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.
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!”