Central Park History

Without question, the Central Park area is one of Tampa's most culturally and historically rich neighborhoods. With Central Avenue serving as the economic engine, Central Park was once a thriving African-American business and entertainment district. The late Ray Charles recorded his first song, Found My Baby There, while residing at 813 Short Emery St. It was during a Central Park performance that Hank Ballard and the Midnighters asked the kids in the audience the name of the dance they were performing. The kids shouted, "The Twist." Hank later wrote and recorded the legendary song that launched Chubby Checker into the limelight. Portions of the 1964 movie, Black Like Me, starring James Whitmore, were filmed along Central Avenue.

Despite its achievements, the neighborhood could not escape the racial and economic struggles that prevailed in many inner-city neighborhoods during the 1960's. A racial disturbance in 1967 helped seal the demise of the Central Avenue business corridor. Since then, neglect and disenfranchisement have largely characterized the area.

In an effort to stimulate growth, Tampa City Council adopted the Central Park Community Redevelopment Plan in June 2006. The plan identifies measures to foster public/private partnerships that will help maximize redevelopment investment in a manner that respects the unique history and is inclusive of the community's vision for the neighborhood.