Ybor City- the reason behind Tampa Bay’s historic Cigar City nickname

Ybor City was founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers. They helped propel Tampa Bay from a struggling village to a bustling city in about 20 years and giving it the nickname “Cigar City”. Ybor City was populated by thousands of immigrant workers, mainly from Cuba, Spain, and Italy. For the next 50 years, workers in Ybor City’s cigar factories rolled hundreds of millions of cigars annually. Ybor City grew and flourished from the 1890s until the Great Depression, when a drop in demand and mechanization greatly reduced employment opportunities. This process accelerated after World War II, and a steady exodus of residents and businesses continued until large areas of this formerly vibrant neighborhood were virtually abandoned by the late 1970s.

Fortunately the neighborhood did not sit vacant too long as artist began moving into the old cigar factories in the 80s. By the 90s and early 2000s renovations efforts were well underway and Ybor City became a major cultural and late night destination for Tampa Bay. New offices and residences have also has been built in the last 15 years diversifying the neighborhood and starting to fill in the many holes left by its de-industrialization. At its Height, Ybor City reached at least 10K. It bottomed out with around 1,000 residents and now has just over 2,000.

There is certainly much room for in-fill and new residents and businesses as much of the neighborhood (outside the 7th and 8th Avenue) core is vacant or underutilized land.  Given that 1-bedroom rentals lease in the high $1,000s, there is certainly demand for more housing here. The neighborhood also needs better sidewalks and ADA infrastructure, more park and recreational space, better tree canopy, and better basic neighborhood retail amenities like a supermarket and drug store. In addition to a thriving cultural scene Ybor City excels at great access to dwtn, good public transit service, excellent racial and economic diversity, vibrancy, and gorgeous historic architecture. 

Click here to view my Ybor City album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great access to downtown and excellent public transit access.
* Good bike infrastructure access with a couple bike lanes and several dedicated bike share stations.
* Excellent racial and economic diversity.
* Decent for sale options. 1-bed condos sell 200ks & 300ks, 2-beds anywhere btwn 200Ks-500Ks, 3 & 4s beds are similar but some SF options selling in the 500KS & 600Ks.
* Excellent historic and modern architecture along the 7th & 8th Street core. Hit or miss outside the core.
* Great massing and streetscape along 7th & 8th but a mixed-bag outside this area. Some pretty autocentric and industrial areas on the edges.
* Good pedestrian activity especially in the touristy core of the district, pretty dead outside this area.
* Excellent cultural activities including many restaurants, bars and cafes, art galleries, lots of music venues, theaters, and night clubs, several breweries, a cineplex, and plenty of local museums.
* Good but not great retail amenities including : a Public Library and Post Office, lots of boutiques and vintage stores, cigars shops, some antique shops, several desserts spots, banks, and a couple of gyms. Also a good array of churches.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very poor Density.
* ADA compliant curbs are infrequent at intersection although curbs and sidewalks are certainly the norm.
* Poor generational diversity with only about 15%-20% family households.
* Several walkable grade schools but of mixed-ratings.
* Rental housing is rather expensive and limited. 1-beds lease in the mid-high $1,000s, 2 & 3 beds generally in the 2Ks. Not much dedicated affordable hsg here.
* Ybor City has a perceptions and history of crime but relatively safe in the present day. Some crime related to its night life activities and sketchy areas off the main 7th & 8th St. drags.
* Nice central park (Centennial Park) and Centro Ybor plaza but not much else with parks and recreational amenities.
* Tree canopy is pretty limited.
* Some missing retail amenities include no supermarket, drug store, 

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