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Group given three weeks to move historic house

You might call it a stay of execution. At least that's how Seminole Heights residents are looking at the state's decision to give them three weeks to move a historic house scheduled for demolition near Hillsborough Avenue.

State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials last week told residents they would have to say goodbye to the one-story wood structure at 5402 Suwannee Ave. within the week.

"We told them Monday they could have three weeks to do something," said Mike Mahagan, a property management administrator at DOT.

Seminole Heights residents said they want to move the house.

"But we haven't decided anything yet," said Howard Moore, chairman of the Old Seminole Heights Preservation Committee. "We're getting bids from several movers and we know of vacant lots nearby . . . we've got to have an idea of how muchit is to move with the lot price," Moore said.

The house, built in 1913, is of historic value because of its age, Moore said.

DOT's proposed demolition is part of the state's plan to widen Hillsborough Avenue in the neighborhood. Despite opposition from local residents, DOT officials plan to widen the four-lane section to six lanes to accommodate traffic.

The road project is at least four years away, but DOT officials are rushing to demolish the house because of a liability problem. Mahagan said the house has been entered by trespassers more than once.

DOT officials said they have a sealed bid of about $6,000 to pay for the demolition. Mahagan said state officials don't necessarily want to tear down the house. "We want to get the most done for the cheapest cost to the taxpayers; we want the cheapest price to make it go away," he said.

City Council member Ronnie Mason said he spoke with DOT district secretary Jim Kennedy on Monday to see if the community could get a short time to find an alternative. Kennedy gave the community three weeks to find a buyer for the house and have it moved, Mason said.

"I'm really optimistic at this point," Moore said.