Residents will stride off on two separate walking tours Saturday as city officials and consultants begin to piece together a unified plan for the city's neighborhoods.
The goal is to find out what residents think of their neighborhoods — good and bad — and create a plan to shape future development.
The effort is paid for with a $1.2 million federal grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant's initial focus of designing a transit corridor along Nebraska Avenue has been expanded to include the city's downtown and some of its best-known neighborhoods.
In total, eight walking tours and planning workshops are scheduled between now and mid-May.
The first tours will be in Ybor Heights/V.M. Ybor and Tampa Heights with each tour scheduled from 10 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday. Following a lunch break, workshops will be held for each neighborhood from 12:15 to 2:15 p.m.
The walk in Ybor starts in Borrell Park at 808 E. 26th Ave. The workshop will be held at Ragan Park, 1200 E. Lake Ave.
In Tampa Heights, the walk and workshop will be based at Robles Park Community Center, 3305 N. Avon Ave.
"This is a big deal for us. We're so happy," said Kim Headland, president of the V.M. Ybor Neighborhood Association. The neighborhood, to the northeast of Ybor City and north of Interstate 4, was named for cigar magnate Vicente Martinez Ybor.
Unlike some neighborhoods, such as Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights, V.M. Ybor residents have not created a specific plan to guide their area's redevelopment.
Some residents worry about commercial development along Nebraska Avenue, historic preservation and how V.M. Ybor can connect with other neighborhoods, including downtown, Headland said.
Connecting neighborhoods is a major reason for developing a city-wide plan, said Randy Goers, the city's urban planning coordinator.
"We've never taken a look at how we can connect them and make it all function as a unified city," he said.
For neighborhoods with existing plans, the focus will be more on tweaking or fine-tuning them.
"It should be something to build upon," Goers said.