The Sunshine City's burgeoning arts community was bustling Saturday evening as hundreds gathered for a block party celebrating the revival of the 600 block of Central Avenue.
About 40 new businesses are housed in the new art village along the north side of the block, which had been vacant since 2006. It includes the Crislip Arcade, which was built in 1926. The event, which ran from 6 to 11 p.m., featured art, music and a fashion show.
The renaissance on the north side of Central could portend good things for the south side, which includes the Daddy Kool music store. Consider the possibilities. The block is a few good restaurants and bars short of a scaled-down version of Lincoln Road in South Beach, but that would require street closures. Shhhhhh. Or perhaps Ybor City — you remember — the version of the entertainment district that existed before the artists were forced (priced) out.
"The best thing (about Saturday) was the vibe. Everyone was having a good time," said Phillip Clark, co-owner of BlueLucy Creative Services at 653 Central, which opened Feb. 1.
"What was really cool was that the people represented a full spectrum of the art scene — from the old to the young — art lovers of all kinds."
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The good vibes along Central Avenue don't permeate the sandy shores across the Tampa Bay area.
Environmental groups, park officials and shop owners are cautiously optimistic about the oil debacle in the Gulf of Mexico.
Some groups are taking a proactive approach to the gushing crude from the BP oil rig explosion.
Tampa Bay Watch at 3000 Pinellas Bayway S on Tierra Verde is seeking volunteers in case oil comes ashore.
Volunteers will get "hazwoper training," which is hazardous material certification for anyone coming in contact with oil from the spill, according to Peter Clark, director of Tampa Bay Watch.
The agency is also conducting training sessions today and Thursday. The Cockroach Bay "prepositioning training" includes classroom and field work for positioning more than 6,000 feet of boom.
But the possibility of a cleanup isn't the only concern. Seafood shops are fielding calls from customers worried about how the oil spill will affect both product and prices.
"Right now we are seeing no effect whatsoever," said Darryl Wheatley, manager of I.C. Sharks at 13040 Gandy Blvd. in St. Petersburg. "With the oil spill concentrated in Louisiana and heading to Texas, we're okay for now.
"Our shrimp comes from the Caribbean, while shrimpers in Louisiana supply markets throughout the Southeast," he said. "If their supply dries up, that will put more demand from the lower part of the gulf. That void will have to be filled by somebody."
While some shop owners are worried, others say they don't think the oil spill will affect the bay area.
"I've had a couple of my customers — distributors — ask what the situation is," said Bill Houghton, one of the owners of Madeira Beach Seafood Co. at 555 1/2 150th Ave. "Right now the main product being affected by the oil spill is Louisiana oysters."
Houghton said he expects a price increase for oysters from Apalachicola and Texas.
"People don't realize how large the Gulf of Mexico is," he said. "We're (Tampa Bay area) like a puddle in a very big pond. I don't believe our area will be affected by it."
We can only hope that Houghton is right.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or at [email protected]