Ybor City Bans Truck Traffic, Eyes A Balanced Future

January 30, 2017

As heavy truck traffic is removed from the streets of Ybor City, efforts to return the area to its place as one of West Florida's most vibrant urban neighborhoods receive a major boost.

An Interview with Courtney Orr and Corine Linebrink of the Ybor City Development Corporation.

Ybor City's history has ebbed and flowed with the construction and presence of Interstate 4. How has the highway shaped the neighborhood in the past and how is it now shaping it's future?  

The Cigar industry began to decline in the 1930’s and 40’s, when the cigarette started to replace the cigars.  In the  early 60’s, the construction of I-4 cut through the heart of Ybor City, further eroding the area’s fabric and economic vitality, and then the federally funded Urban Renewal program demolished 70 acres of older buildings, mainly residential casitas.  


Ybor City has two separate CRA areas. This map depicts the boundaries of each CRA and breaks down Ybor City by areas defined by a cluster of complementary uses.

In the 1960's, 21st and 22nd Streets began to be used as one-way, three-lane truck routes carrying traffic to/from the port from I-4. What kind of effect did this have on the historic building stock in and around Ybor City?

Since the original Interstate-4 was constructed in the early 1960s, 21st and 22nd streets were the main routes to and from the port.  As the Port of Tampa continued to deepen its shipping channel, the Port continued to grow and expand. But growth and prosperity for the Port and the Tampa Bay area also brought more truck traffic through historic Ybor City, which was taking a toll on the adjacent historic buildings and community.  The world renowned Columbia Restaurant was hit on numerous occasions causing extensive damage to the building, as well as the building on the opposite corner of the Columbia on 22nd Street that was damaged due to the heavy volume of truck traffic traveling 21st/22nd  streets.  The City installed protective bollards attempting to prevent the vehicular constant damage to the buildings.

With the construction of the I-4/Selmon Connector Project, truck traffic has a safer and more efficient travel route to and from the Port and to and from Interstate-4.  In addition, with this new parallel facility designated for trucks, truck traffic could now be restricted from traveling through historic Ybor City if the roadway was transferred to the City of Tampa and its state designation removed.

When did the plans first come about to redesign 21st and 22nd Streets?

The Florida Department of Transportation, in partnership with the City of Tampa, fulfilled a commitment made to the Ybor City community over a decade ago as a result of the I-4/Selmon Expressway Connector Project.  As design plans were developed for the Connector, the YCDC envisioned what could become of 21st and 22nd streets as fewer trucks traveled these local roads.  This vision evolved and became incorporated in the Ybor City Vision Plan 2005 and the 2010 plan amendment. The Department of Transportation re-designed 21st and 22nd streets based on community input to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists while providing a more attractive frontage for retail and commercial uses.

The construction of this "Urban Modification" project began in January 2015 and was slated for two years of construction.  The project provides streetscape improvements such as wider sidewalks, trees with grates,  granite curbing, brick crosswalks, historic scored sidewalks, historic lamp posts, litter baskets and benches.  In coordination with the City of Tampa, this project also included the repair of the storm sewer system, replacement of a water main, pedestrian/ADA upgrades for the full length of the project. Bike lanes as well as  on-street parking and the reduction from three to two lanes from 3rd Ave. to Palm Ave. already has attracted private investment with several new development projects planned along the 21st/ 22nd Street Corridor.

Initial truck traffic route circulation changes enacted under the City of Tampa's 2011 truck ordinance. This was later amended in 2016 to include the rerouting of truck traffic around Ybor City in 2016.

The FDOT completed the project late 2016 and once the City’s Truck Ordinance was modified restricting truck traffic to local delivers only, the city accepted the roadways from the Department.  This project is a great example of an opportunity being identified and then the community working with state and city agencies to implement an improvement that provides traffic calming, bike and pedestrian connectivity, reconnection of the east and west sides of the neighborhood to become a safer, friendlier atmosphere for an overall better quality of life.

• Pre-design work/transfer agreement 2011
• Public informational meeting 2012
• Design 2012-2014

Project Team Members:
• Florida Department of Transportation
• City of Tampa
• Wade Trim
• Gibbs and Register

What other infrastructure projects has the CRA undertaken to enhance the residential and commercial fabric of Ybor City?

The $2 million EDA grant for the E. 7th Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project that extended the streetscape into the residential area to the east; gateway improvements; expanded Ybor City Master Signage Plan; pedestrian friendly crosswalk improvements throughout the residential areas, as well as along Palm Avenue; and, neighborhood four-way stop improvements.  A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed in the late 1990’s between the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Florida State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) with concurring parties of the Florida Department of Transportation and the City of Tampa. This Historic Preservation Section 106 MOA stipulates that the FDOT complete historic documentation to relocate up to 64 historic buildings with 35 being rehabilitated by FDOT. Other results of the agreement include the Trust Fund Loan/Grant Program for homes that were impacted by the DOT right-of-way acquisition due to the I-4 and I-275 expansions.  The Department will have saved 64 historic buildings that were relocated within the historic neighborhoods, 35 of which were rehabilitated and all were sold by the City of Tampa with proceeds being placed into the Interstate Trust Fund. To date, over $5 million has been loaned out for historic rehab through this program. Interest from the loan program allowed the city to establish a grant program helping people who qualify with upkeep on their historic property.  As of February, 56 historic buildings will have been saved and moved within the original neighborhoods of the Ybor City National Historic district.


A breakdown of infrastructure improvements which have prioritized that sharing of public space among a cross-section of multi-modal  Improvements to the public realm throughout the neighborhood has helped Ybor City become a more balanced, mixed-use, urban neighborhood

What kind of impact will rerouting truck traffic away from the budding residential and commercial portion of Ybor City have on the neighborhood?

This will create a more pedestrian and bike friendly, walkable Ybor City community and help re-connect the eastern and western neighborhoods, which were divided by the truck route along 21st/22nd  streets previously.  This more inviting roadway is already sparking redevelopment interest along the 21st/22nd  street corridor with even greater potential.  More specifically, the YCDC will encourage development of residential services to neighborhoods such as grocery stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, etc., through its Neighborhood Amenity Grant Program. As a result of limiting trucks to local traffic only, damage to historic structures as well as vehicular accidents will be reduced.

As infrastructure improvements and targeted investments helped reverse the negative affects of industrialization, the groundwork has been laid to redevelop land within Ybor City with complementary uses that will ensure the area's continued economic sustainability as a live/work neighborhood

Are there any specific redevelopment plans you can share that are about to break ground along the newly redesigned thoroughfare? It looks like there are several vacant parcels which could be assembled for some nice commercial and/or mixed use developments.

Along the corridors, there is currently a proposed Italian restaurant by the Gonzmart family for the previously renovated historic Ferlita Macaroni Factory, with more renovations anticipated. The Arturo Fuente Cigar Factory underwent major construction a few years ago and the new Arturo Fuente Warehouse is currently under construction. Façade grant improvements have been approved for Beanues Wine Shop and an existing building  to be converted into a Rum Distillery, also with façade grant assistance.  The Lion’s Eye Institute has proposed plans for a new parking garage along the corridor across the street from their current location.

A breakdown of Ybor City public and private developments within the past decade.

Finally, in your view,  what are some of the most positive changes that have occurred in YC over the last 10-15 years?  

In early 2000, the City contracted the services of the Ybor Environmental Services (YES) Team to maintain the cleanliness of Ybor City, mow rights of ways and pressure-wash sidewalks.  This helped with the attraction of new business and redevelopment in Ybor City’s commercial core as well as help clean up slum and blighted surrounding neighborhoods, encourage renovation and infill residential projects.  When the Florida legislature made changes to state law regarding redevelopment areas, it allowed CRA’s the ability to incorporate and allow funding of programs, not just Capital Improvement Projects.  As a result, in 2003, the City amended  its Ybor City CRA plans to  create and implement such programs as the District Marketing Program, Façade Improvements to historic buildings and Special Event Programs.

The reconstruction of I-4 completed in 2001 provided an attractive entrance/exit for the historic district. Also, there was an expansion of the Ybor City Historic District and Ybor  Community Redevelopment Area 2 to include the residential neighborhoods and remaining historic housing stock.  When the City re-opened  7th Avenue to vehicular traffic to curb the nighttime party atmosphere and crime issues, it implemented several policy programs such as sidewalk cafés; queuing line procedures; crime prevention, community policing and the Business Watch Program; Ordinances restricting Panhandling, Noise, Pamphleteering and vending; Parking and Valet Program; Residential Parking Program; Freight Zone/Taxi Parking program; and, removed 200 parking meters in the district to provide free, on-street two-hour parking.  

The construction of the Centro Ybor Entertainment Complex and renovation of historic buildings,  as well as the city improving two new public parking garages with public restrooms, parks facilities, and the resurrection of the historic streetcar resulted in major impacts to increase development interests in the commercial district and residential infill and new construction.  The Quarters Condominiums also were constructed  and two new hotels were built – Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn.  Lastly and as referenced above, trucks have been restricted from using 21st/22nd ushering in redevelopment opportunities for the next several years.  Ybor City has transformed from  an entertainment “party” district to a balanced mixed-use neighborhood.

Next: A look at improvements to 21st and 22nd Streets

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