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Two sides to Temple Terrace

TEMPLE TERRACE — Reva Robinson didn't know Temple Terrace had a golf course.

Robinson, a nurse, knows the city has grand plans for the corner of N 56th Street and Bullard Parkway. But will it make a difference in her life, or her neighborhood? That she can't say.

She lives in a small townhome with a small front yard west of N 56th Street, a dividing line between the quaint, picturesque side of Temple Terrace and the newer, more closely quartered neighborhoods. Her front yard has rocks instead of grass. A concrete wall and wrought iron fence keep the criminals out.

After two years living here, Robinson hasn't had a reason to explore the city's eastern half.

"All the stores are on 56th, so I just shop there and come home," she says.

What Robinson hasn't seen are the rolling green lawns, tree-lined streets, paved driveways with golf carts parked in them and classic homes with Mediterranean roofs.

"Temple Terrace is weird like that," said Sonia Hordge, who has lived and worked in Temple Terrace at Shapes Total Fitness for eight years.

"Over by Busch Gardens [west of 56th] is a lot more seedy than over here and by the golf course. ... Going from west to east in Temple Terrace, it looks like a whole different world."

Neighborhoods east of 56th Street are peppered with joggers, bikers, dog walkers and the occasional child walking to the park with an adult.

On the west side, Hordge says, the city looks more like north Tampa and the University area.

In the grand scheme of the city, N 56th Street between East Riverhills Drive and Fletcher Avenue will become an old-time main street where people will shop, eat, bank and exercise.

Downtown redevelopment will give this city a center, and by extension, a sense of community, officials say.

City officials, Ram Realty and Pinnacle Development are on schedule to complete the $14.9-million sale of the redevelopment property by July 1, said City Manager Kim Leinbach.

Council members voted in favor of the final purchase agreement on April 15 and the developer will present a final site plan in May. Groundbreaking could happen as early as fall.

Redevelopment "will bring a focal point and identity to Temple Terrace," Leinbach said. "We will be able to better identify this as a unique community separate from Tampa."

Part of that focus, Leinbach said, is to unify all residents, no matter which side of 56th Street they live on.

"I've heard since I've been working here for the past nine years that residents of the west side feel that they are left out or not significant," Leinbach said. "But that is simply not true. Hopefully, this redevelopment will spur other developments and redevelopments to improve the city as a whole."

For the most part, east and west are very different architecturally. Homes in the east are usually larger with more land surrounding them, and quite a few have views of the golf course — a factor which affects the homes' value.

In 2007, the median price of homes on the west side was $175,000, while less than a mile away in the east the median home price was $270,000, according to Tim Wilmath, director of valuation with the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office.

When it was incorporated in 1921, Temple Terrace Estates was centered on the golf course, bordered by orange groves and only touched 56th Street in one small section at Chicago Avenue.

But as the population boomed from 215 in 1940 to 3,812 in 1960, the city expanded west of 56th Street to accommodate the rapid growth.

In Temple Terrace: The First 50 Years, historian Cleo N. Burney wrote that because the west side was established to handle the overflow, neighborhoods were more densely populated than the original estates.

"When I bought my house, there was a whole field of oranges where the other houses used to be and there were only three homes on this block," said Maurice Pool, who has lived on Bannockburn Avenue on the east side for 51 years.

After the western neighborhoods were built, Pool said he never ventured over to check out the new homes.

"I only drive by there when I'm on my way to some place in Tampa," he said.

"Maybe [after redevelopment] I'll walk my dog down there and have a look around."

Not everyone accepts 56th Street as an absolute line of demarcation.

Temple Terrace police Officer Kristina Parisi said she gets plenty of calls about trouble on the east side, much of it in student apartment complexes.

"They make a lot of noise and they'll have beer kegs sitting out on their porches," said Parisi, who maintains that the crime in Temple Terrace is spread all around.

Yet most communities in Temple Terrace create the small-town feel, and the appearance of safety.

"I can walk to the post office and the grocery store and my bank," said Linda Jenkins, who has run Hilltop Day Care in the western neighborhood for 21 years. "That's what makes Temple Terrace special."

The east side benefits from more home ownership.

On the west side, that has been a challenge; so much so that home­owners argued last year against a rezoning that would have allowed a townhome complex to rent out homes.

As things are, residents of Bella Terrazza townhomes on the west side complain of crime from renters in nearby apartments.

"They stole my patio furniture and tried to take the copper out of my air conditioner," said townhome owner Euriel Bowers. "We realize that this is an up-and-coming area, so there are still going to be some problems."

The planned redevelopment was one of the ideas that sold him the home.

"Once it's finished, I think that the crime will decrease because the home prices will go up," he said.

Others, including Jenkins, are not so sure.

"I don't think Temple Terrace will ever be what the City Council intends for it to be," she said. "It's not a Carrollwood or a New Tampa because ultimately there just isn't enough space."

Two sides to Temple Terrace 04/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 24, 2008 4:31am]
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