Know Your Neighbors: Palmetto Beach
PALMETTO BEACH -
When Carlos Carrillo and his family arrived in this neighborhood in 1971, it was a different place in many respects.
“I would get home from school, put on my swim shorts and go swimming,” said the longtime resident and owner of Coco’s Sandwich Shop, who came to the United States from Cuba 42 years ago.
Back then people swam in McKay Bay off DeSoto Park, fished and caught crabs from seawalls.
Tampa and its principal port have developed substantially since those days, and Palmetto Beach residents have a less direct relationship with the waters surrounding their community. But Palmetto Beach still reflects the cultures of those who established the area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Much like Ybor City, its neighboring community to the north, Palmetto Beach flourished with the cigar industry. Three cigar factory buildings remain; two are used for commercial purposes and the other one is vacant.
"Workers’ cottages and related commercial buildings surrounded these factories, resulting in a self-sustaining urban village, which remained so for many decades," said Jennifer Willman, president of the Palmetto Beach Community Association.
Palmetto Beach was platted in 1894, with a streetcar connection to Ybor City.
Last year the community was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Palmetto Beach now has about 1,800 residents, and Carrillo said it remains as diverse as it was more than four decades ago. There are shipyards and companies at the Port of Tampa, three churches, a skate park, a swimming pool, bungalow homes and a few restaurants, including his Cuban inspired sandwich shop.
"It's nice everyone knows each other," Carrillo said.