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How to spoil Hyde Park

The proposal for a 24-story condominium tower on a south Tampa street barely seven yards wide raises a fundamental question for the city: How many people should you cram into Hyde Park? The neighborhood has become a parking lot, the historic district bloated in almost every direction with new condos, apartments and townhomes.

The city needs to address a problem that is eroding the appeal of one of Tampa's prettiest neighborhoods. Hyde Park is popular for its housing stock of restored bungalows and its history of accommodating both single and multifamily residences. There has long been a commercial presence in Hyde Park _ bars, restaurants and shops _ that fed off the apartment populations while adding to the convenience of homeowners. The accommodation worked because there was balance between businesses and residences, and between apartments and homes.

The condo tower proposed for Bayshore Boulevard at DeSoto Avenue exemplifies how quickly Hyde Park is moving in the opposite direction. The issue is not this single project _ which already has been bumped down from 30-something stories, in a bid to appease the neighborhood _ but rather the collective impact all new developments have had on the density of Hyde Park. An area that long was known as pedestrian-friendly is now a crush of bumper-to-bumper traffic and mismatched commercial development.

The mayor and City Council should step back and think about what they want in Hyde Park's future. The congestion along Howard Avenue, south of Swann, will surely creep north to Platt and then east in the next couple of years.

Maybe the city needs to throw out its land development code and start over _ not only in Hyde Park, but in other areas, too. It at least needs a broader vision from which to guide development decisions. What the city decides for the corner of Bayshore and DeSoto will be felt on Howard, Hills, Dekle and Swann, on Platt and Rome and many smaller streets that snake through the historic district. The quality of life in Hyde Park is worth protecting, and the city should open a discussion on that goal before the obstacles rise any higher.