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Tampa gets five proposals to redevelop historic federal courthouse

TAMPA — Five companies have stepped forward with proposals to redevelop Tampa's historic federal courthouse.

The city asked developers to explore ways to renovate the long-closed courthouse as an upscale hotel.

Proposals, due Thursday, came in from 21c Museum Hotels; the Giunta Group Ltd.; HRI Properties; Impact Properties; and Tampa Hotel Partners LLC.

Details about the proposals were not available Friday. Under an exemption to Florida's Public Records Law, the city does not have to make the proposals public for 30 days.

In a statement, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he looked forward to making a decision on the proposals in the near future.

"The federal courthouse is one of downtown's most iconic buildings," he said. "It will be the cornerstone in a re-energized Zack Street 'Avenue of the Arts' and provide a gateway to Curtis Hixon Park and the Riverwalk."

Last year, the city hired a landscape architecture firm to develop a plan that would turn Zack Street into a pedestrian-friendly showcase for public art. The goal is to make Zack Street an inviting walkup to the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, Tampa Museum of Art and Glazer Children's Museum.

The 106-year-old courthouse has stood vacant for 13 years, but Buckhorn says it has good potential to be redeveloped as a "boutique hotel" with 100 to 120 rooms.

The four-story building features neoclassical elements, including three-story Corinthian columns at its front portico and tall, stately windows. Inside, there are courtrooms with ceilings up to 20 feet high, oak trim, brass fixtures, ornate chandeliers and green-on-white marble wainscoting.

The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It closed after the Sam M. Gibbons U.S. Courthouse opened two blocks to the north in 1998.

The federal government deeded the building to Tampa for $1 in 2003. The city spends nearly $100,000 a year, mostly on air conditioning, to maintain it.

In the past, renovation costs have been estimated at up to $18 million. Necessary repairs are expected to include asbestos remediation and water damage from a broken pipe. Another challenge for would-be developers is that on-site parking is scarce.

In its request for proposals, the city says it wants to offer developers a long-term lease.

Tampa gets five proposals to redevelop historic federal courthouse 12/09/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 9, 2011 11:53pm]
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