Artists must vacate top floors of cigar factory

A fire inspection has closed two floors of a historic West Tampa cigar factory that provides work space for about 20 artists because the building lacked proper fire exits.

Tampa Fire Marshal Todd Spear did allow Sense of Space, a music and art show, to go on at the West Tampa Center for the Arts Friday night, but limited the number of people on the upper floors of the 104-year-old building. He said the artists, photographers, engineers and others who work on those floors must be out within seven days. The first floor meets fire codes. But the third floor has no legal fire exits. The second floor needs another exit.

For a decade, artists have been working out of the Santaella Cigar Factory at 1906 N Armenia Ave., and have held several large events.

But Wednesday, one of the building's owners discussed fire escape plans with the Fire Marshal's Office, triggering an inspection on Thursday. Center director Maida Millan said the building's owners had an agreement with the former fire marshal allowing occupancy as long as work started on fire escapes. Assistant fire marshal Jeff Brown said he knew of no such deal.

Artists must vacate top floors of cigar factory 05/23/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 11:17am]

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