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The Sassy Sandpiper: Project Lealman

By M.R. WILSON, TB Reporter

Here’s looking at a community on the rise — despite labels.  

I didn’t knowingly retire to a “slum and blight area.”

The “Bear House” stood prim and pristine, a dollhouse with white front porch columns and bougainvillea, a dream find in an urgent search. Old-growth oaks on surrounding properties arched high and wide, creating a canopy for birds and squirrels. A kumquat tree, delicate palms, and an “elf house” graced the back yard.

The residence was built in 1946. Later someone added a third bedroom, second bath, and back yard deck, creating an ingenious floor plan that was compact but not crowded. Further modifications made life easier for its former resident, the late artist Mary Boyd. She died young, of a rare metabolic disorder that bears her name, Boyd’s Disease.

I didn’t realize I was moving into one of the poorest areas of Pinellas County. My mailing address was St. Petersburg. I grew up here and was happy to be back. The Church of the Transfiguration, The Broach School, and Joe’s Creek Greenway Park lay within walking distance.

Yes, there are neglected houses in my neighborhood, but also a number spiffed up and newly occupied. My block is reasonably attractive, even though the house next door is undergoing a facelift. The new owner has gutted the place and with her son’s help, is transforming it.

Yes, I hear unhappy folks, nuisance barking (canine and human), and occasional helicopter patrols with searchlights piercing the dark, making me jumpy.

Still, I’m flooded with stubborn nostalgia. I attended Lealman Junior High School from 1964 to 1967, and during ninth grade, often walked from my family’s home in Westgate Manor. Tromping back on 38th Avenue, I might stop after school at a pale yellow two-story house with a little sundry store on the ground floor.  My friend Judy and I would get RC and Tab. In a teenage girl laughing fit, my Tab sprayed everywhere. I made some smart remark, “at least it was diet…” as if to placate the owner who would not have to clean up a sugary mess. The building is currently residential. For me, it’s a landmark. Ironically, it’s on 40th Street. My street.

LJHS closed in 2007 “due to deteriorating building conditions” according to and its programs morphed into Lealman Innovation Academy at a new location on 28th Street North.

This saddened me, of course.

So perhaps you can understand my flood of mixed emotions upon reading this item:

“…classified a slum and blight area.” Ouch.

My little corner of the planet has been targeted in a historic decision to create a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) in unincorporated Pinellas County.

Good news, really.

Help is on the horizon, even at a distance. Rejuvenation takes time, dedication, and money, not to mention cutting through a snarl of administrative red tape.

Yet politicos and residents feel excited. I should, too.

“Lealman boasts the unincorporated area’s first unified garbage service.”

Gosh, we’re trying.

How to help?

Investors welcome.

Lift Up Lealman.

The accompanying photo shows the Bear House mentioned in the article. (Courtesy of M.R. Wilson)

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The Sassy Sandpiper: Project Lealman
Article Name
The Sassy Sandpiper: Project Lealman
Here's looking at a community on the rise -- despite labels.
Publisher Name
Tampa Bay Reporter

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