This blog is a first in a destination series called Strange Corners & Surprising Detours.
Photos: © Daniel Veintimilla
If you’ve ever traveled west on Hillsborough Avenue, you may have been confused by a sign beckoning northbound Veterans Expressway that’s posted just by the on-ramp, immediately after a turn that does not lead to the highway.
Maybe you noticed the tricky optical illusion in time the first time you saw it, or maybe, like me, you had to take a U-turn. Did you ever wonder what lies at the end of that road? Well, nothing … sort of.
One afternoon last November, curiosity and feverish procrastination overcame me en route home to Clearwater. Danny, my photographer bf and I decided to take the by TIA and Memorial/Veterans highways and see if we could somehow criss-cross some office parks and get back on a main road.
No doing. The road, Jet View Circle is just that, a circle, that takes you into the Northwest Commerce Park, an office/industrial park owned by Eastgroup Properties.
The park is apocalyptic. If you dare to drive there — which may or may not be trespassing (sorry, officer, we didn’t know) — an eerie, otherworldly aura permeates the park’s weird backdrop of suburban decay. Wooden shingles dangle from its very 1980s-style rooftops. Blunt wrappers blow in the breeze. We didn’t see one discernible business in operation, but seemingly functioning satellite antennas could be spotted, and a surreal array of graffiti warded off trespassers and depicted crazy cartoon characters on its exterior walls.
Danny and I joked about how the park looked like the headquarters of some secret operation —dirty DEA or cop drug stashes, CIA weapons and holding areas, Mafia storage? The possibilities were intriguing. (Sidenote: If I wind up mysteriously missing, this blogpost may be why!)
Jokes aside, the least compelling scenario usually corresponds with reality. Most likely, Eastgroup is holding onto the properties until some moneybags developer comes along.
The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce wrote on its website that “the W. Hillsborough Avenue corridor between Town ‘n Country and Oldsmar is another hotbed of development, with thousands of high-end apartments, condos and single family homes slated to begin construction within the next few years.”
In the meantime, Northwest Commerce Park is an intriguingly desolate twilight zone that would make a great backdrop for a zombie horror film. Maybe if we stayed long enough, we would have seen some walkers.
One more thing: If you venture inside the complex and travel to its far east end, you can get a great view of a TIA landing strip.
See below for a gallery of photos from the park.