Bricks returning to Ybor City's 7th Avenue, work expected in phases over several years

Starting in mid-July, the City of Tampa will close 7th Avenue in Ybor City at 15th and 16th Streets. Workers will take up the asphalt and put bricks back on the street, the way it was prior to 1960 when the city removed the bricks.

"We have the highest designation when it comes to history," said Brenda Thrower, Ybor's CRA Development Manager.

Returning bricks to Ybor's signature street has been talked about for years. Finally, the plan is underway.

The first phase, at 15th and 16th Streets, may take six weeks to complete. Eventually, the city hopes to return bricks to 14 blocks of 7th Avenue. However, the plan is one block per year.

They'll pay as they go, using property tax money collected in Ybor City. But local business owner Grant Mehlich says businesses in the area are already hurting and having the street blocked will make it worse. He says the work should be done faster.

"Now we have the city saying we may be out there for six weeks, it's not acceptable," he told FOX 13 News.

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Even though Tampa sold off millions of its historic bricks years ago, the city still has a good supply.

"We're taking every effort to move this project along as quickly as possible. We're helping businesses by providing signage. We want this project to go as quickly as possible," said Thrower.

On nearby 8th Avenue, workers for developer Darryl Shaw are already moving quickly with bricks. Shaw is behind the large Gas Worx development which will expand Ybor City and follow historic roots in its design.

In years to come, just about anywhere you go in this part of town, you'll have bricks under your feet. However, under current plans, it will take years of work and lots of patience to bring the bricks back to 7th Avenue.

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