Saturday, February 17, 2018
News Roundup

Philanthropists Tom and Mary James unveil plans for new St. Petersburg museum

ST. PETERSBURG — Looking for spectacular? Philanthropists Tom and Mary James are bringing it to downtown with a new museum that will make a commanding architectural statement and be filled with works from their vast art collection.

Plans for the grand project came one step closer to reality Thursday when the Jameses revealed their vision and never-before-seen details to St. Petersburg's City Council. The $55 million Tom and Mary James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art will be at 100 Central Ave. Their desire, said Tom James, executive chairman of Raymond James Financial, "is to create a real arts destination in St. Pete with another high-quality museum."

The couple is using its own money for the project. They purchased the first two floors of the building for $13.5 million in 2015 and renovation of the interior is under way by the Beck Group. The opening is planned for fall 2017.

On Thursday, an important component was approved by the City Council. Members voted unanimously in favor of the Jameses' request for a 50-year lease, at $165,000 annually, for two of the six parking stories above the future museum. The council also unanimously approved an agreement with the city to provide $250,000 in streetscape improvements, signage and parking garage repairs from existing funds.

Developer Darryl LeClair, one of the Jameses' informal advisers, said such agreements "are very common. You saw them with the Dalí Museum and Sundial (a shopping and entertainment complex in St. Petersburg) for example. And look at what he's giving."

Council members echoed that last statement, with each offering glowing support for the museum and appreciation for the gift. "I'm overwhelmed by the response," Tom James said after the vote.

The building was occupied by Florida Power/Progress Energy from 1998 to 2007 and Universal Healthcare from 2008 to 2013. The parking levels are used by the city and One Progress Plaza, a nearby office building. The city will have control of one of the decks from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and during blackout dates for events such as such as the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Rowdies soccer games.

Tom James unveiled renderings by the St. Pete Design Group, a partnership among architect Yann Weymouth, Harvard Jolly Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, of the reimagined 133,600-square-foot building. The museum will occupy about 80,000 square feet and the remainder will be leased to businesses. An imposing sandstone sculptural element emulating the mesas of the Southwest will dominate the facade.

Inside, a two-story sculpture court will have a "gentle waterfall" cascading from the ceiling, Weymouth said. About 30,000 square feet will be devoted to galleries, the rest to a theater for about 120 people, and event space, cafe, museum store and administrative areas.

Being in the thriving downtown was a priority, and the few vacant lots there are priced more for high-profit developments. "When I looked at that building," Tom James said, "I thought of a Spanish church in the Southwest with the bell towers. Yann didn't like it."

"It's marvelous as a location," Weymouth said. "It's not an important piece of architecture. It was designed 30 years ago as a neo-Mediterranean with a mix of styles. We wanted to transform it completely."

The James collection has about 3,000 works and is valued at about $20 million. It contains classic artists such as Frederic Remington as well as contemporary ones. He also has works by contemporary Florida artists. The Jameses have used their collection to line the walls of Raymond James' corporate headquarters in the Carillon office park in St. Petersburg. They'll remain, Tom James said, and at some point, the company may buy many of them.

The museum will exhibit about 500 works in galleries on the second floor, and Tom James wants to have a special exhibitions gallery for work, not necessarily Western or wildlife, but "art that people should see, maybe by younger artists." Some of Mary James' collection of jewelry from Southwestern artists will reside in a small gallery.

Tom James, 74, has grown the company founded by his father into a financial giant and is still active, though daily responsibilities have been assumed by other executives. The Jameses are among the most generous donors in the Tampa Bay region, giving to a number of causes and organizations. In 2014, he announced a $75 million commitment to a new museum with $40 million allocated for construction, "because that's what it cost to build the Dalí," and the remainder dedicated to endowment. Construction costs have risen, so the endowment figure has dropped. He hopes donors will give to the endowment and through sponsorships. Naming opportunities inside the museum will also be offered. He expects annual operations costs at $3 million to $4 million.

Tom James said this museum has been their dream for years, but felt he needed to get it done now. "I'm in good health, but Mary said I had to do it now," he said. "I'm 11 years older than when my father died. I'm a pragmatist. I have pretty well done everything I'm going to do and don't have much of a bucket list left. This museum checks off a big one."

     
   
Comments
Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

Prominent Republican donor issues an ultimatum

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style fi...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

Hundreds rally against gun violence in downtown St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — A red heart-shaped balloon rose above crowd of several hundred people that had gathered at Williams Park on Saturday evening to mourn Wednesday’s school shooting in Broward County and to protest gun violence.Below the balloon, signs ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

Stormy at the strip club: A porn star cashes in on presidential connection

TAMPA — In the center of the nightclub, between the cigar case and bustling bar, a giant screen blankets the back wall. Usually, ads for drink specials and coming attractions scroll across.But Friday night, a life-size picture of President Donald Tru...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Man found dead in flaming mobile home

TAMPA — Firefighters found a man dead inside a burned-down mobile home Saturday.Tampa Fire Rescue got a call just after 4:30 p.m. that a single-wide mobile home at the 100 block of East Linebaugh Avenue was in flames.The man’s identity was not releas...
Updated: 4 hours ago
‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

‘I’m going to watch you bleed’: Nikolas Cruz threatened ex’s new boyfriend, report says

Warning: This story quotes graphic material.Before he killed 17 people at a South Florida high school, Nikolas Cruz repeatedly threatened an ex-classmate who had started dating his former girlfriend, according to a report in Buzzfeed News."I’m going ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Police find dead man in Tampa apartment

TAMPA — Police found a dead man inside an apartment in the 5200 block of Sonora Court Friday after 3 p.m.Who the man is or how long he’s been dead is not yet clear, police said. The victim appears to have been killed in some sort of "homicidal violen...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Police up patrols at two Pinellas Park schools after Snapchat threat

PINELLAS PARK — Police said they will have a heightened presence at two Pinellas Park schools after a school shooting threat was shared on social media.A post Friday on social media app Snapchat threatened a possible school shooting Tuesday, accordin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

Prosecutor: Death penalty was ‘designed’ for cases like Florida school shooting

The 17 counts of premeditated murder against Nikolas Cruz are the type of case "the death penalty was designed for," according to the Florida prosecutor in charge of trying the confessed school shooter.But Michael Satz, the longtime Broward state att...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

Florida, angry and grieving, takes gun protest to streets

PARKLAND, Fla. — Thousands of angry students, parents and residents demanded stricter gun control laws Saturday as new details were revealed about the suspect accused of shooting and killed 17 people in a Florida high school. The rally, held in downt...
Updated: 6 hours ago