Saturday, June 23, 2018
Home and Garden

Neighborhood Profile: History and charm in Tampa's Palma Ceia


It was almost as if it was out of their control, their move into a neat and tidy bungalow in the South Tampa neighborhood of Palma Ceia.

Katie and Mark Edmiston, who are 30 and 31, grew up in the Tampa Bay area but on the outskirts — she in Lutz, he in Plant City. They both went to the University of South Florida. She studied marketing; he, finance.

Then he got transferred to Charlotte, N.C., and the young couple had their first taste of urban living. And they liked it. They like being close to all a city has to offer. So when he got transferred back less than two years later, they skipped the suburban lifestyle they had known and looked for someplace near Tampa, where they both work.

Palma Ceia.

The community of about 1,500 households is on land shaped like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle between Dale Mabry Highway and the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway. The Edmistons fell in love with the charm of its narrow streets, many of them brick, lined with all sorts of homes, including 1920s bungalows like the one they ended up buying. It's reminiscent of St. Petersburg's Old Northeast neighborhoods — except the homes have driveways.

The name itself — Palma Ceia — sounds peaceful, beautiful, poetic even. It makes you wonder what it means in Spanish — like boca ciega means blind mouth and largo means long. But it doesn't mean anything. The name was made up, according to historians, by the developer Tom Palmer, who wanted an exotic-sounding name for the neighborhood. So he modified his last name and then added "ceia," which is not a Spanish word but is close to cielo, which means heaven. Many streets are named after those in Havana.

All just part of the charm the Edmistons love. They know everyone on their block, many residents are their age, and Katie is president of the Palma Ceia Neighborhood Association, a position she accepted to help improve the communication between the community and the city.

What's on her wish list for the neighborhood she loves?

To make it more inviting, to fix not only the streets but the landscaping and streetlights too.

"Like Dunedin," Mark said. "It feels so welcoming when you go into it."

They are also on a mission to save the historic homes that are being bought with cash by developers who tear them down and build huge new houses in their place. That puts homes in the quiet yet vibrant community out of reach of other young couples who could afford to buy and fix up those bungalows just like they did. So Katie makes sure neighbors are aware of all variance requests, which are denied only if neighbors oppose them.

The good news is that a drive around the neighborhood finds there are not really a lot of homes for sale. People who live there have set down roots.

There will be no tearing down of their houses.

Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8746.