As discussed in last weeks introduction to the series, Be Pedestrian aims to embrace the everydayness of ordinary neighborliness experienced as a pedestrian of Tampa’s streets, sidewalks, and trails. Over the last week there were many different experiences among neighbors on Tampa’s streets and sidewalks. While some hid away inside as the temperatures dropped, many others found motivation to hit the streets together.
Over the weekend Tampa’s Bayshore Blvd was taken over by tiny pirates in search of treasure (aka beads and candy) at the Gasparilla Children's Parade. Droves of families gathered together along a 4.5 mile parade route for this Tampa tradition that was unfortunately shipwrecked by COVID-19 last year. It was a beautiful family-friendly event that was topped off with a fully lit up stunt plane flyover complete with pyrotechnics streaming from its wings. The crowd was full of eyepatches, swords, and other brilliant pirate costumes. “Living in Tampa, you don’t grow up without at least some pirate gear in the toybox” observed one mother who attended the invasion with her little ones. This annual Tampa tradition is just the beginning as it is the adults turn this coming weekend! While there will still be a ton of beads and floats, the adult festivities take on a life of their own as Tampa’s pirates descend on what seems like every square inch of the city!
Another group of feet hit the street this week in the University Area as residents from Holly Court Apartments gathered in a park across the street from the complex to make their situation known and protest decisions being made by owners. It seems that many of them have been served notice to vacate in the form of non-renewal letters giving many of them just 30 days to find other accommodations. Unfortunately Tampa renters in general face the highest rent increases in the nation last year and while the area average rent hike was 24% many who live in Tampa’s most affordable of private apartments are seeing 30+% increases. Holly Court is among a pretty short list of such housing options for Tampa’s working poor and most of the residents facing displacement are finding that the rental landscape has shifted to the point that many of them are fearing the worst as they cannot find places in their price range.
While there are some developments underway to create more attainable housing solutions such as the UACDC’s Uptown Sky Communities, there is a rapidly shrinking amount of places for some of Tampa’s most vulnerable working poor families. While many had the motivation to brave the weather this week, whether for recreation with the family or to advocate for their rights, there were also thousands of neighbors in Tampa who had no choice about being out there as they live on our streets. In fact just this week the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative put out a call to landlords to work with them to help create solutions. We love seeing neighbors gather together to challenge systems that don’t work for everyone, celebrate local traditions, or to create solutions among themselves. All of these are wonderful examples of everyday citizens being everyday neighbors in this rich and beautiful city. May we all continue to walk this road together. Until next time, be pedestrian.