Mitch Perry 4.23.14: Oh thank heaven? 7-Eleven comes to Ybor City

Posted by Mitch Perry on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:45 AM

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There are lots of areas in Tampa where redevelopment is on the rise, North Hyde Park being one. But one area that remains problematic is Ybor City, where I happen to live and work.

The historic district has struggled in recent years. That's not a big newsflash. So what should one make of the fact that one of the biggest chain convenience stores in the nation, 7-Eleven, is moving into the 'hood? The news (via Richard Mullins in the Tribune) is that the corporation plans to renovate the long-vacant La Ultramar Jewelers building across from Centro Ybor at the corner of 15th & Seventh Avenue. The Ultramar building has been vacant for a very long time, as have too many prime locations along the main strip in Ybor.

One recent addition to the vacant storefronts: Laughing Cat, an Italian restaurant and longtime tenant in the area, closed up shop at its location at E. 8th Ave & N. 15th Street. It moved there from across 15th in the fall of 2011, because it had grown too popular at that location. But the move into the historic El Encanto building didn't work out; with double the square footage,  the restaurant saw many more empty tables. 

So it's a good thing when somebody, whether single entrepreneur or corporation, wants to make use of a space that's not generating any property taxes, right? 

I think most of the folks in the Ybor business community would say yes. For example, last year the area got a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar, which I grew fond of as a place to watch San Francisco Giants baseball games. I'm grateful it's there, but the feeling couldn't be more corporate. I mean, Buffalo Wild Wings is sort of like McDonalds — when you're from out of town you know you're going to get a certain experience there, which can be comforting. But when you're inside, you could be in Topeka, and totally forget you're in a classic part of Florida.

So what do places like this do to the character of Ybor? Yes, there are still many, many establishments owned by locals who care about the area, and new ones still coming in. So I'm not about to piss on a 7-Eleven coming into the area. But still, am I wrong to think there's something slightly off about it?

In other news… it's been an interesting development in recent years to see major corporations like Chase and now PNC Bank take their annual shareholders meetings out of the Northeast and into Tampa. Although these establishments won't admit it, it seems like an attempt to reduce the number of angry shareholders who might have a beef with those institutions' polices or management. Yesterday a Quaker group consisting of mostly locals demonstrated at PNC's shareholder meeting in Westshore...... A new poll says that Floridians don't like the minimum fares requested for limousines in Tampa, Orlando and Miami, three of the cities in which the car sharing service Uber would like to do business. (Actually they are already in Tampa, but that's a different story.)

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