Ybor City can add another big, national brand name to the list of companies moving in along Seventh Avenue between all the cigar shops and tattoo parlors: 7-Eleven.
The national convenience store chain will soon begin renovation of the “La Ultramar Jewelers” building at 1535 E. Seventh Ave. at the heart of a neighborhood better known for tattoo parlors and nightclubs, and directly across the street from the City-backed Centro movie theater and restaurant complex.
This marks the third major, national brand to invest in Ybor, each one choosing to renovate an existing building, rather than knock down an old building and rebuild a new one.
Just months ago, the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant group renovated a former storefront at 1635 E. Seventh and opened a large bar/restaurant space, complete with dozens of televisions and and an open-air patio space built along Seventh. Almost directly across the street from the future 7-Eleven is a new Jimmy John’s sandwich shop that also opened recently.
Both the City of Tampa and local civic groups have been working to rejuvenate the Ybor City area, and the State of Florida recently opened a massive freeway connector from Port Tampa Bay, partly to divert heavy truck traffic off Ybor City streets.
For now, officials with 7-Eleven say they’re waiting for the landlord of their space to remove some items, but then they’ll begin renovations, and if all goes according to plan they’ll have a 2,650-square foot store open there sometime this summer. The jewelry store space has been vacant for years, sitting just a few yards down from the popular King Corona cigar shop and cafe.
During the 1960s, La Ultramar “became a Tampa destination for quality ‘bling’,” said Del Acosta, who was Tampa’s long-time historic preservation chief. “At the time, the downtown jewelers offered tasteful 14ct. gold, whereas La Ultramar offered 18ct. high-style gold jewelery for men and women.” Before a wave of urban renewal swept away much of Tampa’s historic character, the first floor of the building was a family shoe store and the second floor was a rooming house for men, Acosta said.
The new 7-Eleven project has already gone through the zoning and approval process at the City of Tampa, and this week more of the construction paperwork began to flow through the approval process.
As for how the convenience store will blend with the local historic landscape, 7-Eleven Spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said “We worked well with the local historic board and look forward to serving the community there.”