TAMPA — Even to some longtime residents, the Terrace Park-University Square area can seem like a place where many people are just passing through.
No surprise there: its boundaries include Interstate 275, Busch Boulevard and Fowler Avenue, and it is crossed by Nebraska Avenue, 22nd Street, McKinley Drive and Linebaugh Avenue.
Those roads, plus the presence of Busch Gardens and, just to the north, the University of South Florida, make for a lot of commuter traffic.
But for more than a year, local officials and residents have worked on a Terrace Park-University Square community plan to address issues from traffic and housing to the area's sense of identity. Last week, it won the formal recognition of the Tampa City Council.
Council member Lisa Montelione got the planning process started in early 2012.
It's unusual for the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission to do a community plan on this scale inside city limits, so Montelione secured Mayor Bob Buckhorn's support for the project.
Planners held a dozen community meetings, polled businesses and recruited USF students to survey neighborhood conditions.
"We got one whole heck of a lot of input," said University Square Civic Association president Jim Wujek, who notes that he's also starting to see more people getting involved in the association. "It's kind of encouraging."
Those efforts identified key issues: crimes like burglary and theft; inadequate street lighting; vacant houses; a lack of playgrounds and library access; inadequate code enforcement; and cycling and pedestrian hazards.
"Instead of throwing their hands up, I think (residents) really rallied and came together," Montelione said.
The resulting plan lays out a variety of strategies, most of which will require the support and collaboration of the city or other government agencies:
• Add streetlights, sidewalks and bike lanes, limit open storage on major corridors and create an "Adopt a Street" program.
• Discourage the intrusion of duplexes in areas of single-family houses, increase code enforcement and seek resources to help rehabilitate houses for older and low-income homeowners.
• Work with police to increase the number of crime watches and to design buildings and places that discourage crime through the use of lighting, surveillance, landscaping and other methods.
• Work with county officials to study the need for a new library in the area, the city to improve parks, expand recycling and reduce flooding and other groups to explore creating mentoring programs for children and community gardens.
• Encourage investment and redevelopment along Busch, Nebraska and other major roads, work with the city on small business initiatives and explore the creation of a community chamber of commerce.
"The area does provide a lot of opportunity for job creation and growth based on the economic engines" that are already there, planning commission cities team leader Tony Garcia told the City Council.
In the long run, the plan is expected to lead to an update of city codes — as is being done in Seminole Heights — to foster the development of better-looking, more walkable neighborhoods.
But that could take years as planners already have similar efforts underway for other areas of Tampa.
"It's got to get in line," Montelione said. Still, she adds, "I have high hopes."