Like construction site dirt through an hourglass, these were the days of our lives.

And in New Tampa in 2019, there was a lot of construction dirt.

Whether it was the New Tampa Recreation Center expanding, the New Tampa Performing Arts Center beginning or The Village at Hunter’s Lake – anchored by Sprouts — taking shape, there were plenty of dump trucks to go around.

Not bad for an area that seemed to be showing its age last year. After a series of closings in previous years and months across New Tampa – HH Gregg, Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond, Ruby Tuesday, etc. – there was enough concern that a few area folks decided our ‘hood needed a good looking at.

In June, local residents packed a room at Compton Park to voice concerns as a study by the USF School of Public Affairs kicked off.

Then, as if on cue, it was revealed that the old HH Gregg was going to be taken over by Urban Air Adventure Park, and a 16,000-sq.ft. Indian market called Taza was taking over the old Staples building, and Aldi was interesting in the Ruby Tuesday spot, and The Brunchery was moving into the former Boston market, and get this….are you sitting down….there is a light at the end of the long tunnel that is the vacant Sweetbay Supermarket.

LL Cool J would tell us not to call it a comeback, but we’re going to anyway.

New Tampa is back, baby!

But seriously though, it was a good year for the area, and 2020 is very likely going to be, as the kids like to say, off the chain, as most of the aforementioned places will all be opening.

So, what else happened in 2019?

How about this:

Fire Rescue Station No. 23 opened, giving the New Tampa area 17 fire rescue stations! We jest, it’s actually four fire stations, but you should feel pretty darned safe. Speaking of safe…

…. Unincorporated New Tampa will once again be covered by City of Tampa Fire rescue in 2020, thanks to the efforts of District 2 Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan and new mayor Jane Castor, who are both quite popular in New Tampa. Speaking of popular….

Tampa City Council member Luis Viera (center) celebrates his win on March 5 with Heritage Isles’ retired Colonel Mike Escudie (left) and Jon Fletcher, president of Vietnam Veterans of America of Tampa.

…. District 7 City Councilman Luis Viera was re-elected, with a higher percentage of the vote than any of the other 23 people who ran for the six available city council seats. Viera received 82 percent of the vote in New Tampa There is no truth to the rumor he is seeking out the 18 percent who did not vote for him, and inviting them to coffee and a chance to prove himself. And by no truth to the rumor, we mean there is totally some truth to that rumor. Speaking of rumors….

…the sale of Pebble Creek Golf Club never materialized, but the search is not over. But it’s still on the market. Speaking of markets…

…..Sprouts is coming! Did we mention that already? It should be a slam dunk winner for New Tampa. Speaking of slam dunks…

Darin Green leads Wharton in scoring.

…. Wharton’s Darin Green was named Hillsborough County’s top basketball player for the 2018-2019 season. He shined for one of the county’s best hoops programs. Speaking of high school athletes shining…

….Wharton’s Zach Goldbold won a Class 4A state championship by throwing the javelin a whopping 171 feet and 11 inches, and Freedom swimmer  Michelle Morgan qualified for the 2020 Olympic Trials, and both Freedom tennis teams won district championships, and Freedom’s Cooper Smith went to state in golf and Wharton’s Teiley Vaughn won a gold medal with the USA Softball U-17 Women’s National Team and sorry are we rambling? We tend to suffer from logorrhea at times. Speaking of logorrhea….

Nupur Lala

…. that was the word that Benito eight-grader Nupur Lala spelled correctly to win the Scripps Spelling Bee 20 years ago. She’s currently doing her residency at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, and is hoping to do a fellowship in neuro-oncology, specifically glioblastoma multiforme, which we could have never spelled if she hadn’t told us how when we interviewed her for a story in June. She was an absolute delight, and still super smart. Speaking of super smart…

Drew Falkowitz

…Tampa Palms resident Drew Falkowitz, 16, became the youngest graduate in University of South Florida history in June, earning a degree in cellular and molecular biology. Sure, that sounds impressive, but my kids can play Fortnite until they pass out in a puddle of their own drool at 5 a.m., so who’s the better father now, Steve Falkowitz? Speaking of fathers….

…Father David DeJulio departed St. Marks after 16 years. It was, pardon the pun, a rather dispiriting event for many of the Catholics in New Tampa. Not to be outdone, Tirso “Junior” Cintron retired as Wharton’s head custodian after 22 years, which also broke up a surprising amount of people. Not to be outdone, publisher Gary Nager held a party celebrating 25 years of the Neighborhood News. That was another sad and heartbreaking event, but enough about Gary singing karaoke.

We hope you had a great 2019, and strap yourself in because 2020 is already shaping up to produce some monumental moments.

P.S. Kinnan-Mansfield. Sorry. We couldn’t do an end of year wrap-up without mentioning it.

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