Once-troubled part of East Tampa celebrating new improvements to neighborhood

TAMPA - The College Hill area in East Tampa became notorious in the 80's for its race riots.

Now, it's celebrating a new renaissance, as it officially celebrates revitalization projects.

The centerpiece is a roundabout at the intersection of 21st and 22nd Streets.

The goal is to cut down traffic speeds and serve as a beautification project.

Resident Betty Jay Bell says it's already having an impact.

"I am excited about the roundabout. We need the improvement in our community and I think that this is one of the great ones. We've been waiting a long time, and this is it," she said.

Included in the $5.6 million dollar projects budget: improved sidewalks, crosswalks, landscaping and irrigation.

The turning point for the neighborhood started when the city tore down apartments that were known drug havens, and then built new ones.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn doesn't shy away from talking about what it used to be.

"It was a very tough neighborhood. The public housing projects had fallen into disrepair, there were little kids who deserved a better life. There were drug dealers on every corner," he said.

The mayor says his eventual goal is to connect East Tampa to Ybor City; the scope of the project includes the entire town, where the city has been moving neighborhood by neighborhood, making improvements.

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