SF Bay to Tampa Bay
April 15, 2013 9:52 AM   Subscribe

We live in the San Francisco Bay area and we are considering moving to the Tampa Bay area. Where in Tampa/St. Pete would we not hate living?

Me, my wife and our toddler live in the SF East Bay. We love it here. The scenic beauty. The convenience to just about everything imaginable.

But we are very far from our families on the east coast - hers outside Tampa, mine in the Northeast. We are considering heading back to the Tampa area to live closer to both our families and raise our kid somewhere less expensive and less insanely competitive.

We travel back to Tampa frequently and both spent some time growing up there, so we know the general vibe of the area. We know nothing about the various neighborhoods across Tampa and St. Pete, though.

Are there neighborhoods with good schools that have proximity to retail options and walkable areas that are not chain restaurants, big box stores and malls? We expect a very different life in Florida than we'd have in Cali, but we are not ready for complete suburbia. (ie. We don't want to live in Brandon)
posted by gnutron to Travel & Transportation around Tampa, FL (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have family that has lived in Tampa and they did not hate Virginia Park/Palma Ceia West or Riverside Heights, although the latter is not very walkable.
posted by notquitemaryann at 10:19 AM on April 15, 2013

I can speak to the St. Pete side of the bay, since I lived there for a year (2010-2011), and found it pretty nice. My apartment was in the Uptown neighborhood; the adjoining neighborhoods of Old Northeast and Crescent Lake are also quite similar.

When you ask for a "walkable area", do you mean in the sense of "you can walk around the neighborhood in the evening and there are sidewalks and parks", or in the sense of "you can walk to the the corner store in 5 minutes to get a quart of 2%"? The three neighborhoods I mentioned above are walkable in the first sense, but not quite as much in the second sense. (Very few places in Florida excel at being walkable in the second sense, alas.) The main commercial strip in that area is 4th St, which has a variety of stores spread out along its length. There were a half-dozen take-out restaurants, a few sit-down restaurants, a few pubs, and a CVS within a 15-minute walk of my apartment, and a 20-minute walk would get me into downtown St. Pete with its restaurants & nightlife (such as it is.) On the other hand, the nearest proper supermarkets & produce stands were only doable via car. You could try starting here on Google Maps and "walk around" via Street View to get a feel for the place.

I can't speak to the quality of the schools, being a single dude at the time I was there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2013

Response by poster: I mean walkable in the sense that there are nearby locations (parks, commercial areas) that are enjoyable to walk around.
posted by gnutron at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2013

It's been a while since I've lived in Tampa, so if anybody disagrees I'd listen to them instead, but I recall Davis Islands being a less suburban-y area with some nice restaurants and shops you could walk to (AND a dog beach, if that matters). It's also close to downtown, even though downtown isn't especially lively at night.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:41 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

We've lived in Tarpon Springs for the last 15 years... not quite tampa... but we literally are 10-15 minutes away from 3 parks, 2 public beaches. Pinellas County has terrific schools. West Chase is more of a North Tampa, and there are several areas that are conducive to walking to most of your needs (stores, restaurants, bars, etc.).

Dunedin is just north of Clearwater, maynot be quite what you want... but very artsy, tons of bars, restaurants & stores... all walking distance. They have tons of outdoor festivals, etc.

Safety Harbor, again very similar to Dunedin.

Safety Harbor is 20 mins to the airport max... Dunedin & Tarpon Springs are 40-45 minutes to the airport....

We've never lived in St. Pete, but have spent many evenings down there.... very up-in-coming... lots of bars, restaurants, etc.... Can't comment on schools though...
posted by foodybat at 11:02 AM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This will be a big culture shock, coming from the urban West Coast. So it's healthy you're preparing yourself for something different. I'd really consider Old Northeast in St. Petersburg. It's full of cute, quaint homes and within waking distance of retail shops if you stay near 4th street and you can also walk to the bay at the same time. You're still quite close to the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Pier, St. Pete Farmer's Market (best in the whole bay) and the whole revival of downtown St. Pete as this walkable, architecturally/botanically vibrant urban area (they take their palms and other tropical trees and plants seriously). As a rule Tampa/St. Pete schools are very under-performing. Magnets/charters the only way to go.

Also, you might actually consider living along St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island or any of the beach community barrier islands. It's the only place in this region where waking/biking seems accepted as a cultural norm and the scenic beauty of the Gulf Coast is incredible. Places full of quaint shops, locally owned restaurants, independent bars and surprisingly decent public transportation(for this region at least). Unfortunately, 97% of it is geared toward tourists but the vibe is totally different from either Tampa or St. Pete

There are some hipsterish boho neighborhoods in Tampa such as Seminole Heights, Ybor and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is too retail boho (think Anthropologie-like stores everywhere) and Ybor and Seminole Heights still have way too many crime problems if you have young children. Plus no one walks anywhere in Tampa and the city lacks any of the architectural charms of St. Pete across the bay.

However, if you're not location-dependent for your job, I'd really consider Sarasota, just 30 minutes south of St. Pete. It's walkable, loaded with both prominent and quirky arts institutions, much better schools, great food, even better beaches and it's size (70,000) or so makes it way laidback. Housing, particularly if you're renting, is a little cheaper than even St. Pete or Tampa.
posted by caveatz at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, you want Sarasota.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:02 PM on April 15, 2013

Response by poster: Haha. We are intimately acquainted with Sarasota, as we both went to college there in the late 90s. We'd be happy there, but assumed we'd have greater employment opportunies in Tampa/St. Pete.
posted by gnutron at 7:43 PM on April 15, 2013

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