EAST TAMPA — The intersection of 29th Street and East Lake Avenue once was the turf of drug dealers and other troublemakers.
But in recent years residents have taken back the East Tampa street corner.
Last week about 40 people, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn, gathered in the parking lot of Big Wash laundry to celebrate the transformation.
“It was less than 20 years ago and you could ride through 29th and Lake at any hour of the day and be solicited for drugs. Gangs, guns were everywhere,” said Buckhorn who participated in neighborhood anti-drug marches years ago.
Marches organized in the mid-1980s prompted the closing of the notorious Rabbit’s Foot bar on East Lake. The site now is home to the Audrey Spotford Youth & Family Center.
In recent years the city has repaved and landscaped Lake and 29th. Bible Truth Ministries opened the H.O.P.E. Center on a vacant corner lot in 2010.
The learning center at 2902 E. Lake Ave. has become a community gathering place for events and meetings, and provides a safe place for area children to learn and play. Daniel Dean, pastor of Bible Truth, built the center and founded the East Tampa Action Group, a volunteer neighborhood organization that works to clean up area streets and promote self-help projects.
In addition to the laundry, the corner has retail including a convenience store with take-out soul food, a meat market and an open-air pavilion.
The changes have happened over months and years. “But we felt the need to go ahead and do a commemoration and make it more official so people will recognize the changes made,” said Mellita Mills of the action group. “We can build on the momentum and keep it going.”