Richard Gonzmart and his family go back decades in Ybor City.
“You are gonna see growth like you’ve never seen before,” he said.
Their Columbia Restaurant is a center piece of the historic neighborhood.
“I know that my grandfather, great grandfather, especially my parents would be proud of what’s taking place today,” he said.
Friday is a celebration. It’s the completion of a major makeover for 21st and 22nd street.
That includes wider pedestrian friendly sidewalks, granite curbs, brick crosswalks, landscaping, and lampposts that fit the area’s style.
“We are cleaning things up. We are becoming much more family friendly. It’s such a beautiful community,” said Ybor City resident Grant Mehlich, who also works with the Ybor City Development Corporation.
But even more significant than all the upgrades is something the city is getting rid of. Truck traffic.
Thousands of trucks leaving the Port have rumbled by these old buildings for years, damaging foundations and these roads.
“I heard the breaks, I’d look at the window to see which accident is taking place,” said Gonzmart.
But as part of Ybor’s changes, trucks will be banned unless they are making local delivers.
“Taking the truck traffic off is making it a quieter neighborhood. And one that’s safer to walk through,” said Tony LaColla, who has lived in Ybor City for 11 years.
The trucks are now able to use the connector between I-4 and the Selmon Expressway.
Meanwhile, the new growth in Ybor is coming.
The Columbia’s owners are going to open a new Italian restaurant on 22nd street.
In fact, they said they’ve got 5 projects planned within 200 yards of here.
“Get ready! Ybor City is rising. You are going to feel like you are stepping back to history,” said Gonzmart.