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St. Petersburg violates own codes at landmark

ST. PETERSBURG — Broken windows, exposed electrical wiring and peeling paint are the kinds of code violations city officials warn property owners about all the time.

But, apparently, they forgot to remind their own staff to follow the rules.

The city cited itself in March for five code violations regarding the neglect of one of St. Petersburg's oldest landmarks.

The documents illustrate how city officials have allowed the Mirror Lake Complex, home to the nation's oldest shuffleboard club, to deteriorate. The long list of violations, first noted by the city in January, include: chipping and peeling paint throughout the structure, rotted window frames and siding, excessive rust on the bleachers, large settlement cracks, exposed wires and electrical outlets and improperly boarded windows.

Clarence Scott, city services administrator, said his staff is diligently working to repair the aging complex.

"Over time, things show their age," he said.

So far, the city has fixed the violation regarding the electrical system.

The other repairs could require permission from the city's preservation board, Scott said.

"The city is cautious about how we proceed because we are spending taxpayers' dollars," he said.

But community leaders question why the city let the historic complex fall out of code in the first place.

"The city should be meeting its own codes," said Will Michaels, vice president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations and president of St. Petersburg Preservation. "When you have boarded up, run-down buildings, it affects the whole neighborhood and drives down property values."

The Mirror Lake Complex dates back to 1923, before malls and air conditioning, when tourists flocked to St. Petersburg for leisure and sun. But as the city's population got younger, the Mirror Lake complex fell into disrepair.

In May 2007, the city hosted a public meeting to discuss the site's future. Residents demanded it be fixed, but no action was taken.

City officials say they have no desire to pour money into an outdated facility that attracts few daily visitors, but the city is hopeful a self-sustaining tenant will soon take over the property.

"We recognize the historic significance of the property, we see it as one of the jewels of the city," Scott said. "We have just elected to be judicious in our approach."

Neighborhood activists, however, claim the city is ignoring the facility because it does not fit into downtown St. Petersburg's budding youthful image.

"It is appalling," said Chris Kelly, founder of St. Pete Shuffle, a Friday night shuffleboard event. "Neglect is a strategic decision on the part of a historic property owner. ... They are allowing the building to get to the point where it cannot be economically restored."

But June Smith, of the complex's lawn bowling club, said Mirror Lake has never looked better.

"I have no complaints," she said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at csilva@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8846.

>>Did you know?

A city tradition

The St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club was organized Jan. 24, 1924. It is located in the Mirror Lake Park Shuffleboard Complex, 559 Mirror Lake Drive N. For more information on the complex and club, go to shuffleboardclub.org.

Source: St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club Web site

St. Petersburg violates own codes at landmark 07/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 24, 2008 4:19pm]
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