The Struggle for Seminole Heights

I trust we’re mostly all familiar with the life cycle of an arts neighborhood:

  1. There’s a good chance your art neighborhood is first one of two things: a poor/lower class community or an industrial area.  Real Estate would be cheap – the flame to the artist-moth.
  2. Artists move into the neighborhood, primarily for studio space.
  3. Studios invite studio visits.  In turn, studio visits become galleries.  Galleries attract more galleries.  This is the zenith of any arts neighborhood.
  4. All of the arts spending now attracts other businesses such as restaurants, retail, and (ugh!) condos.
  5. The resulting gentrification and high real estate costs drive artists out of the neighborhood and the life cycle repeats itself elsewhere.

Currently we have  a few neighborhoods at that second step in the life-cycle.  While most may consider step #4 critical in the artist’s struggle for a home base, step #2 is perilous in its own way.  At this point the neighborhood is still poor/lower class.  Lower income neighborhoods attract more than just artists.  They also attract businesses that exploit the poor.  Pitting culture-warriors against big businesses that take advantage of low-income families is currently what is being played out in Tampa’s Seminole Heights.

A Family Dollar store is planning to purchase and move into a property on Florida Ave – a little stretch of street that’s the home to local businesses such as Tempus Projects, The Refinery, Yesterdaze, Microgroove, Independent Bar and Cafe, Cleanse Apothecary.  Compared to local business, though, Family Dollar has enormous amounts of money at its disposal to purchase property.  Not only are big businesses such as Family Dollar able to vastly outspend more culturally valuable local businesses, but they are able to finance absurd real estate purchases, paying much more for property than it’s worth.

However, while local cultural institutions and businesses may not carry the financial clout of Family Dollar, they can and do avail themselves of a unique ability: they’re transformative to the neighborhoods they exist in.  Family Dollar stores consistently lower a neighborhood’s home values (not to mention cultural values).  On the other hand, local businesses and artists/galleries raise home values, culturally enrich their neighborhoods, and spend their profits in the neighborhoods that gave it to them.

You would expect that these strengths of artists/galleries and local businesses would align with the goals of local government.  However, we have yet to see the city of Tampa adopt Seminole Heights along the lines of St. Pete and the Warehouse Arts District.  In the meantime, there are a few things individuals (YOU) can do.

Make some phone calls:

Chris Salemi at Hunt Douglas Developers – (813) 289-5511

Dean Koutroumanis, the local rep for Family Dollar – (813) 624-4620

Connect with the cause on Facebook here or at the website here.

Lastly, patronize locally owned Seminole Heights businesses regularly.  Help transform it into the type of neighborhood that won’t give Family Dollar a profit.

Advertisements