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Redevelopment brings displacement fears for West Tampa’s Main Street businesses

Community leaders say they hope to settle those fears even with change on the horizon.

TAMPA, Fla. — Redevelopment is rapidly changing the face of the entire city of Tampa and one of the places where it’s happening fastest is in West Tampa, where some businesses fear being displaced.

"I'm here because the payment is affordable. I can afford this,” said Daniella Isaac, owner of Empress Co. Beauty Bar. “So how do I know when they gentrify the area, I'm not going to have to spend like $2,500 a month…I can't do that.”

Since the city announced its "West River" plan to redevelop housing in West Tampa and private developers started eyeing the land, displacement has become a serious concern for business owners.

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"It's scary for me as well,” Isaac said. “People see a top dollar area, they're going to jack up the price."

Isaac owns the salon on Main Street, which was once a thriving corridor for black businesses in the area. However, with developers slowly building higher-end homes after more than 2,000 people were displaced from public housing over the past few years, the demographics are changing and rents are going up.

"I don't want to see the people get kicked out that make up this community," she said. “It’s like, ‘Oh. We’re coming in to take your land, but we’re not going to help you…Wherever you go, you go.'”

However, community leaders who’ve been helping with redevelopment say they want to quell those fears.

“I would address [concerns] by looking at the property owners,” said Joe Robinson, chair of the Community Advisory Council for the West Tampa CRA. “The discussion will be, 'Hey, we have existing businesses. Why raise your rates up because things are getting better?'

“Those businesses that are still here...we're trying to bring into the area off of the interstate to help them survive and when the housing authority kick in their development from the West River, that should bring residents back. 

"So all I tell them is hold on, and wait a minute. West Tampa is coming back."

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com.

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