Village’s Founding Father:
Twenty-five years ago Carrollwood Village was just a gleam in Matt Jetton’s eye. A gleam, and a dream and a set of plans on paper.
Today Matt Jetton’s eyes still gleam as he talks about his community that he conceived, began to build, then reluctantly had to let go of before it was completed. “I just wish things had gone differently, so that I could have seem the project through. It broke my heart.”
Jetton’s regret is just momentary, though. Clearly, he’s proud of Carrollwood Village, and well he should be. His plans were so well-laid that even though economic pressures and an energy crisis led him to sell his company, SunState Builders, the Village remains true to the original concept.
Matt Jetton was semi-famous by the time he started Carrollwood Village. He had developed several projects in Tampa, among them River Grove Park and Estates along the Hillsborough River. Then came original Carrollwood, the likes of which had not been seen locally. It won all kinds of awards, making Jetton almost as well-known in building circles nationally as he was in his home-town.
Jetton is an old name in Tampa, with Jetton Avenue running through some of the most fashionable neighborhoods of South Tampa, where Matt as born and raised. He was one of the “boys of old Florida” up in Gainesville, where one of his fraternity connections run was Lawton Chiles. Jetton’s connections run broad and deep in this community.
So when he built Carrollwood, he felt certain that folks in crowded South Tampa would be as eager to live there as he was. That didn’t happen. What did happen is that fledgling University of South Florida had been founded out to the east and its prestigious staff of professors and administrators began to flock to Carrollwood, along with other newcomers to Tampa. By 1968 there were almost 1000 homes nestled around the shores of Lake Carroll and Matt Jetton was looking for new ground to break.
Just north and west of original Carrollwood was almost 2000 acres that seemed prime for Jetton’s next development. If Lake Carroll was the hub for Carrollwood, then a lush golf and tennis club seemed a natural hub for Carrollwood Village. But first the land had to be acquired from 25 to 30 owners. Not easy, but for Matt Jetton, not hard, either.
Carrollwood Village was unique in that it was one of the first building projects in Hillsborough County to involved study and planning by such experts as traffic engineers, school planners, and environmentalists, to determine its regional impact upon the community. When traffic engineers said, “Of course, you’ll need a traffic light here, and here, and here,” Jetton thought, “Here? In the middle of nowhere?” But he chuckles and admits that the traffic lights today are just where the engineers said they’d be someday.
Original plans also called for two public elementary schools, as well as a possible private school. Fifty-four holes for golf were in those plans, too. And where Cypress Trace now stands, off of Burrington, there was an Equestrian Center.
The first single-family homes were all custom-built around the golf course in the area of Carrollwood Village Drive, and that’s where the Jettons lived then. The sales center and model homes were where the Village Presbyterian Church and Village Green are now.
On the subject of Adult Congregate Living Facility now being planned near South Village and Casey Road, Matt Jetton observes, “If we were planning the Village from scratch today, a project of this sort would definitely be in the plan. Having a facility of that type here, I think, is great.” (Editor’s Note: This ACLF, later named Park Place, was completed a year or so after this article was written.)
Jetton firmly believes that the homeowners associations’ self-governing plan in Carrollwood Village is what makes the community stable. “There are always going to be pressures to change things here and there along the way; every project goes through its little ups and downs. You never want to freeze things, but every change should be well thought-out.”
So even if the Village we call home was eventually completed by other builders, Matt Jetton is well-please by the way it turned out. For a while Matt and Mary Jetton lived on their horse farm over off Fletcher. But now they’ve returned to Carrollwood Village and seem quite content to be here.
There are still a few things Jetton would like to see happen in the community. Like the sidewalk project on the west side of South Village Drive being completed all the way from Ehrlich down to Dale Mabry. There were suppose to be sidewalks on both sides of every street in the original plans. Jetton has a special interest in the particular sidewalk, however. His son, Mark, who has cerebral palsy, likes to get out and about on his own “wheels”. Completion of that sidewalk would make it possible for Mark and other folks on wheels to be able to get around the neighborhood a little easier, without crossing curving roads. (Editor’s Note: This sidewalk was installed by the county a year or so after this article was written.)
Meanwhile, Matt Jetton, now retired at 71, enjoys his life tremendously. He owns a stable of racehorses and is especially interested in the progress of County Coy, a six-year old now racing on the Kentucky circuit.
His daughter, Melissa, lives nearby, in “original” Carrollwood with her family. And on the day I visited, Melissa’s minivan rolled up and the doors opened. Grandchildren Ashley and namesake Matt, born on his grand-dad’s birthday, came running with open arms. It was time to sum up all we’d been talking about.
“Considering all the things that have happened here economically, I think Carrollwood Village has turned out great. It’s just a very nice place to live. Well, the rest of us agree with you, Mr. Jetton. But it’s nice to hear it from the founding father.
¾by Sandra Harrington