Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn did right by indulging in some drama this week with his cleanup plan for Sulphur Springs. The central Tampa neighborhood has come to symbolize urban blight, and having the mayor crash a piece of heavy equipment through an abandoned home said as much about the need to transform the area as it did about the mayor's commitment to see it through.
The city announced it would demolish 51 abandoned houses in Sulphur Springs in the next six months. All have been the target of code enforcement actions, and all are uninhabitable. The demolitions will cost $5,500 apiece, and afterward, the city will maintain the lots with the goal of attracting developers to build new, single-family homes.
The abandoned homes are eyesores that drag down entire blocks and attract prostitution, drugs and other criminal activity. Getting rid of them is the first step in changing the image of the neighborhood and attracting new investment. The city will also staff three full-time code enforcement officers for Sulphur Springs.
The city will need to do more to address the chronically poor conditions that stigmatize the area. The installation of new streetlights, which the city and Tampa Electric Co. announced this week, will help. The city needs to continue looking for better housing opportunities, and continue the targeted crime and code enforcement sweeps that have helped to raise living standards in the area. It should also look for ways to enliven the appeal of two major parks that border Sulphur Springs, both of which occupy sweeping banks on the Hillsborough River. Buckhorn, though, is bringing resources and mayoral attention to an area that has suffered from years of neglect. Any turnaround will require sustained action on the mayor's part.