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Supporters given four months to devise plan for historic Sulphur Springs buildings

TAMPA — Sulphur Springs residents concerned about a county proposal to demolish three historical buildings have bought themselves time.

During a public meeting Thursday at the Spring Hill Community Center, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller agreed to give the leaders of the three nonprofits at Mann-Wagnon Memorial Park four months to present the county with a plan showing how to fund restoration for the buildings through a public-private partnership.

"I think we made a lot of headway and that we were genuinely heard," Community Stepping Stones Executive Director Sigrid Tidmore said. "Now it's up to us to make it happen."

The buildings, at 1101 E River Cove St., house Community Stepping Stones, Sulphur Springs Museum and Moses House — nonprofits dedicated to teaching the arts and preserving the community's history and culture.

Miller argues the nearly century old buildings are a safety hazard, don't meet building codes, and have termites, rot and structural and electrical issues. Nonprofit leaders, students of the programs and community members counter they are a vital part of the neighborhood's history and provide a welcoming space for children and teens.

Based on initial estimates, necessary renovations would cost nearly $1 million. The new, multipurpose facility proposed by the county would cost $650,000, but is just over half the size of the current space occupied by the nonprofits.

After taking comments for nearly an hour from 23 people, Miller engaged in a conversation with those in attendance and reached a compromise:

If the three nonprofits can form a plan for how to restore the buildings and provide realistic sources for private funding, the county will match the money and help bring the buildings up to code. The nonprofits must present the plan to the county by July 1. Earlier Thursday, the Tampa City Council voted to send a letter to county officials encouraging them to save the buildings.

But Miller firmly repeated the plan must show viable options for community funding. It must also be agreed upon by all three organizations.

"If you can't come together, we're going to have to go with what he have, and that's the new building," Miller said.

"We'll figure something out," former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena replied over the hum of the crowd already buzzing with ideas.

Staff Writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Supporters given four months to devise plan for historic Sulphur Springs buildings 03/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:21pm]
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