Make us your home page

Ruskin leaders look to future on roads, development and mass transit

RUSKIN — When Ruskin leaders envision their community, they see a thriving downtown center, connected by light rail and unified by a cohesive small-town look.

At least a decade away, achieving the vision will take work and ingenuity, especially with the county's tight budget, the leaders said. So they're taking the initiative. The leaders, a mix of politicians and local business people, discussed the items last week at three meetings aimed to help residents shape the future of Ruskin. Following is a recap of their major concerns.

A unified thoroughfare

U.S. 41 is home to a dilapidated historic theater, half-full strip malls and overgrown land. Some locals fear it will one day look like another Hillsborough Avenue.

Ruskin and Apollo Beach residents signed up last week to join a county-led task force that will choose aesthetic requirements for businesses along a 5-mile stretch of the highway. As businesses add value to their property along the road, property owners will have to make improvements.

It's a slow process, said Planning and Growth Management executive planner William Lamboy, but it will help create a cohesive look that reflects what residents want.

Allen Witt, the academic dean for Hillsborough Community College's SouthShore campus, plans to join the committee. He said he'd like to see green spaces and water because one of Ruskin's selling points is eco-tourism.


Because Ruskin is rural, it's eligible for dozens of grants and low-interest loans to kick off redevelopment, provide housing, and set up community centers and services.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted a "visioning day" last week, where it explained the opportunities available to about 30 local leaders.

One plan is already in the works. The Ruskin Community Development Foundation will apply for a grant to study the feasibility of starting a "business incubator." The foundation would update a building in Ruskin and provide things like computers. Then it would rent it to a business that needs help getting started. When it's strong enough to move out, the foundation would bring in a different renter.

Local artist Bruce Marsh expressed interest in the possibility of a community arts center, housed in perhaps the soon-to-be-replaced fire station or the historic theater. He hopes to interest residents in seeking funds and grants for the effort.

Small businesses can directly apply for some of the programs, such as loans for improvements that would add value to a product (like turning tomatoes into tomato paste). The programs are not limited to nonprofits or governments. Foundation president Fred Jacobsen plans to hold more meetings to get the word out so Ruskin residents can apply.

Mass transit

Though mired in a recession, mass transit planners aren't stuck in the present. Their plans are for 2035.

Standing in front of the SouthShore Roundtable last week, a Metropolitan Planning Organization official gave a presentation that showed light rail lines that criss-cross Hillsborough County. One travels toward Ruskin.

It still needs voter approval. Taxes would pay for the program.

Roundtable president Anne Madden said she's a fan of rail systems, but she said she's skeptical.

"I don't think it's going to happen any time soon," she said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

Ruskin leaders look to future on roads, development and mass transit 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay


    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]