I will never forget the first time I came to Westchase. It was the summer of 1999 and my husband was golfing in the Thursday night golf league at the Westchase golf course. He wanted me to meet him at McDivot’s after his round.
I drove with some friends from Clearwater and I felt like we were headed to the middle of nowhere. I remember two lane roads lined thick with trees and brush. The Publix plaza seemed to appear out of nowhere. McDivot’s was packed with sweaty golfers who traded stories and jabs from that day’s round. I remember thinking that people looked really happy in Westchase.
Exactly two years later we had a 1-year old son and a nice townhouse in Clearwater. But, I was desperate for some day time adult conversation and a neighborhood with more young families. We decided that even though my husband’s commute would be a lot longer, we wanted to move to Westchase.
I dove head first into house hunting, driving around every street, trying to get my bearings and looking for new listings. Once, I even made my son car sick because I kept going in circles and turning in people’s driveways. Inventory was low, much like it is today. It only took one visit to the house in Chelmsford to know that was the one for us. Almost exactly 10 years ago, in late October, we moved to Westchase.
In 2001, Westchase had already been around for almost 10 years, but it was still a young neighborhood that I have had the pleasure of watching grown up. Ten years ago, Westchase was expanding rapidly on the south side of Linebaugh Avenue. The homes in the Greens were going up and West Park Village was beginning to take shape. The oak trees and palms that lined the streets in the Fords were puny and I wondered how long it would take them to grow. Westchase Elementary School was just a few years old, Davidsen Middle was starting its second school year, and Alonso High was just opening its doors. The restaurant choices were very limited and I soon tired of take-out Applebee’s.
Westchase’s popularity was soaring in the early 2000’s. People were coming in droves to live in this idyllic setting. To house all of the people who wanted to move to the area, Westchase was already starting to expand beyond its borders. New neighborhoods and commercial strip centers started popping up all around Westchase. West Hampton and Waterchase residents began unpacking in 2002 as Westwood Lakes was building its final homes. During the same time, Mandolin Estates and Reserves were offering beautiful homes off of Citrus Park Drive. Schools followed, with Farnell Middle opening in 2002 and Mary Bryant in 2003.
Thanks to West Park Village, there was an expansion of restaurants and night time activities that allowed residents to have fun a little closer home. Thankfully, my take out choices expanded way beyond Applebee’s.
The Northwest Tampa area came together just in time for the real estate boom of the mid-2000’s (a boom worthy of a separate blog). Over the last few years, as prices declined to pre-boom levels, the Westchase area has taken its fair share of punches just like the rest of Tampa Bay. But, overall, the desirability of the area has done remarkably well considering the scope of the real estate decline. We have seen our fair share of closed businesses and foreclosed homes badly in need of lawn service. The short sales have been frequent and we have all rolled our eyes when we find out what the neighbor’s home sold for.
Yesterday, as I stood in a house in the Shires with a young couple moving to Westchase, I was reminded of myself 10 years ago. They were measuring walls and windows, talking about how excited they were to raise their kids in such a great neighborhood. And as I watched them arguing over the size TV that would fit in the living room I smiled, knowing that the Westchase has a bright future ahead.
Melanie Atkinson is a Westchase area Realtor with The Wood Team at Coldwell Banker. She can be reached at 813-368-6084 or Melanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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