Bricking Ybor’s Seventh Avenue to restore historic look could cost $12 million

The historic district’s leaders want to brick a mile stretch of the main thoroughfare so that it looks as it once did.
The City of Tampa government is considering paving Seventh  Ave. in Ybor City with bricks.
The City of Tampa government is considering paving Seventh Ave. in Ybor City with bricks. [ Times (2019) ]
Published April 28, 2023|Updated April 30, 2023

TAMPA — There are 41 miles of brick streets within the city of Tampa. A mile will be added if Ybor City leaders have their way.

On Tuesday, the Ybor City Community Advisory Committee, which operates under the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, voted to begin the process of turning Seventh Avenue — from Nick Nuccio Parkway to 26th Street — back into a brick thoroughfare.

To kickstart the yearslong, multimillion-dollar project, they agreed to allocate $1.2 million of the historic district’s Tax Increment Finance funds.

That request will be approved or denied in August along with all the city’s other budget items.

“It could be a traffic calming measure,” said Courtney Orr, manager of the Ybor City Development Corporation, which is the city’s division for the revitalization and general improvement of the district. “But it’s more because it’s a historic street.”

Seventh Avenue was paved through the 1960s with red clay bricks, which were removed when the city embraced asphalt.

Rebricking would add to the district’s historic look. Other roads in Ybor, such as Fourth Avenue, are already brick.

The full mile could be bricked by the end of 2026 but more money is needed, possibly nearly $11 million, and the city needs to decide what type of bricks to use.

Options provided by an engineering consulting firm were:

• Authentic historic street bricks would cost $12 million.

• New bricks that replicate the historic look would cost $11.2 million.

• More modern looking bricks inscribed with an Ybor symbol of some sort would cost $10.3 million.

Another possibility is to use bricks at just the intersections and crosswalks. That would cost between $1.3 million and $4.3 million.

Once an option is chosen, Orr said, they could wait until all the funds have been raised or brick Seventh Avenue piece by piece as the money is allocated. Besides money from future budgets, there are state and federal grants earmarked for historic preservation.

Bricks from several manufacturers once lined nearly all Tampa’s streets, but Augusta block made by the now-defunct Georgia Vitrified Brick & Clay Company was the most widely used. According to the Augusta Museum of History, the company provided bricks for 730 Tampa streets through the early 1900s.

Using only authentic historic bricks would provide an immediate speed bump.

That stretch of Seventh Avenue requires 170,000 square feet of bricks. But the city only has 32,000 square feet of historic bricks stockpiled, and those are primarily for maintenance of the existing roads. So, to find enough for Ybor, the city would need to scour the country for available historic bricks.

Street bricks can’t come from old buildings, either. Those aren’t dense enough to withstand vehicular traffic.

Around 25 years ago, the city sold 130,000 bricks at 30 cents apiece to Winter Park, according to Tampa Bay Times archives. Each brick was worth as much as $4. As many as 500,000 would have been sold if concerned city council members hadn’t stopped it.

At the early April meeting, City Council member Guido Maniscalco bemoaned the decades-old decision to remove the original bricks from Seventh Avenue.

“I wish they would have put asphalt over the bricks, which we have seen in other parts of the city,” he said. “We wouldn’t have such complications and the cost.”

Parts of Hyde Park have bricks under asphalt. Fourth Avenue’s bricks were also covered and then exposed again years back.

“The bricks,” Maniscalco said, “are so significant and important to the character of this neighborhood.”