CHANNEL DISTRICT — Once a recession-crippled ghost town with half-vacant mid-rises, the Channel District suddenly was bustling.
Condominiums were full, bars were busy and Precinct Pizza, the local pizza parlor, reported record sales each month — half coming from delivery.
Still, something was missing, at least Jason Carroll thought so.
He moved into the Place at Channelside about a year ago and works blocks away at the Florida Aquarium, so his eyes and ears are tuned to the Channel District around the clock.
"There was no way to communicate to people, no website," Carroll said. "Really there wasn't one place for residents to find out everything that was going on in Channelside. . . . There's a lot of people here. So I took the initiative to try and organize."
He created a Facebook page called "Channelside Residents" and on Dec. 17 posted the first message.
"Just created this page so the residents of Channelside have a place to go to find out what is happening in our neighborhood and to build a better community," Carroll wrote.
He encouraged others to post updates and events, as well.
They did, and slowly they are filling the information void here.
Carroll, 33, moved to the Channel District from Seminole Heights, where he was a member of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association but was never really active.
The Channel District does not have a registered neighborhood association, which spurred Carroll to make a change.
Now business leaders and residents come to him with their neighborhood events and ideas.
"Liked" by 313 people, the Facebook page informs residents of new businesses, events and happenings in their community. Each development on the page's "timeline" also charts the district's evolution into a true neighborhood, small milestone after small milestone.
Carroll told them about the new coffee shop that opened. He reminds residents of the "Flicks and Food Trucks" rally held every third Thursday.
He attended the ground breaking of a $55 million, 356-unit apartment complex and put together a Q&A about it with the developer.
Traffic issues in the neighborhood? He posts about those, too.
"We've seen everything," said Mark Alma, chairman of the city's Channel District Community Advisory Committee and a resident since 2007. "From nothing to watching everything grow."
Alma, a district resident since 2007, said the page has been a needed galvanizing force just as the Channel District continues to expand nearly weekly. He said he's been working with Carroll to add even more information to it.
Carroll said he welcomes any and all news that Channel District business owners and residents want publicized, and he's always looking to get more news to residents by conducting interviews himself.
His Facebook page has become an important enough megaphone of news that the Tampa Downtown Partnership promoted it in one of its weekly newsletters. Also, the operators of Tinatapa's, Splitsville and Stumps Supper Club asked Carroll to publicize their 25 percent discount card to Channel District residents.
Subscribers to Channelside Residents seem to be paying attention.
"I am impressed with your facebook page and all the news/info/feedback as it relates to Channelside!" David B. Moyer wrote on the page's wall. "A lot of new changes in the neighborhood, and seems like ya'll have a finger on the pulse."
Justin George can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3368.