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Tampa strives to keep historic buildings in good condition

TAMPA — In the wake of the recent collapse and demolition of a historic building in Ybor City, the city is taking steps to prevent similar losses.

Among the new initiatives: monthly inspections of historic buildings and low-interest loans to help property owners keep up with repairs.

In January, the council will consider an ordinance that would allow city workers to issue citations to owners of buildings facing structural damage due to lack of maintenance.

The city's historic preservation and code enforcement departments are also working together to evaluate the condition of historic buildings every month.

An initial survey of historic properties uncovered multiple problems, including damaged windows at a cigar factory on 26th Street; missing roof panels at the Sicilian Club on N Howard Avenue; water in the basement of the Kress building downtown; roof damage at the Union Station hotel building downtown; and damaged windows and doors at the Jackson House on Zack Street.

No structural damage was revealed, although inspector Kevin Amos said the cigar factory, at least, is deteriorating.

Dennis Fernandez, who heads the historic preservation division, noted that often "demolition by neglect isn't intentional," but owners don't have the money to maintain the buildings. To address that problem, the city will set up a $100,000 fund to provide low-interest loans for repairs.

Council member Linda Saul-Sena said the loan program is a step in the right direction, but it still relies on property owners caring enough about preservation to apply for the loans.

Fernandez also said the city is working on a "transfer of development rights" ordinance. It would allow owners of land that can't be fully developed because it holds a historic structure to either sell those development rights to someone else or use them at another location.

The rights, though, could only be sold or transferred if the historic building was rehabilitated or maintained. That would motivate property owners to keep their buildings in good shape, Fernandez said.

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

Tampa strives to keep historic buildings in good condition 10/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 11:30pm]
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