We need immediate action to ensure Tampa’s Ybor City is safe for visitors | Column
The first step: requiring that businesses close no later than 1 a.m. for the next six months.
An aerial drone image of the scene where investigators have worked to collect evidence from a shooting that left two dead and 15 others wounded by gunfire along East Seventh Avenue.
An aerial drone image of the scene where investigators have worked to collect evidence from a shooting that left two dead and 15 others wounded by gunfire along East Seventh Avenue. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 1|Updated Nov. 1

Ybor City is evolving in so many positive ways that honor its roots as one of America’s great neighborhoods.

Darryl Shaw
Darryl Shaw [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Founded in 1886, Ybor became a melting pot for immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy as well as those from many other backgrounds. That strong sense of community, where everyone feels safe and welcome, is the foundation of the neighborhood.

That foundation was shaken when two people were killed and 15 others were wounded by gunfire shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday along an East Seventh Avenue packed with Halloween revelers. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. No one visiting Ybor City should ever feel unsafe or fear they might become random victims of somebody else’s personal dispute. We cannot tolerate that at any time, and no neighborhood should.

That is why we need to take immediate action to ensure our residents and visitors are always safe, and that Ybor City’s foundation remains strong. Our entire community — city officials, Tampa police, business owners and local residents — must continue to come together and embrace common-sense solutions.

First, I recommend the city of Tampa explore an emergency abatement for all businesses in the Ybor City Historic District that will require a 1 a.m. closing time for the next six months. Most serious incidents in Ybor City occur after 1 a.m., and we must end the perception that the neighborhood is the place for large crowds to hang out in streets and parking lots in the early morning hours. This temporary measure will lower the temperature on Seventh Avenue and give citizens, businesses and law enforcement an opportunity to agree on long-term solutions.

To be clear, the 1 a.m. closing time is not intended to target any individual Ybor City establishment. It also is not intended to drive away the law-abiding bars and nightclubs that are good neighbors and do not condone bad behavior. This is about eradicating an environment that fosters violence long after midnight — and it is about ensuring Ybor City continues to be a healthy, vibrant neighborhood through a greater balance of residences, restaurants, the arts, shops and other businesses.

That rebalancing is already well underway, and Ybor City is moving past its reputation as just a late-night entertainment district. Ten Rooms, a creative food and retail hub, is opening soon in Centro Español. Ocean Ink Raw Bar, Tommy’s Chophouse, Cheeseology and Wicked Sweets are on their way. Pete’s Bagels is already open next to Fourth & Angel Dog Park. So are Los Chapos Tacos, Flan Factory, Korean Seoul and DoughJoe bread and coffee shop.

Beyond the restaurants are Kress Contemporary, a collective of 40-plus artists and galleries, 1920 Ybor, a local artist and live music venue, Marcolina’s art gallery and the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. A restored warehouse is being converted into an indoor pickleball facility, and multiple apartment complexes are under construction.

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In addition to the emergency abatement, there are other measures we can take to ensure Ybor City remains safe around the clock. We can keep Seventh Avenue open later on Friday and Saturday evenings to limit a “block party” atmosphere. We can enhance community policing, so more officers are patrolling on foot. We can expand the hours of the Ybor Yes! Team ambassador program funded by the Ybor City Community Redevelopment Area, and we can increase the presence of code enforcement after hours.

There are great existing partnerships in Ybor City among business owners, residents, City Hall and the police department. What we need now is additional swift action.

I am firmly committed to partnering with the various stakeholders to return Ybor to its roots as a safe, thriving community with a balanced mix of residences, shops, offices, restaurants, cultural arts and entertainment.

Darryl Shaw is the retired CEO and co-founder of the veterinary company Blue Pearl. He is now focused on the redevelopment of the Ybor City Historic District as a family-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood and has plans to bring 5,000 homes to the area in the next 10 years.