Buckhorn positive about west Tampa project - FOX 13 News

Buckhorn positive about west Tampa project

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The buzz at Foster's Barbershop is that after 50 years, they're lonely.

"We're like the hole in the donut," said Joe Robinson, the vice president of the West Tampa Community Development Corp.

Foster's is one of main street's only thriving businesses. Robinson sees vacant lots, loitering and crime.

Not to mention, a desolate waterfront on the nearby Hillsborough River.

This in the middle of Tampa, between downtown and West Shore.

"This is an impoverished area," said Robinson. "They want opportunities that everyone else has. South Tampa, New Tampa, everywhere."

Robinson arrived in 1962 and is still waiting for a plan.

But after a year of work, the city showed one off Wednesday night to an open house of hundreds of people.

"This is a bold plan," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "I think it's got a shot. I generally don't do pipe dreams."

About 800 public housing units will be knocked down in favor of 1,600 new market-rate ones.

They'll build stores, then relocate playing fields to make the waterfront more appealing to business.

"All the stars are lining up," said Robinson.

Buckhorn said it won't happen without private investment and money from Washington, where it may have to compete with other projects around the country.

A vibrant west side could transform the city's economy, but Buckhorn said the social impact could get it noticed in Washington.

"Young people in this neighborhood don't have a chance," said Buckhorn. "They're never going to get out of this quagmire, because of the external circumstances in which they live. Drugs and gangs and guns. Those kids deserve a better chance."

Though plans are only on paper, Robinson said he's as optimistic as ever, that Foster's will soon have thriving neighbors.

"For so long, we've just been overlooked," said Robinson.

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