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Old 10-05-2006, 09:36 AM
 
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We will be relocating to the Tampa area around March 2007 and are looking for an area that is family friendly, safe and with a decent school system. So far, our top 4 areas are Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Carrollwood and Westchase. I would really like to get some feedback from people who actually live in these areas if at all possible. My husband will be commuting to the airport and would like to keep his drive no longer than 30-40 minutes. While I understand there may be some negatives (like there are with any area in any state), please refrain from telling me what a dump Tampa is and that we shouldn't move... I don't expect Tampa to be perfect...no place is. I am already aware that the housing market is high as are the taxes, what I would like to know is...are any of the areas I picked better for young families or are they more for seniors? Are there things to do close by? How close would the beach be?...that kind of stuff. We like quant little neighborhoods so if there is another area I've not listed, please let me know. Your help is much appreciated!!! :-)
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Old 10-05-2006, 10:13 AM
 
83 posts, read 326,183 times
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Hello there, I live in Tampa and although I don't live in any of those areas, I am quite familiar with them so I can try to help you narrow down your choices.

First off, let me say that traffic to the airport from any of those locations is probably going to be rather merciless. Then again, traffic issues and gridlock is a real problem just about anywhere in Tampa right now, especially if you are commuting.

Let me start with Carrollwood since this is the closest to your commute. Carrollwood does have a lot to offer family types. There are lots of newer and older subdivision communities to choose from. You also have lots of your typical suburban shopping nearby such as Publix, Target, Ross, chain restaurants, that sort of thing. So it is very convenient. Again traffic isn't great since you are close to these things and it is a bit too cookie cutter for me but if you like that sort of thing it could be perfect. Since some of the housing developments are a bit older (10-20 years) I suspect that it may be a bit cheaper than let's say Westchase.

Okay, let me start by saying Westchase creeps me out but don't let that steer you because it is only my opinion. It reminds me of a stepford wives type of community where all the houses, sidewalks, and people look exactly the same. Apparently they have a good thing for a lot of people though because they have created this all inclusive community where stores, businesses, and houses are all a part of the development making you feel like you are a part of the community. Housing there from what I understand is relatively expensive, probably more than Carrollwood since it is much newer. Westchase is also rather far removed from a lot of other areas of Tampa. Don't get me wrong, you will still find your favorite grocery store and strip mall around the corner but getting to your commute or other areas of Tampa is going to involve some time and lots of traffic.

Dunedin and Safety Harbor are actually in Pinellas County and your furthest commute to the airport. We live in Tampa and my husband commutes to Palm Harbor which is right next to Safety Harbor every day. It takes him roughly an hour, maybe longer, just to give you an idea. Either of these locations are quite a drive to anywhere in Tampa. If you don't need to go to Tampa for any reason other than your job that may not be a terrible thing but just so you know.

Having said that Dunedin is my favorite of all of your choices but again, that is only my personal preference. It is a small quaint area with a historic downtown that has little shops and pubs. You won't find a lot of huge subdivisions which in my opinion adds more character and charm to the area. I guess I just find it a little less snobby and cookie cutter than some of your other choices. Then again, I don't like going down the street seeing a Walmart and chain restaurant on every single corner. As much as I love Dunedin though, we can never seem to find housing there when we look. Since it is so small it is also limited and you have to be careful because some of the outerlying areas are rougher neighborhoods.

I don't have much to say about Safety Harbor since it is next to Dunedin, except that Safety Harbor is a little more of the suburb type of neighborhoods previously discussed and less of the quaint Dunedin character. You may find the housing prices in Pinellas to be more expensive as well since it is closer to the beaches.
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Old 10-05-2006, 12:24 PM
 
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Have you thought about St Petersburg?? We have alot to offer and are 30 minutes from the airport. Its not so bad just head over the howard franklin bridge you're there.
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Old 10-05-2006, 12:39 PM
 
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I agree that St. Pete is a nice option to look into. We have always wanted to live there but once again, cost of housing is more expensive because you are close to the beach. If money isn't an issue though I would much prefer living there to Tampa.
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Old 10-05-2006, 01:10 PM
 
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Thank you for all the info. Yes, I agree, Westchase seems a bit more cookie cutter and I would prefer to not be surrounded by wal-marts and other chain stores but the realtor we drove around with while we were there told us that is really all we would see the Tampa area...that there really are no "small towns" or "walkable" towns which is why I really like the Dunedin area. I've been reading mixed posts though, some people say Dunedin is great, others say it's unsafe and lots of violence in the high school so I don't know what to believe. We hadn't considered the St. Pete area because, again, we were told that area was very unsafe (I'm sure it's like any area though, pockets of good/bad). We are looking for a house in the $350,000-$450,000 range, hopefully this is enough to get us into a nice area. Thank you again for your responses!
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Old 10-06-2006, 06:10 AM
 
83 posts, read 326,183 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ambyr View Post
Thank you for all the info. Yes, I agree, Westchase seems a bit more cookie cutter and I would prefer to not be surrounded by wal-marts and other chain stores but the realtor we drove around with while we were there told us that is really all we would see the Tampa area...that there really are no "small towns" or "walkable" towns which is why I really like the Dunedin area. I've been reading mixed posts though, some people say Dunedin is great, others say it's unsafe and lots of violence in the high school so I don't know what to believe. We hadn't considered the St. Pete area because, again, we were told that area was very unsafe (I'm sure it's like any area though, pockets of good/bad). We are looking for a house in the $350,000-$450,000 range, hopefully this is enough to get us into a nice area. Thank you again for your responses!
I think you should find a very decent house in your price range and St. Pete may still be an option for you. You are right that there are some very bad crime filled areas in St. Pete. It would be very wise to carefully figure out which areas to avoid. Nevertheless I'm certain there are some beautiful communities as well. Otherwise people wouldn't be paying so much to live there. Just do your research if you want to consider it. I wish I could help you more about the schools. My son is only four so I haven't had a lot of experience with that yet. I think it's pretty much common sense though that the more expensive the neighborhood, the better the schools are. In your price range, I don't think you have much to worry about.

I'm glad your realtor was honest with you about Tampa not having any walkable towns and being littered with chain stores because that is pretty much right. Now that I know your price range and your preference, may I add a couple of suggestions? You might really enjoy Davis Island or Hyde Park. These are areas of South Tampa that are very close to the interstate and the airport. They are both somewhat quaint areas with a lot of historic homes, brick streets, and little privately owned shops. Like every place else in Fl, they are gradually being subjected to new condo buildings and chain stores but nowhere is really immune to that anymore. I lived in Hyde Park for awhile before our family grew and affordable housing was outpriced for our situation. I really loved it there...nice park, unique restaurants, shopping...and depending on where you are, some of that can be within walking distance. Please ask your realtor about these areas because they are so close to your commute and sound like they would fit your criteria well. Sure, a house there will cost you more for the same SF than a house in Carrollwood for instance, but I think it would still be in your price range and you would save money in gas.
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:14 AM
 
26 posts, read 133,161 times
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I did look into Davis Island and Hyde Park, however, in our price range it appears most of the homes are around 1,500 sq ft and we really need something closer to around 2,000 (or even a little bigger)...we will already be downsizing quite a bit from our current home (3,200 sq ft). We have 2 decent size dogs so a 1,500sq ft house just wouldn't be big enough. It's too bad because you're right, those areas would really be perfect for what we are looking for. Why don't they have more "walkable" towns in Florida? We can't be the only couple that like the small town feel, historic buildings and charming coffee shops you can walk to. I'm not a big fan of stripmalls/Walmart so I have a feeling I may have tough time adjusting.
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Old 10-06-2006, 07:53 AM
 
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Gotcha. You're right, you definitely have to sacrifice some square footage for more character. We rent right now because we don't want to buy and raise our family here. Since we sort of despise cookie cutter homes, we always end up with smaller space (under 1000SF) just so we can have something historic with character. Now that we have another baby on the way though it is getting harder to compromise on that so I understand where you are coming from.

I can't say for sure why people in Fl don't prefer a quaint small town lifestyle but I do believe over development and fewer choices has a lot to do with it. I live in a somewhat historic area of Tampa (Seminole Heights) but this side of town is totally neglected. There aren't a lot of choices for shopping, dining, etc. and the small privately owned businesses that pop up usually close quickly. The city doesn't put any effort into making communities like this with older homes more attractive or desirable for people with families. I think because of that a lot of people settle for the brand new neighborhood developments instead. People think why would you want to buy an older home in a somewhat neglected part of town without a Walmart right down the street when for the same price you could have a brand new home in a lushly landscaped subdivision with a Walmart, Target, and Publix right around the corner?

There is also a certain mentality, at least among my family and peers, that because I don't live in one of those subdivisions and my neighborhood is old that it is unsafe and crime ridden. This is just ignorance in my opinion. Sure, there are houses that are really nice and some houses with lawns that are in disrepair but that doesn't mean the neighborhood is filled with crime. It does however mean that you don't have some homeowner's association telling you where you can park, how high your grass can be, and whether you can build a shed in your backyard.

Finally there are a lot of people who obviously come here to retire or visit. Florida wants to keep pumping tourist dollars in so they tear down old neighborhoods and build lots of condos to attract these folks.

Those are just a few reasons I can think of.
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Old 10-06-2006, 08:46 PM
jps
 
79 posts, read 364,433 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ambyr View Post
We will be relocating to the Tampa area around March 2007 and are looking for an area that is family friendly, safe and with a decent school system. So far, our top 4 areas are Dunedin, Safety Harbor, Carrollwood and Westchase. I would really like to get some feedback from people who actually live in these areas if at all possible. My husband will be commuting to the airport and would like to keep his drive no longer than 30-40 minutes. While I understand there may be some negatives (like there are with any area in any state), please refrain from telling me what a dump Tampa is and that we shouldn't move... I don't expect Tampa to be perfect...no place is. I am already aware that the housing market is high as are the taxes, what I would like to know is...are any of the areas I picked better for young families or are they more for seniors? Are there things to do close by? How close would the beach be?...that kind of stuff. We like quant little neighborhoods so if there is another area I've not listed, please let me know. Your help is much appreciated!!! :-)
I live in the Countryside area of Clearwater which is between Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor.
Westchase is 15 minutes from the airport. Dunedin is about a half hour. Safety Harbor is 15-20 minutes, tops.

All are 10-20 minutes from beautiful beaches.

Safety Harbor is more quaint than Dunedin, despite what the previous poster said.

Schools are markedly better in Pinellas County. Check out Oldsmar as well.
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:54 PM
 
Location: Tampa Bay
598 posts, read 2,093,864 times
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Another vote for Safety Harbor

Small and cozy, quiet, quaint, walkable, awesome park (Phillipe Park), town is right on the water, lots of beautiful old trees, easy commute. The city works hard to keep the small-town feel. If I could afford it, I would move there tomarrow. Just a great little place.
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