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Tampa City Council agrees to look into spending $100,000 on Kress building

TAMPA — Just days after the demolition of a historic school building that decayed after years of neglect, the City Council voted Thursday to consider spending $100,000 to repair the roof of the old Kress building downtown.

"We cannot afford another loss," said council member Linda Saul-Sena, who made the proposal. "It would be shame on us."

The Kress department store, built in 1929, is a local landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has been vacant for decades.

"I'm encouraged the city is now looking to do something to help us, rather than just issue one code violation after another," said Jeanette Jason, a principal in the company that owns the property.

Saul-Sena wants to use money from a downtown special taxing district to fix the roof.

Robert McDonaugh, manager of the district, said he needs to find out if using the money for that purpose is legal.

The districts, called community redevelopment areas, funnel property tax money collected in the area back into the neighborhood to pay for infrastructure improvements and spur economic development.

Saul-Sena said one key point of the districts is to combat blight.

"I can't think of a better way to address blight than to fix the hole in the roof of a landmark building," Saul-Sena said.

This year's budget for the downtown district includes $4.6-million for the renovation of Curtis Hixon Park, $260,000 for directional signs to downtown area landmarks and $300,000 for road improvements.

Saul-Sena said if the city pays for the roof repairs, the owners could be charged for the work. That's what the city does after mowing property not maintained by owners.

In 2005, the City Council approved plans to build almost 1,000 condominiums on the North Franklin Street block that includes the Kress building. But the tanking real estate market put the plans on hold, Jason said.

Saul-Sena said she doesn't want to see another case of "demolition by neglect," which led to the demise of the old Gary School in Ybor City. After a portion of the building collapsed in July, the city's code enforcement board approved tearing.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa City Council agrees to look into spending $100,000 on Kress building 09/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 12, 2008 5:36pm]
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