PORT TAMPA — Tampa’s low housing inventory and rising home prices are pushing people to seek out houses in neighborhoods that were once overlooked.
However, experts wonder what this could mean for preserving history.
When you drive through neighborhoods like Port Tampa, it’s almost like stepping back in time. You go down narrow brick-lined streets and see plenty of historic architecture. However, just down the road, new homes are going up at record speeds. It begs the question, what about the time-tested structures that are already here?
“We’re nerds, for the history comes as an easy side gig almost,” said Kate Hickland.
Kate Hickland and Michelle James run their real estate service "The Nerdy Girls."
They can tell you all about Port Tampa, starting with the library.
“It was built in 1926 as the first bank of Port Tampa,” said Hickland.
It closed in 1929 after the stock market crash, changed hands, and sat empty till the late 90s.
“It’s nice to see this turned into something beautiful,” said James.
Walking around you’ll find a lot of old structures that haven’t been transformed.
You can’t miss the 1909 former ice cream shop with 3 corners and an old jail that no one seems quite too sure about.
For the Nerdy Girls, it’s the big pieces of history that have been preserved that make this place special.
One of their favorites is the Johnson-Wolff House that was built in 1885.
Teddy Roosevelt stayed there while the Rough Riders stayed at another home around the corner.
“It was the port of demarcation so all the soldiers had to funnel through Port Tampa to get on the ship to go to Cuba to fight the war,” said Hickland.
Some people have moved to the neighborhood with visions of preservation, but these days that’s not what Hickland and James are seeing.
“We’re seeing such low inventory that people who would never consider Port Tampa as a place to live a few years ago now are like, Port Tampa is still South Tampa, I’ll live there,” said Hickland.
“We’ve moved some of my childhood friends, sold their houses for good money, but now can’t afford to buy back into the neighborhood. We’re moving them to like Riverview,” James said.
“I don’t separate the changes in Port Tampa from the changes South of Gandy anywhere,” said historian Maureen Patrick.
We asked local historian Maureen Patrick to weigh in.
“I would categorize the majority of changes as being deleterious,” she said.
Patrick believes that quality of life means more than just a house and worries about preservation, infrastructure updates, rising property values, and gentrification.
“So this is a phenomenon that has to be looked at seriously for it’s economic and racial consequences. The McMansions come in, the diversity goes out,” she said.
As realtors, it’s an interesting dynamic for the Nerdy Girls, but they’re siding with history.
“It’s definitely on the rise and it’s good to see, but we hope that they try to preserve as much of the local character and history as possible,” Hickland said.
It’s a delicate dance for history while becoming a new hot spot for homes.
For years many local activists in the South of Gandy communities have been pushing for more basic amenities like better roads, grocery stores, shopping options, and gas stations.
They say these types of necessities are becoming crucial as more people move South to buy and rent.