As a resident for nearly two decades now, I can say that Forest Hills–located in Tampa, Florida, is an ideal place to live. Why? Because it is an established, suburban oasis virtually located within Tampa–in fact, a large part of Forest Hills is inside the city limits. Forest Hills is located on the northwest edge of Tampa. The neighborhood can be generally described as the area bordered by Busch Boulevard to the south, Fletcher Avenue to the north, Florida Avenue to the east and Armenia Avenue to the west. However, these parameters sometimes expand and contract a bit depending upon who is speaking.
Some homes date back to the 1920s, when an early developer drew residents to the area with a boxing match featuring Jack Dempsey. However, the majority of the houses encountered in the suburban neighborhood are ranch-style in architecture and date to the 1950s and 1960s. If one knows where to look, some small pockets of newer development can be found. There are few vacant lots remaining in Forest Hills; those that are listed on the market do not always take long to sell. Yet, despite the fact there is little land left in Forest Hills, one would be hard-pressed to believe such. Thanks to low-density zoning, a paucity of apartments and zero-lot lines, and the presence of many lakes, ponds, areas of wildlife, and an abundance of trees and woods, it can be hard to remember that the neighborhood’s southern edge is within seven miles of the skyscrapers of Downtown Tampa.
There are a couple major landmarks within the Forest Hills area. The Hamner Fire Tower, built in 1937, is located at the northwest corner of Fletcher and Boulevard. It harkens back to a time when forest personnel atop the tower in those days would have looked out upon miles of woods, swamps, and orange groves–not houses, businesses, and asphalt roads. Another iconic landmark in the area is the Babe Zaharias Golf Course. It is a public golf course that is located on Country Club Boulevard, a couple blocks to the west of North Boulevard. The golf course, which opened in 1926, was purchased by golfing great Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias in 1949. In fact, Zaharias lived in a house near the golf course from 1954 until her death two years later. However, the golf course thereafter fell into a severe state of disrepair. The City of Tampa restored the golf course, which reopened in 1974.
There are many shopping and eating opportunities located within and near Forest Hills. Because Forest Hills is conveniently situated near the heart of Tampa, most Forest Hills residents can easily do much of their shopping nearby. The largest retail hub in the area is University Mall, located a couple miles to the east of Forest Hills, and only a three-minute drive away from the University of South Florida (USF). University Mall is a major shopping destination that opened in 1974, offering shoppers such stores as Sears, Dillard’s, Macys, Burlington Coat Factory, Steve and Barry’s, Old Navy, a food court, and a 16-screen Regal movie theater. Just to the west of Forest Hills reside the many upscale shopping venues in Carrollwood, Forest Hills’ neighboring suburb. Grocery shoppers can look to the Publix located at the corner of Linebaugh Avenue and North Dale Mabry Highway–a quick drive for those located in the southern half of Forest Hills–and the Publix located at Fletcher Avenue and North Dale Mabry Highway, a short jaunt for those living in the northern reaches of Forest Hills. There is a Sweetbay Supermarket at the corner of Fletcher Avenue and Florida Avenue, and The Fresh Market is located on the northeast corner of Fletcher Avenue and North Dale Mabry Highway. Wal-Mart also offers a grocery store at the southeast corner of Busch Boulevard and Florida Avenue.
Are there any handymen (or handywomen) out there? Then Forest Hills-area shopping will satisfy them, too. There is a Home Depot next to the Wal-Mart grocery store at Busch and Florida, and a new Lowe’s Home Improvement store at the southeast corner of North Dale Mabry Highway and Fletcher Avenue. Many major restaurants can be found within a ten-minute drive of Forest Hills, including Chili’s, Friday’s, Bennigan’s, The Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Piccadilly’s Cafeteria. For those who feel like taking in a sweet desert (or eye-opening morning cup of coffee), there is a Dunkin’ Donuts on Fletcher Avenue between Boulevard and Florida avenues, and a Krispy Kreme on Florida Avenue just south of the Home Depot and Wal-Mart stores. A day at Busch Gardens is only three miles down the road to the east, and the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is right across the street from USF. The west coast beaches can be easily accessed via Interstate-275, which has three interchanges within a few minutes of Forest Hills; I-275 also makes for easy commuting to and from Downtown Tampa.
Good schools are located within Forest Hills boundaries. Miles Elementary, Forest Hills Elementary, Lake Magdalene Elementary, John Quincy Adams Middle School, and Chamberlain High School are all public schools that are well respected and teach many of Forest Hills’ young residents. There are some public recreation areas nearby (aside from Babe Zaharias Golf Course), including Roy Haynes Recreation Center at 1902 South Village Drive, Forest Hills Park at 724 W. 109th Avenue, and the Danny Del Rio Pool at 10208 North Boulevard, right next door to Adams Middle School. The North Tampa Public Library is located just south of the railroad tracks at the corner of Busch and Boulevard, and the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library is located a bit further away–but still convenient to Forest Hills–on Bearss Avenue, between Lake Magdalene Boulevard and Smitter Road.
As can be seen, Forest Hills truly is a pefect location for all sorts of people–from young families to singles to retirees. Because of its combination of natural surroundings, vintage ranch-style homes, convenience to shopping and entertainment, good schools, and nice parks, Forest Hills offers Tampa residents a unique neighborhood unlike most others in the area. Indeed, Forest Hills is a wonderful place to call home.