A new Boston-based owner is hoping to bring one of Tampa’s oldest and trendiest shopping areas back to life.
The scene is Hyde Park Village, where one of the greatest things it has to do is what it isn’t: a mall.
It is a relatively peaceful location for commercial development, about six blocks tucked away in an increasingly affluent residential and designated historic district, where people can stroll among the shops and restaurants and often find something thing they didn’t know.
It has been that way for at least three decades, through periods of boom and bust.
And while Hyde Park Village has never sank to the level of distress that plagues downtown Tampa’s Channelside Bay Plaza, for example, “It has certainly had its ups and downs,” says Ed Turanchik, a lawyer for Tampa representing the new owners, WS Development.
For fans of the Village of South Tampa, the good news is that WS Development says it has no plans to change the essential character of the place. It’s going to remain an open-air, walkable, pedestrianized dining and shopping arcade, a place that has grown organically over decades rather than being built from the ground up like many new commercial developments.
Turanchik calls this character unique and says he even served as a model for the design of the Celebration community’s Disney World near Orlando.
Tim Alexander of WS Development says the company is committed to preserving character.
âWe recognize the uniqueness of the village, both the business attributes and also the way it blends into the neighborhood,â he says. âOur goal is to reestablish and revitalize this connection. “
The construction the company is undertaking to achieve this goal has caused problems for traders and customers this summer – dust, traffic jams and scaffolding in storefronts – and this is expected to continue for several months. But the results, the company promises, will be worth it.
And by the way: the shade that was lost during tree removal will return with new trees, the company promises.
The village is expected to become even more pedestrian-friendly as sidewalks are widened, streets narrow to slow traffic, and on-street parking is added in some places.
The brick facades are whitewashed and industrial-looking black steel canopies are added, although this cannot be done on historic buildings.
Further festivals and outdoor sales are planned. New restaurants and stores are being recruited as tenants, and owners are targeting a mix of local, regional and national retailers and various types of restaurants.
âIt’s very important for us to organize a mix of different types of stores and restaurants, and it’s extremely important to have local tenants and businesses mixed with nationals,â Alexander said.
The company has gone out of its way to recruit the particular types of businesses it wants, according to some owners.
âThey like to work with small businesses,â says Gayle Zerr, owner of Florist Fire, which opened in May. âThey really wanted a flower shop, and we clearly can’t afford what West Elm or Pottery Barn can, so they’re working with us.â
Create synergy in numbers
John Cooper of the new restaurant On Swann says he’s not worried about being located near other restaurants because their nature is more complementary than competitive.
One of the victims of the construction was a popular spot in the village, the patio of the Timpano restaurant. He will return when construction is complete, says Gabby Soriano, local marketing and public relations representative for the owners.
Another is the shadow, including that of Timpano. Many trees lining Swann and Dakota avenues have been removed, prompting complaints.
It was necessary, says Alexander, because the roots have been cracking the sidewalks for years. Trees were dying and uneven sidewalks created hazards for pedestrians and potential obstacles for people with disabilities.
The company replaces them on what Alexander says is at or near a one-to-one ratio, and it starts with new trees that are quite tall, with trunks of 8 to 10 inches.
To prevent pavement cracking, it uses a relatively new system called Silva Cells, marketed by a San Francisco company called DeepRoot Green Infrastructure.
According to the company’s website, the system suspends the pavement on a rigid frame of cells filled with soil, allowing the roots to extend horizontally below. The company says it allows urban trees to grow without breaking the pavement.
It is also about raising the level of certain streets to control flooding.
Alexander says tree preservation was one of the main concerns of the neighborhood groups WS Development met before starting its renovation.
âIt resonated loud and clear,â he says. âWe were also very attached to maintaining the canopy of the trees. “
The trees in the village square and the fountain won’t have to be replaced, says Soriano.
What’s next for Hyde Park Village? New building
The current construction phase is expected to be completed by November, but another phase will begin almost immediately – the renovation of the facades of the buildings around the village square, and the demolition and replacement of a currently vacant building known as from “H Block” on the east side of Snow Avenue at the south end of the village. A two-story building, about the height of the adjacent parking lot, will replace it, Alexander says.
The company does not say how much it is spending on construction.
There are a few residences in the buildings of Hyde Park Village, but the company does not own them and has no plans to add residential development, Alexander said.
The surrounding Hyde Park neighborhood is one of Tampa’s oldest residential neighborhoods, settled by Europeans since the 1700s, according to Tampa historian Rodney Kite-Powell.
One of the city’s earliest subdivisions, it was named in 1886 by Obadiah H. Platt for his hometown of Hyde Park, IL.
But it took the construction of the Henry Plant Hotel in Tampa Bay, now part of the University of Tampa, from 1888, to make it a real neighborhood. To help attract the hotel, the city agreed to build a bridge over the Hillsborough River on what is now Kennedy Boulevard.
The building housing the Wine Exchange dates from 1905 and the village was an established commercial area in the 1920s. But it first became a unified and planned development after a controversial rezoning in 1985, says Turanchik.
What followed was the heyday of Hyde Park Village, as South Tampa residents, some of whom had opposed the zoning change, decided they liked the results.
It was anchored by the upscale Jacobson department store on Swann and Dakota avenues, and included some of the city’s hippest restaurants, including the popular Cactus Club and upscale Selena’s watering hole.
âIt was the gathering place, the new hip place,â says Turanchik.
But Jacobson’s went bankrupt in 2002 – the opening of the International Plaza in 2001 hastened its demise – and Hyde Park Village entered a period of ups and downs.
In the early 2010s, On Swann’s Cooper says, it began to fall prey to deferred maintenance.
In 2013, the previous owners, Vornado Realty Trust, seemed unsure of what to do with it, says Turanchik. The main portfolio of the company consisted of linear shopping centers; he planned to demolish the southern part of the village and build condos.
Another new tenant, Andrew Smith of the Salt Pines lifestyle store, said the previous owners “let it go into disrepair, don’t invest a lot of money in it, don’t actively pursue tenants.”
WS Development bought it in 2013 for $ 45 million. Many new stores have appeared and more and more, and âtrendyâ and âtrendyâ seem to be the watchwords.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn greeted the new owner and specifically asked them to bring in Vinyard Vines, a preppy men’s clothing retailer. He loves their ties.
The Vinyard Vines store opened in August, with a reincarnation of Goody Goody, a casual burger restaurant that has drawn Tampa kids for decades to Florida Avenue near downtown, and SuitSupply, a men’s store in fashion with European influence.
New to the square is London Philips, a local ‘men’s shop’ where upscale men can sip local craft beer and artisan bourbon or have their hair cut while shopping.
Bartaco, a kind of tribute to the Cactus Club that is fondly remembered, opened in 2015 alongside the relocated Wine Exchange, the oldest operating company in the village.
Another new addition is Sprinkles, a cupcake shop that will soon be installing the innovation it’s best known for, an ATM-style cupcake vending machine for those with sudden or after-hours cupcake cravings. Red velvet will still be available.
Cooper’s On Swann is proud of its charcuterie boards, a menu to share, a bar with cool and innovative drink recipes and chef Chris Ponte, who has developed a following at Clearwater’s CafÃ© Ponte.
The Village also uses a concept of merchandising called pop-up stores, temporary locations for stores that are not intended, in some cases, to be permanent.
Currently open pop-ups include Dark Cycle, which sells cycling clothing, and ivivva, a girls’ sportswear brand.
Dark Cycle’s Coryn Enfinger says the temporary store is meant to boost local visibility for the online business she and her husband started seven years ago.
The village just wrapped up its annual fall festival, complete with face painting and pumpkin decorations. Look for holiday tree lighting on November 19.
âWe want to bring it back to life, to make it a place where the community can come together,â explains Soriano.