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Growing pains: Riverview residents reflect on what has happened to their community

They arrived from all over. Young families came looking for affordable housing and good schools.

Retirees relocated for the warm weather and easy access to Tampa International Airport. They were drawn by the charm of the Alafia River, inexpensive land and job opportunities, thanks in part to the new St. Joseph's Hospital and a blossoming retail and entertainment sector.

CNN Money listed Riverview as one of America's best small cities in 2012. In 2013, NerdWallet.com named Riverview as the third-best location in Florida for job seekers.

Back in 2003, the community thought it would need to accommodate a 50 percent population boost through 2023. But by 2010, it had already grown by nearly 500 percent, from 12,035 people in 2000 to 71,050 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

Riverview is now a traffic-ridden hub overwhelmed even with its seven-lane highway, U.S. 301, running through the middle. School overcrowding has become a major concern and the community has added two new movie theaters, a hospital and two Publix grocery stores. The community is in the heart of SouthShore, which has attracted half of new all construction in the entire Tampa Bay region.

The Tampa Bay Times spoke with residents and community leaders over the past several weeks to get their perspective on how the community has evolved.

My father was the reason we came to Riverview (in 1972). The Big Bend power plant was opening and he was a marine biologist. When we first moved out here it was a lot of farmland and cows. There were maybe two or three houses on the block, but now there's probably 20. I grew up on Lincoln Road, off of Big Bend Road. CNN Money magazine had Riverview in the Top 100 places to live in 2012. That was an ahha! moment for us. From my father's home, you could see nothing but land as far as the eye can see. Now there's a housing development backed up to his property. It's the price of progress.

— Tanya Doran, executive director of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce

It's becoming much more urbanized, or you could say suburbanized. We have developments where there used to be pasture and dairy farms.

We should do some real planning now. We need to recognize automobiles are not sustainable for the Tampa area for the next 50 years. This area has matured. If you have vacancies in a school here and overcrowding there, you have to be able to make adjustments in school boundaries.

— Dr. Earl Lennard, former Hillsborough County schools superintendent

When I moved here it was all cow pastures. I moved here because it was rural. But I don't like it at all now. They built a white fence behind our house and took away our view. I'm ready to go.

Richard Lindsay, who moved to the Rivercrest neighborhood with his wife, Virginia, in 2005 after he retired from a 35-year career at a Detroit steel mill

The growth spurt in the year we have lived here is amazing. There's a lot of traffic in the morning, and I wonder how they're going to address that issue. But we've been here long enough to say we made the right choice.

Gary and Linda Spence, who moved to Riverview from Las Vegas in August 2015. They chose Tampa Bay as their post-retirement home due to the weather and because it offered quick direct flights to visit family in the Northeast.

I was a Realtor when we bought a house out here. My husband and I were just driving around and there was a for sale sign for a big beautiful house right on the river. We walked in the front door and we see right through the house to the river. We both made this sound, like ooh, and we bought it three days later.

There was nothing out here. It was pastures. It was the boonies. I was always ashamed to have friends over. When the recession hit there were something like 14 developments south of 301. Now they're springing up like mushrooms. I hate 301. I hate the traffic. In three years I'll probably move to the St. Pete area. The traffic is better and there's so much to do.

Joan King, who moved to Riverview from Brandon in 1979.

I've seen a lot of changes. There's so much coming to the Riverview area. The biggest thing is we need more schools because there's so many families moving here. The schools and (crowded) streets are major issues. I'd like to see more one-stop gas stations where you're not scared to go to the bathroom.

Pastor Georgia Salmon, of The City Of Restoration church, who has lived in Riverview since about 2009.

Contact Alli Knothe at aknothe@tampabay.com. Follow @KnotheA.

Growing pains: Riverview residents reflect on what has happened to their community 10/06/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2016 4:23pm]
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