Make us your home page
Instagram

Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce's building in foreclosure

TARPON SPRINGS — The organization that's charged with fostering the town's business growth has fallen on hard times. The building that the Greater Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce has owned for 16 years is in foreclosure and the chamber must pack up and leave by Friday.

At 10 a.m. that day, the 5,094-square-foot building at 11 E Orange St., purchased by the chamber in 1995, will go on the auction block.

"It was a great idea at the time when it was a whole different economy," chamber president Sue Thomas said of owning the Orange Street building. "A lot has changed with the economy, and we have to deal with changes that are beyond our control. But one of the positive things is we are moving onto Tarpon Avenue."

The chamber, which has three employees, will now lease a storefront at 11 E Tarpon Ave., the city's main street. To offset the cost of rent, it will share the space with the Tarpon Springs Art Association, which is operating a gallery there called Artists' Faire Art Gallery & Gifts.

The art association won't have to pay the chamber a fee for the space, but it's selling the work of local artists with the proceeds going to the chamber.

"It's real important being downtown and combining with the arts," said City Manager Mark LeCouris. "We are known for antiques and arts. We have so many talented artists in town, so combining the two is going to be good."

The chamber's current predicament is a result of several poor decisions made more than five years ago. The chamber was nearly done paying for the Orange Street location when it took out a $250,000 loan, mainly to fight two breach-of-contract and defamation lawsuits that were filed against it in 2006. The building was used as collateral.

The chamber settled both lawsuits out of court in 2008 and 2009. The terms of those settlements are confidential.

In addition, the chamber parted ways with its then-executive director Theajo "TJ" Davis in 2007 after accusations of mishandling grant money.

"We were severely handicapped and that set us back," said Steve Boisen, the chamber's current board chairman, who was not involved in the organization's previous actions. "It depleted the reserve we had. We had a hefty mortgage and no reserves."

In May 2010, Bank of America started foreclosure proceedings on the Orange Street building, claiming the chamber owed $242,642 on the 2007 loan.

The chamber was to pay $2,075 a month until May 2027, but it hasn't made the payments on time, according to court documents. The chamber has tried to sell the building without success. In April, a Pinellas judge awarded Bank of America $313,124 for the loan and legal fees associated with the foreclosure process. The chamber was given until July 15 to come up with the money or vacate the property.

Tim Dorr, one of the Tarpon Springs business owners who filed suit against the chamber, questions the organization's effectiveness.

"A chamber is supposed to help other small business owners and provide a good atmosphere and climate for doing business," Dorr said. "It's the welcome wagon for a town working to bring new business and tourists. They have not done this at all."

Thomas, the chamber's president, counters that the organization's membership remains healthy with about 350 members. She added that the chamber has been in several locations in its 88-year history and that ultimately, it's about the services that are being provided.

"It's doesn't matter if we are hanging out at Panera Bread, it's about networking," Thomas said. "This is why somebody joins the chamber."

Mayor David Archie said the chamber's value has been its "willingness to collaborate."

"The chamber recognizes that there are other groups that are in Tarpon that are concerned about tourism and is looking to establish a tourist development council so everyone can come in and plan on how they can work together," Archie said. "That makes them a great asset to the city of Tarpon."

Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptmes.com or (727) 445-4174.

>>fast facts

On the Web

www.tarponspringschamber.org

Online auction

To participate in the online auction of the 11 E Orange St. building, go to www.pinellas.realforeclose.com.

Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce's building in foreclosure 07/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 9, 2011 1:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

    Airlines

    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  2. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  3. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)