Check out my Transforming Tampa Bay column this week on the new LGBT Welcome Center that will occupy a historic bungalow in St. Pete's diverse Grand Central District. There's a fascinating story behind the previous occupant of the house, too.
As Town Manager Micah Maxwell repeatedly pointed out after every speaker left the podium, these public comments are supposed to address the proposed zoning change, not the future of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel. In the end, though, the White Queen of the Gulf got herself a six-month pardon, as a 3-2 vote favored postponing a decision on the land use change.
Preservation requires guts and tenacity... it is not for the faint of heart. As the curtain lifts on the latest scene in the roller coaster saga of the Jackson House, we see a bright blue tarp on the roof of a decrepit building standing forlornly in a sea of asphalt parking lots.
Enter stage right Bob, Mayor of the City of Tampa, face red, finger pointing: "It’s a mess! We’ve given you time... years. It’s come to naught. Pay your code enforcement fines, stabilize the building in 60 days, or we’ll demolish it! We must protect the public!"
Turns on heel and leaves.
Willie Robinson, third-generation owner of the property, sits mutely, stage left, throughout the entire scene. His attorney, Ric Gilmore, dapper and silent, stands behind Willie, hand on his shoulder.
Center stage is a varied group of concerned citizens, members of the Athena Society, Chloe Coney (Congresswoman Kathy Castor’s district director), Matt Depin of Bracken Engineering, Jetie B. Wilde, Dan Coleman, yours truly, and Yvette Lewis from the NAACP. A collective and empathetic “No!” with varied voices.
“We must save the only remaining authentic part of Central Avenue, Tampa’s black Main Street demolished in the 1960s!”
OK, we know it's not really called the Beercan Building. But that moniker has moved from pejorative to affectionate by now, hasn't it? And whatever you call it, the Rivergate Tower is a signal achievement — a beautifully austere and mathematically inspired creation by architect Harry Wolf that is as worthy an icon for Tampa as those minarets across the river.
Today, celebrate the 25th birthday of Tampa's most distinctive skyscraper with a special event featuring Wolf himself, plus several members of the original building project team. A presentation by Wolf and a panel discussion with some of his collaborators is the centerpiece of the evening. Guests will also get the chance to visit the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and the offices of Tampa Bay WaVE, the entrepreneurs' resource center, both tenants of the building. If you haven't seen the tower (and the "cube") from the inside as well as out, you haven't fully experienced Wolf's achievement.
But during the club's board meeting this week, it didn't take long to notice that the prints along with several vintage shuffleboard trophies and a scoreboard had gone missing.