YBOR CITY — Trees were growing inside the Ferlita Macaroni Factory when John and Chris Rosende started work in July to stabilize the 1923 brick building.
Back then, the brothers were just doing a job for owners of the historic but troubled site.
But somewhere along the way they got a vision, and Tuesday the Rosendes prepared to become the new owners of the building, saved in recent years from a wrecking ball. They will use the factory as a showroom for their windows and construction companies.
"We could have built something new cheaper," said John Rosende.
But the Rosendes value saving a remnant of history in the neighborhood where their father was born and now owns S&S Craftsmen.
As part of the purchase they will agree to keep the property at least 10 years.
The building, at 1607 N 22nd St., had been in slow decline for decades. Les Thompson bought it in 1985. He sought a demolition permit in 2009 after he was ordered to repair part of the roof that collapsed. The permit was denied by the Barrio Latino Commission.
Instead of fixing the building, which Thompson said he couldn't afford, he donated it to the Italian Club, and members worked to save it.
Joe Capitano, a former club president and local businessman, had estimated the cost at $460,000 to make the building usable. The club secured $100,000 from a special Ybor City taxing district, administered by the Ybor City Development Corp. Members then hired the Rosendes' Salt Construction Co. to stabilize the walls.
From the start of their work, the brothers envisioned keeping the building. They said it may take more money than Capitano's original estimate. They plan to add a coffee bar and a second floor terrace to feature new products. They plan to complete the renovation in the next four to five months.
Local architect Ken Ferlita donated his services. His grandfather, Guiseppe Ferlita, built the factory. Ferlita remembers his father, the youngest of eight, telling stories of going on pasta deliveries as a young boy.
Ferlita's grandfather had left Sicily when he was 18. In West Tampa, Giuseppe Ferlita dried macaroni on his back porch before demand outgrew capacity. He embellished his blond brick factory with neoclassical columns and a grand entrance much like the Italian Club, which was constructed in 1917. The factory served as the Ferlita home and business until the family outgrew the three bedrooms. In 1946 Ferlita sold the building to Pedro and Digna Diaz, who used it as a cigar factory.
John Rosende hopes his building will be part of a design and construction district. Today, he says, Ybor City is a great place to eat lunch, smoke a cigar, have a drink or try a sip of pure aloe.
"There's a wide range of eclectic activities that lends itself to creativity and history," he said.