This week with chat with Louis Klar, who grew up in Seminole Heights. His family moved into a house on Norfolk Street in 1947, the year he was born. He has lived in the bungalow-rich neighborhood — one of Tampa’s oldest — ever since and has a unique perspective on the area’s growth, decline and rebirth.
Q: What is your strongest memory of growing up in Seminole Heights?
Answer: I remember as kids building a tree house in the old oak tree on the school grounds of Cleveland Elementary School; Sunday school; and church at Spencer Memorial Baptist Church. There was dancing on Saturday’s at the recreation center at Florida Avenue and Flora Street, then ice cream at Bo’s. On a side note, I was at Publix at Hillsborough Avenue and Habana Avenue and ran into this very sweet lady named Mrs. Denton and her son, Tommy. Beginning in my junior high school years and probably for another 40 years, even when my children went there, she was the director of the then Seminole Heights Recreation Center. She once kicked me out on a Saturday night for doing the twist (suspended for a month for doing a forbidden dance on a dare).
Q: What changes, good or bad, have you seen in the neighborhood ?
Answer: The single most impactful bad change was the construction of the interstate system through the very heart of Tampa. The good is the energy imparted on this neighborhood to repair and restore and sustain.
Q: What sets Seminole Heights apart from other neighborhoods? Answer: Being the largest single neighborhood in Hillsborough County. Yet at the same time its very existence is so unfamiliar to most outside of the neighborhood.
Q: What do you think of the attention coming to Seminole Heights as a restaurant destination since the opening of places such as The Refinery, Cappy’s Pizza, Independent and Ella’s?
Answer: For the newer members of the neighborhood it is a much bigger issue than to myself. Much of what is being brought to the neighborhood existed for many decades prior to the physical division. My father was a business owner in Seminole Heights for over 25 years so personally I am thrilled at the risk and individual ambition being displayed by these people bringing in new businesses.
Q: There has been some controversy about a Wal-Mart Super Center opening on Hillsborough Avenue. What kind of development would you like to see in the neighborhood?
Answer: Here is where I expect that my opinion will ruffle the feathers of many. Where Wal-Mart wants to locate is an area that pretty much is a somewhat defined point of division between middle class and poor. At one time it was a bustling section of Tampa. For anyone at all starting a business here it could prove to be of extreme risk financially and potentially insurmountable challenge. Here we have a company that has the economic wherewithal to overcome that and provide access to a very wide selection of products that will be affordable by all. In addition there will be several hundred jobs. I have to say having a history in business and a college degree in business I support it completely. You will see in the long run development will occur in the remaining parts of the area.