Saturday, May 19, 2018
Business

Promoter sees old St. Pete YMCA as rock 'n' roll museum and venue

ST. PETERSBURG—A local music promoter wants to turn the long-vacant and historic YMCA at 116 Fifth St. S into a rock 'n' roll museum and concert venue. Thomas Nestor has a purchase agreement to buy the Mediterranean revival-style building for $1.4 million.

Nestor is hoping the public's love for rock 'n' roll, Spanish tiles, cypress beams and an indoor basement pool will help him raise more than $4 million needed to buy the building and renovate it.

He's also counting on local, state and national grants based on the building's historical designation.

His first hurdle is raising $20,000 for the initial deposit due Nov. 15.

"We are using the next three weeks to see if the public will back this and save this building," said Nestor.

He said Phil Powell, who owns the building with a partnership, said there is a bank waiting to buy the building and tear it down but he would rather work with Nestor and preserve it. Powell, who is also executive director at Bayfront Convenient Care Clinics, could not be reached for comment.

"Either my vision succeeds or the bank demos it," Nestor said.

His vision includes interactive tributes to performers and pop culture icons who have lived or passed through the Tampa Bay area such as Jim Morrison of the Doors, Brian Johnson of AC/DC, Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, writer and poet Jack Kerouac and gangster Al Capone.

The museum will also note movies filmed here such as Cocoon and Ocean's Eleven.

"Instead of dusty old artifacts it's going to be digitally interactive. By day it will be a music museum that will highlight the history of music and also promote film and pop culture," he said. "On the flip side, by night it will be a place for concerts and special events. Local artists will perform, national artists. There will be a retractable stage. It could host a boxing event or the mayor's prayer breakfast."

The four-story, 50,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1926, has hosted only stray cats for about a decade. There have been three owners since then with various plans for converting it to a private residence, a retail and restaurant venue or luxury condos. Powell's group paid $1 million for the property in 2004 but put it on the market for $3.4 million two years later after deciding the plan for 17 luxury condos wasn't economically feasible.

Nestor has played, promoted and marketed music in St. Petersburg since the mid 1990s. His company is called NoFoes Productions/Media Group. He has also worked for Jannus Landing and Jannus Live. He has been involved in recent shows such as Buckcherry at the Orpheum, Blondie and Devo at England Brothers Park and Rise Against at the Stadium Green Iguana.

Eric Ihlenfeldt, who works in technology and marketing, is also part of the rock 'n' roll museum venture.

Barry Flaherty, a well-known contractor with knowledge and experience working with historic buildings, confirmed he is also involved with the project.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

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