Seminole Heights evolves

New apartments; new faces; new homes. Compared to 15 years prior, the area looks almost unrecognizable.
Gentrification, the Oxford dictionary says, is “the process of renovating and improving a house or district so that it conforms to middle-class taste,” primarily impacts large urban areas such as New York City, Los Angeles or even Tampa. To see this global phenomenon in action, one need not look further than Hillsborough High’s own backyard, Seminole Heights.
As one of the fastest growing areas in Tampa Bay, Seminole Heights has seen dozens of new developments in the last decade. Florida Avenue exemplifies the most, as restaurants like Rooster and the Till and other foodie-havens have popped up along the street in recent years.
Senior Isa Roman, a life-long Seminole Heights resident, has witnessed the growth of the neighborhood over the past several years. “The actual social climate of the neighborhood is really different and of course the [new] restaurants and how nice the houses are now, they’re the same architecture but they’ve just been redone or touched up to be stronger, prettier.”

Changing demographics

With the additions of new developments such as restaurants and apartments, many new neighbors are moving into the area. “The last probably like seven years or so I feel like they’ve been making a lot of changes towards the river front or on Florida and a lot of people that aren’t from Tampa or are from south Tampa are moving over here and a lot of things are changing,” senior and Seminole Heights resident Nick Suarez said.
Distance is not the only factor for the migrants; family status is too. “There’s new money coming in due to a lot of younger people who are starting families or people who have already established families who are moving in after the fact,” Roman said.
The effects of the influx of money, however, are mainly felt by wealthier residents. “For people that are middle or upper class, I feel that it is beneficial for them just because they have a lot more attractions and a lot of revenue is coming into the area,” Suarez said.
Roman has also perceived a change in the district’s safety. “It’s been really interesting to see this go from a place where when I was really young my parents weren’t comfortable with me going out and riding my bike by myself, to it being a place where you see people out walking their dogs all the time and kids riding their bikes,” Roman said.
However, as new developments are being created in the area, prices have risen.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Fast-rising prices have pushed home ownership beyond reach of many who’d like to live in the Heights.” Through its economic and social development of an area, gentrification can displace lower-income residents. “My mom works with a lot of lower income clients who barely have enough money to pay rent, and they’re getting pushed out of the area because the prices of the houses in the area increasing,” senior Nick Suarez said.

Cost of living increase

According to Zillow, the median-sale price of homes in Seminole Heights in July was $211,000. In July 2013, it was $78,500. The value of many residents’ homes has drastically increased in the last few years. “We’ve received an incredible amount of offers to take our homes for more money than what we paid for and more money than what it would take to fix everything,” Roman said.
Roman said the new migrants are changing the cultural history of the district. “I think that a lot of the people who take up these homes and these fixer-uppers or empty lots don’t realize the history of these places,” Roman said. “A lot of the history is being appreciated for the aesthetic and cult-popularity elements of it, but not necessarily what occurred and what it means to people.”
For some students, the impacts of gentrification in the area are more harmful than beneficial. “It’s great to have things be so nice and it’s great to see it be such a friendly, welcoming place, but at the same time it’s pushing out a lot of the people who made it into what it is,” Roman said. Suarez believes that the issue is a matter of wealth. “I think it’s a better area for people who have money, but not for people who don’t.”