is in the process of moving and renovating 38 houses to accommodate the widening of Interstate 4.

"Once all these homes are completed with FDOT there's going to be a significant inventory of completed restored houses online," Acosta says.

The old homes are not particularly cheap, even if they need work. Gone are the days when Florida vernacular homes in the historic district sold for as low as $25,000. Today, even a condemned structure can command $70,000 and those in mere disrepair go for $150,000.

People who bought five to 10 years ago, however, are reaping profits.

Real estate investor Eddie Serralles says he bought a fourplex in Ybor City six years ago for $25,000 and recently sold it for $250,000.

Speculators are scooping up property north and east of the historic district.

"Anything south of I-4, you're paying top, top dollar," says Serralles, who built his real estate, construction and property management business by renovating properties in Tampa Heights.

Serralles recently bought 12 houses in the area north of I-4 and south of Columbus Avenue and paid around $35,000 for each of them.

"These little 1,000-square-foot bungalows are going to sell for $200,000," he predicts.

This fall, the city will consider extending the local historic district four blocks east of 22nd Street to encompass more of the national historic district. That should improve property values in the area, says Ybor real estate agent Fran Costantino.

Though she's a huge booster of Ybor residential development, Costantino admits crime is still an issue. She has renters in homes east of 22nd Street who want out of their leases because their homes have been broken into or they've been mugged.

The city has stepped up police presence in Ybor.

Costantino says when she opened the offices of Costantino and Company on Fourth Avenue east of 22nd Street in 1999, she arrived at work every morning to find the ground strewn with hypodermic needles and prostitutes standing on the corner.

"People thought I was crazy. They said, 'Fran, why are you going back there?' Because I grew up here," she says.

Her office is next to her grandmother's old house and in the same building where her father and grandfather ran a monument business. When she was a little girl, she played in the yard without fear, she says, and she's determined to see a return to that.

In the past three years, her stretch of Fourth Avenue east of 22nd Street has cleaned up significantly, she says.

People living west of 22nd Street say they feel safe, although they do stay watchful.

"I've always been a cautious person," says Smith, who lives in Las Palmas. "I always walk around with pepper spray on my key chain, and I always will."

She said that when she lived in Boca Raton there was a string of muggings and assaults that had the community on edge. She feels no more afraid in Ybor.

Nonetheless, most of the new condominiums will be gated for added security, and the builders are offering financing incentives to encourage buyers.

Although it's only creeping along, most real estate agents and city administrators say that the residential renaissance in Ybor City is inevitable.

"I own three properties down there so I believe in Ybor City," says Stephanie Collore, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker.

"I'm sitting back and waiting to see what happens."

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, is eyeing a site near Tampa's historic Ybor City for a new grocery and department store.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based company is negotiating to buy Tampa International Center, a 565,000-square-foot industrial building at the southeast corner of Adamo Drive and 22nd Street, according to city officials and real estate insiders.

``They are in the process of committing to that site,'' said Mark Huey, the city's economic development director. ``This is another sign of how the market is perceiving the potential of our downtown. ... Wal-Mart is seeing enough potential to make a very significant investment. This would offer a new amenity to the people moving to Ybor City, Channelside and downtown.''

Someone familiar with the negotiations confirmed Thursday that a deal with Wal-Mart is in the works. Wal-Mart officials, on the other hand, said nothing is imminent.

Eric Brewer, Wal-Mart's community affairs manager for Florida, said the company has ``no specific plans at this time to build on Adamo,'' but added that it is ``constantly looking at the best places to serve new customers.''

Tampa International Center is owned by America's Capital Partners, the Miami-based investment group that recently bought 400 North Ashley Plaza, the downtown Tampa office tower well-known for its cylindrical shape.

Michael Lerner, vice president of acquisitions and dispositions for America's Capital Partners, said he couldn't comment on Tampa International Center.

The Tampa Tribune is one of the largest tenants at Tampa International Center, leasing space there for its packaging, distribution and preprint operations. Greg Stewart, the Tribune's production director, said some of his employees recently encountered an engineering crew on the property. The engineers said they were doing survey work for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The closest Wal-Mart is on North Dale Mabry Highway, just north of Interstate 275. The nearest Wal-Mart Supercenter is on Causeway Boulevard in Brandon.

The 33605 ZIP code area, home to Tampa International Center, includes the neighborhoods of Ybor City, Gary and Palmetto Beach, and an industrial area at the Port of Tampa called Hooker's Point. According to the most recent Census data available for the ZIP code, 17,081 people live in the area, and the median family income is $25,482.

But more than 30 condominium developments are either under construction or planned for Ybor City, Channelside and downtown.

``There's no grocery store here,'' said Vince Pardo, president of the Ybor City Development Corp. ``People want a grocery store ... but I'd like to see the design.''

The site is just outside of the Ybor City Historic District, which was expanded two years ago to include the north side of Adamo Drive. Any construction inside the district has to be approved by the Barrio Latino Commission, which has strict guidelines to make sure changes fit the historic character of the neighborhood.

But since the prospective Wal-Mart is across the street from the historic district boundaries, the Barrio commission has no control.

Joe Howden, a Barrio member and Ybor resident, said he generally doesn't like the design of Wal-Mart buildings but he would nonetheless welcome it to the neighborhood.

``The positive is that it would be a good, convenient place to shop,'' Howden said. ``The negative is traffic and the look of it. But I think the positives and negatives probably even out.''

The property is the only available tract in Ybor City large enough for a Wal-Mart store, Pardo said. Several grocery stores, including Publix and Kash n' Karry, have inquired about the southwest corner of Adamo and 21st Street, he said.

Fran Williams, owner of Kimmins Contracting Corp. at Adamo at 15th Street, said Wal-Mart would be a great addition to the industrial corridor. Williams plans condominiums, hotels and office space for his 5-acre site in Ybor City.

Williams and other property owners in the Adamo Drive area want city zoning that will allow for greater heights and density. Ybor's historic district has a special designation that restricts buildings to three stories, or 45 feet high.

``Very little planning has gone into that area,'' Williams said. ``[Wal-Mart] would transcend this area maybe 10, 15 years ahead. It will start change in this whole neighborhood.''

  

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