Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for February, 2010

Tampa Bay ranks last when it comes to public transit

Tampa Bay scores again; Forbes Magazine took a look at the 60 major metro areas in the country and then rated their rapid transit systems. Tampa Bay made the list — in last place.

That should come as only a mild surprise to anyone who has had to drive to work on either side of Tampa Bay. Traffic here is a nightmare, and there are few alternatives to driving your own car to work. We do have a bus system, but there is no rapid transit system, no subway, no passenger rail.

A great light rail system opened a few months ago in Phoenix. So far, it's been very popular with local residents.

A great light rail system opened a few months ago in Phoenix. So far, it's been very popular with local residents.

Many of our major roadways started life as sleepy two-lanes.  US19N, the major north-south road that runs the length of Pinellas County, was once a rural two-lane road that passed through miles of orange groves, at least in the northern part of the county where I live. Someone recently told me that he remembered when there was just a flashing light at the intersection of 19 and Tampa Road, a busy major intersection today that serves six lanes of US19 and four of Tampa Road. 

If you want to cross the bay between Pinellas (Where St. Petersburg is located) and Hillsborough (Tampa), you have four choices: The Gandy bridge; the Howard Franklin Bridge; the Courtney Campbell Causeway; and Hillsborough Avenue, the only land route, located at the northern tip of Tampa Bay. If you attempt this crossing in rush hour, be prepared to sit.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I am a fan of light rail, and we might — just might — have such a system in our sights.

A month or two ago, President Obama came to town and announced that the federal government would fund the majority share of a high-speed rail line between Tampa Bay and Orlando. That’s nice, because it would eliminate the drive on I-4, a really difficult bit of Interstate between those two cities.

But the real value of such a line would be the possibility of a light rail system at this end of it. The high-speed line could connect to a light-rail system that would circumnavigate Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties and provide an alternative to the automobile.

We have something called the Tampa Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority (TBARTA), which would like to build that system. Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, who serves on the TBARTA board, spoke at St. Petersburg College recently about rapid transit in Tampa Bay, and said such a system is necessary both for current residents and to respond to companies that may consider locating facilities in Tampa Bay. 

All that said, I do have a bone or two to pick with Forbes about this ranking.  We used to live in Washington, DC,  and it would be hard to imagine a worse commuting city than that. before we lived in Florida we lived in Maine, and that meant the occasional drive to the biggest metro center in that neck of the woods, Boston. If you’ve never driven in Boston at rush hour, it is a breathtaking experience. Still, both those cities have good subway systems and buses that run frequently.

I think it is fair to say that Palm Harbor real estate, Dunedin real estate, or Pinellas County real estate in general would be more attractive if it was served by an efficient light rail system

Colorful murals adorn New Port Richey real estate

If you’ve spent any time at all on this blog, you know that I like murals.  There’s quite a few of them to be found throughout Tampa Bay, and especially in the various communities of Pinellas County. I’ve written about them before.

Dancers in the Haienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by Mura artist Chad Leninger

Dancers in the Hacienda Hotel in the 1920s, as depicted by mural artist Chad Leininger

Today, I found several of them in an unexpected place.

I live and work in North Pinellas County, and that’s where I do most of my real estate work — Palm Harbor real estate, Tarpon Springs real estate, Dunedin real estate, Clearwater real estate. I also list and sell Pasco County real estate, but I spend less time there than in North Pinellas County.

This morning, however, I had to go north to New Port Richey in Pasco County to look over a house that I may be listing for sale.  After that, I drove a few blocks to downtown New Port Richey, a place I haven’t visited for awhile.

Wha surprise — it was a treasure trove of murals.

One of them featured the Hacienda Hotel, a 1920s-era hotel that was very popular in its day but which has not served any guests for more than the past decade. I need to do a little research on the Hacienda, and when I do I’ll post a story. I like old hotels almost as much as I like murals.

This particular mural was painted on a side exterior wall of Juan’s Black Bean Cafe by a young artist named Chad Leininger. According to an old newspaper article, there are a total of six murals painted on various walls in downtown New Port Richey.

Most of the characters in the mural are local folk. But the artist included himself and some of his family members as well as actress Greta Garbo and baseball legend Babe Ruth. Can you spot them?

Tags: , , ,

What would offshore oil drilling mean to Pinellas County beaches?

offshoreoilSmallThere’s supposed to be crude oil reserves out in the Gulf of Mexico, not too many miles west of the Pinellas County beaches. Most of us agree that a higher degree of energy independence would be a good thing.  So, drill baby drill. Right?

People are pretty split on this issue. Those in favor of drilling say we need the oil, and we need to depend less on foriegn sources. Those against say the Gulf reserves would only produce oil for a decade or so, and an oil spill in the Gulf would foul the beaches and be devastating to Florida’s major industry, tourism. 

Polling seems to indicate that Floridians are fairly split on the issue, with the edge going to the pro-drillers.

Yesterday (that would be Feb. 14, 2010), hundreds of people turned out on the Pinellas County beaches to protest the possibility of oil drilling along the coast. Hundreds more turned out at beaches around Florida. Most of them wore black, to represent the color of crude oil.

St. Pete Beach near the Don Cesar

St. Pete Beach near the Don Cesar

Anti-drillers say we need to invest in alternative sources of energy — solar, wind, even nuclear. Pro-drillers say we still need to drill in places like the Gulf to get the energy we need while those alternative sources are developed.

How do you think Pinellas County would be changed by drilling in the Gulf?

Oil drilling would create some high-pay jobs (although not a whole lot of them), and the oil that gets produced (some of it, anyway) could be refined into jet fuel which could power the planes that bring tourists to the county.

On the other hand, one good spill could foul Pinellas beaches for years to come, driving away tourists and ruining the natural habitat for many sea creatures and plants.

And what would all this mean to real estate values? (This is a real estate blog, after all).

Not a simple issue.

Tags: , , , ,