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Tampa drive-in theater site to make way for 354 affordable apartments

Work is set to officially kick off Tuesday on the affordable housing complex being built on the site of the former theater and flea market on Tampa's Hillsborough Avenue.

  • By Louis Llovio
  • | 5:30 p.m. February 26, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
More than 350 affordable housing units will be built on the site of the former Fun-Lan Drive-in in Tampa.
More than 350 affordable housing units will be built on the site of the former Fun-Lan Drive-in in Tampa.
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  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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Developers are scheduled to break ground on a new Tampa affordable housing development Tuesday on the site of the longtime home of a city drive-in.

The development is being built on the East Hillsborough Avenue plot where the Fun-Lan Drive-in movie theater stood for 71 years before it abruptly closed down December 2021.

Fun-Lan was a place where a generation of locals grew up spending weekend nights catching double features, first as kids, then with friends and, eventually, on date night. It was just a place that everyone knew and everyone went to at least once, it seemed.

The new development being built in its place will be 519,240 square feet and have 354 units. While it’s too early to say what the rents will be when it opens, the city of Tampa says in a news release that “they will be based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's state income limits.”

That’s means about 40% of the units will set aside for families with incomes between 50%-80% of the area median income, and 60% will be available to families at or below 120% AMI, according to a statement from the city.

The new project is being built by The Richman Group of Florida. According to the statement from the city, “in exchange for making a 100% affordable housing development, the city of Tampa awarded the developer $12 million to put toward construction costs.”

Fun-Lan, according to the movie theatre website Cinema Treasures, first opened Jan. 10, 1950, showing the screwball comedy “I Was a Male War Bride” starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan. In the early days it fit 700 cars and tickets cost $0.48. The drive-in operated a single screen until 1983 and eventually grew to four before scaling back to two when digital projectors were added.

The flea market, which over time became as important as the movie screens, moved to the property in 1981.



Louis Llovio

Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.

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