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From rehab dream to demolition project

Mayor Jerry Beverland's dream for the old Kumar mansion will probably end after just one year.

Last April, while Beverland led the charge, the city bought one of the its oldest waterfront properties with the idea of remodeling it as an arts center. Now the City Council has taken its first formal step toward throwing that plan away and tearing the building down.

Barring a change of heart by the City Council, demolition is likely to take place this April.

"Over the past few months, as we continued to investigate the building, the picture has gotten worse of what's actually there and what it might take to renovate it," City Manager Bruce Haddock told City Council members this week.

In response, the council unanimously agreed to seek bids to demolish the mansion, an unfinished 1920s hotel the city bought from Roger and Lila Kumar for $2.2-million.

"The emotional part of me says save it," Beverland said. "But the practical part of me says it's not feasible."

Last month officials learned that repairs could cost as much as $3.1-million because much of the building's concrete would have to be replaced. On top of the original purchase price, that would be too much, council members say.

Public Works director John Mulvihill said the council is scheduled to award the demolition contract on March 16. The city has said it then plans on constructing a new building on the property at 250 Shore Drive E, which overlooks Safety Harbor.

The cost of demolition has been estimated at $40,000. Tuesday night's City Council discussion did not touch on how much a new building might cost.

Though it's not listed on any historic registry, Beverland has said the abandoned hotel is a city treasure and should be saved. Oldsmar Historical Society president Loretta Wyandt agrees.

"It was an old hotel and, just like the library, it's been here for years and years," Wyandt said. "If the building was here when I got here 38 years ago, and it's still here today, I would bet you 20 years from now it would still be standing if it wasn't torn down.

"It's a part of our history and should stay put."

_ Aaron Sharockman can be reached at (727) 771-4303 or asharockmansptimes.com.

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