Tampa/St. Pete & FL Info...

So, Florida dopers…

2.5 years ago I spent five years living in SE Alabama (Dothan) . Living there allowed me to spend large chunks of time in Panama City, Ft. Walton, and Pensacola which in turn caused me to fall in love with Florida.

I’m thinking about looking for a transfer from here in DC to Tampa/STP or Miami (I’m going to Miami this weekend to snoop around).

There’s an opening in Panama City right now that I could take (I just got a great performance review) but it may be a little bit too rural for a single man such as myself (I’ve gotta play the numbers!).

So I need Florida dopers to drop some knowledge on Ol’ DustyButt!

What can you tell me about The Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami areas?

Which counties and neighborhoods would you suggest to someone looking to spend 250-300k for a home?

What’s the work commute like for you?

What areas should be avoided?

What’s overrated about life in Florida?

What are the benefits of FL life?

My only concern is that I’m suffering from “the grass is greener” syndrome. I grew up in Baltimore and I know DC. And, quite frankly living in this area has grown thin.
I’ve lived elsewhere and I know what a person should expect from their surroundings. For me it comes down to what my quality of life is. I’ve had my fill of traffic, crime, urban sprawl, pollution, over-priced markets, general congestion and rudeness. I feel like it’s time to say “goodbye” to my childhood home! But am I trading one set of annoyances for another?

What can you tell me about The Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami areas?

Miami is the most superficial of the three places, St. Pete is the most casual, and Tampa is in the middle.

Which counties and neighborhoods would you suggest to someone looking to spend 250-300k for a home? Don’t know about Miami-Dade/Broward, but Tampa is essentially Hillsborough, and St. Pete is Pinellas. You could also look at Manatee County (Bradenton) or Sarasota county. Not sure how those are for singles.

What’s the work commute like for you?
It can be easy or it can be hellish. Where would you work?

What areas should be avoided?
Personally I don’t like driving over the bridge into the sun. Don’t live on the beach unless you work from home, or don’t mind long commutes.

What’s overrated about life in Florida?
Most people don’t go to the beach as often as they’d think or take as much time to take in the sunset walk, etc. It doesn’t get that hot here, compared to DC or other places, but the summertime weather does last a long time. It can get old.

What are the benefits of FL life?
No income tax, never gets terribly cold, never have to walk through slush or dig your car out. A downside is you can get a sort of “manana” syndrome, where you’ll get around to doing something good tomorrow. It’s a sort of hazard of always knowing the beach is there, it will be sunny, etc.
FWIW there is plenty of crime, particularly in a few areas, although not quite on a DC/Baltimore scale. Public transport is seriously lacking. There are a good number of social misfits who come here thinking the sunshine will make life better, it doesn’t stop them from being sleazoids, and people from other parts of the country read about them and think “What is wrong with Florida?” without taking into consideration that these folks mostly came here from Ohio, Michigan, NY/NJ, Ontario, etc.

I don’t spend too much time in Tampa, so another Doper will have to address that part, but I could go on and on about St. Pete.

It’s located on a peninsula so is surrounded by water; gulf on the west, Tampa Bay on the east. Plenty of opportunity for water activities, seaside dining, etc. if you’re into that(no beach in Tampa!)

The job market is pretty sucky, but if you’ve already got something lined up then no worries. As for the commute, it depends on where your office is. Traversing the county north to south can really suck if you have to take the surface streets, but a piece of cake if you can take the interstate. Commuting from St. Pete to Tampa can also be a real nightmare (I mean during rush hour. The drive itself, say on a weekend afternoon is no problem). I personally would not work in Tampa and live in St. Pete vice / versa.

Aside from a small area south of downtown there aren’t really any “bad areas”, though I personally would prefer to be either on the west or east end of the city. As with the rest of the country, it is a buyer’s market with housing costs going steadily down. There are lots of condos downtown and it’s surrounding area. You won’t find modern subdivisions here, but there are lots of very quaint old neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we have a homeowners insurance crisis and finding someone to insure you will be very difficult and the rates will be very high.

As you probably know, it’s hot hot hot here 11 months of the year. The other month is simply hot. If humidity bums you out, don’t even think about it.

If you’re looking for a swinging social life, you may prefer Tampa. St Pete is nothing like the retirement community it once was, but it still has a ways to go on the nightlife front. There are some good bars and quite a few good restaurants downtown, but it’s definitely more lowkey than what you’re probably used to. We do have some world class museums, a fine orchestra, regional theater, etc. and of course, the Devil Rays are here, which, though they may be in a league of their own in terms of suck, Tropicana Field is a very pleasant place to watch a game.

That’s all I have time for right now. I came here from Southern California, which I LOVED, and I’ve been here eigheen years, if that tells you anything. I’ll check in later if I think of anything else.

Smaller than it looks on TV, and hablo espanol unless you’ll be confining yourself to the more monied portions of the city. Well, I guess you don’t really need Spanish like everyone says you do, but it helps. Goods and services can usually be obtained by the creative use of charades. If you get completely boxed in you can just act European, people will think you’re a tourist and then it’s all okay, you’re not just some stupid gringo who has the audacity to live in SoFla and not speak Spanish. I tell people I’m from Luxembourg sometimes. Anyway, Miami extends north, south and west into vast tracks of either swamp or smaller towns, so if you don’t want to live in the city proper there are other places, not so expensive and frankly not so Miami.

Hmm, a home? Try condo, and not a particularly great one. Our housing market is nose-diving at the moment and it will get cheaper in the years to come, South Florida is way overbuilt. But even as it plummets, it’s still expensive. You got your money upfront and then you get gouged on property taxes, and I mean gouged. It’s not a bad time to buy, but be prepared for disappointment as to what a quarter mil can get you here. Come ready to bargain and know that the gutters are running with the blood of the overextended who can’t afford carry that mortgage that just had the payments come due.

I think Miami won worst road rage this year in an annual survey? It’s really not all that bad, but I’d say an hour plus if going with the flow of traffic during rush hour, into and out of Miami from the next municipal area. Miami proper has alot of immigrants that take a generally more relaxed approach to traffic regulations than you might be used to. Expect people to actually hit your car if you try to cut into a lane where you aren’t wanted, it’s like they were raised at a county fair and learned to drive in bumper cars.

Liberty City, Little Haiti, and any area other than Homestead in which you see some amount of livestock running loose. West Miami in general. For example, if you should roll up on an otherwise normal looking gas station in west Miami that has a goat tied to a pump and some chickens running around the parking lot, you might want to move on. Great thing about Miami is that if you get lost in a scary place just lock your doors and drive north, you’ll inevitably find yourself in Broward County, where the criminal population is more professional, our cops are jackboot fascists, and we can helpfully point you back to I-95.

There isn’t much to do if you actually live here. See, we have no state income tax. That’s a good thing for us moneywise, but it means our state government is poor. So, things we see in places like New York, museums and orchestras and shit, that stuff isn’t really around much. I mean it’s there right, but it’s not really quality stuff. Entertainment is pretty much just the beach, clubs and some decent restaurants. It’s stuff tourists love and can’t get enough of, for the two weeks they’re here. Stay for a couple years and you’ll be climbing the walls. I do alot of checking the newspaper to see if there’s a local festival I can go to so as to relieve the boredom. Plus it’s not a real friendly place to live, I hear this all the time and I think it’s correct. I go other places, everyone is friendly and welcoming. South Florida is very cliquey and hostile, I know new people have alot of trouble making friends down here. It makes me sad but that’s just sort of the way it is. Also, Miami gets played up as a “cool” place to be in America, but it’s really not all that cool. Buy a funky shirt, drive a sportscar, drink a mojito and act like a dick, that’s Miami cool. Very hard to find a real coffee house or a lounge with genuine peeps in it; down here you have to make an effort. If you don’t you’ll just be swept along with the crowd that goes to South Beach/Hard Rock every other night and you’ll either claw your eyes out or turn into a shithead.

Good local food, and gorgeous women, everywhere. Nice weather, usually. Some neighborhoods are still great places to live with good people, and if you happen to live in one of them life can be almost like you’re on permanent vacation. Come home from work, put on some shorts and wander across the street to a little outside bar, have beer and fishdip and just chill. Life can be a walk on the boardwalk, eating an ice cream with a pretty girl on your arm just about every night if you take the time to let it be that way.

Huh. Well, we don’t have alot of pollution. I think you might get disappointed on the rest.

Here’s my life now: I currently commute 1hr45m (door to door) from Baltimore to DC. Cutting my commute to 45 minutes (to me) would be amazing. The problem is that it would mean a 30-60% increase in rent for a comparable apartment or paying around 300k for a so-so 1 bedroom 1 bathroom condo with $300+/month condo fees. Yeah… Right. That’s one of the things I’m sick of.

So, in all I wouldn’t mind a 20 mile commute in FL. My dream schedule would be to wake up at 5:30am work out til 6-ish and out the door at 7am. Now-a-days my morning revolves around offsetting my travel to avoid rush hour(s). This means that I have to wake up at 4:30 to get to work at 7:30. :rolleyes:

@ ShibbOleth
As far as employment, most likely I’ll end up at MacDill AFB. I’m not sure of the exact location in Miami.

I saw some GREAT looking in places in St. Pete the last time I was there in '05. Hmmm… But a commute to Tampa would be a pain, huh.

Where there’s a will… there’s a way.

@ Grossbottom
That’s not the first time I’ve heard those comments about Miami. That’s why I’m spending 4 days next week lookin’ around. I don’t fear the 'burbs… I’m one of those who thinks living in the city is overrated. I did city living as a kid growing up through college and until I was 26 before joining the military. I did the the small town USA circuit and found a sweet spot for myself, which is close to a major city but not directly in it. Now it’s a matter of finding a city that’s the right size.

Well, considering the hardship you go through now, the pesky commute from St. Pete to MacDill would be no biggie for you.

If you think of any more specific questions, do let me know (can you tell I’m very proud of the wee burg? :stuck_out_tongue: )

If you move to Miami-Dade, make sure you speak at least some Spanish; the population is 60% Latino.

Ok, for commute to MacDill from Tampa or St Pete (forget about Clearwater and the Gulf Beaches), you could live in Northeast St Petersburg, and come over MacDill. Some decent options there. In Tampa I’d recommend the area from Westshore in the west to Hyde Park area. Very single friendly, but not family friendly. South Tampa is expensive until you get into some of the crummy areas to close to the base, where you are not exactly in danger, per se, but not where you want to live for the most part. I’m not totally up on the real estate market, but there should be some condo/townhouse sort of places in that range in or around those areas. Maybe even a smaller single family home, especially if you can do some repairs.