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What Do You Wish Were Here?

Four years ago the former auto repair shop at the I-275 Hillsborough Avenue off ramp was slated to become a tapas restaurant, pub and shop. Then the recession hit. If it were up to you, what would you like to see move in?

Before the Great Recession, in April 2006, opened at Hillsborough and Central avenues, an event that had the potential to be the most pivotal in the modern history of Seminole Heights.

After Starbucks opened, there was speculation about what would happen to the Leroy's 4X4 Automotive Center next door at 512 E. Hillsborough Ave. It's no secret that in the commercial retail world, everyone wants to be next to a Starbucks, a world-famous blockbuster chain that seems to bring big collateral customer traffic to neighboring businesses no matter where it opens.

Starbucks and the former Leroy's seemed poised to become ground zero in the long-awaited commercial renaissance of Seminole Heights. In 2007, the Leroy's property was bought by a group that includes John Obediente, former co-owner of Sangria's, a popular tapas restaurant from South Tampa's SoHo district that had recently closed due to a dispute with the landlord.

Wet zoning was granted, plans were drawn up, and a sushi bar and pub were also proposed for the property along with the new Sangria's.

Then the recession hit, and plans never got off the ground.

Four years later, the property still sits idle with mounds of construction dirt and a real estate sign in the parking lot.

What would you like to see in this spot? Post a comment below.

Rebecca January 28, 2012 at 04:38 PM
A popular, affordable restaurant like Panera would be great as mentioned above. I think it'd also be nice to see a clothing boutique or housewares store (but not like the ones in Hyde Park that sell stuff at Hyde Park prices). I try to shop local from small businesses, but there's no places around here for clothes (that aren't pre-owned like some shops) or housewares (not recycled or antique furniture as we have that already, but stuff like dishes, home decor, etc). It seems the property could even be big enough to split for two businesses like maybe a boutique and a florist or something. Anything would be better than an abandoned building or another used car lot/auto parts store.
Joe Clay January 30, 2012 at 06:16 AM
I was hoping the pub/tapas place would have opened. I thought it never opened due to concerns about environmental hazzards. In any case, I'd rather have something unique than another Panera/Color me Mine/etc. A bar would be nice. That way I could walk there without having to cross a major street so I wouldn't have to find a DD. The walk to Starbucks is nice. But honestly, anything would be better than what's there now.
Shawn Hicks January 30, 2012 at 01:51 PM
The Leroy's 4x4 property includes half of the alleyway between it and Starbucks, the small bit of street that runs into the offramp, and the first bungalow North of the main property. Both the street and the alley were vacated by the city and given to that property. It was needed in order to gain the parking required to have a restaurant use. Starbucks and Sangrias were to share the alleyway and had proposed a combined outdoor eating space there. I am unaware of any environmental issues related to the property. There were some financial issues around the time the housing marking collapsed that put the project in jeopardy. I had seen some movement on cleaning out the work bays, but not in a long time. No one has approached the neighborhood association to talk about repurposing the property. If/when someone does, I'll post it.
David Rice January 30, 2012 at 10:05 PM
I'd have to agree with Joe here. Panera is everywhere and what is making Seminole Heights such an interesting place to be is that it has places that fit the neighborhood. Panera is in every neighborhood and doesn't really add much to the area other than overpriced sandwiches and salads. A tapas place would be cool.
Autumn January 31, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Small local business! That's what Seminole Heights is all about! I would CRINGE to see a Panera or Crispers go in that spot. LOCAL food and small business please!

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