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Museum's Pavilion deal gets backing

The Tampa Museum of Art is one step closer to getting a new home.

The City Council on Thursday voted 5-1 in favor of the city spending up to $20-million to buy and renovate the Pavilion, a distinctive office building at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive for the museum, and allow museum leaders to build another structure on neighboring city land.

Council chairwoman Gwen Miller was absent and member Rose Ferlita voted against the proposal, saying it needed more details on issues such as cost and feasibility.

"This to me came up as an idea," she said. "It's not a plan."

But other council members said they were impressed that Mayor Pam Iorio and the museum board had happily resolved a yearslong conflict over the future location of the museum.

The museum board voted 30-1 last week to support the plan, said board Chairwoman Cornelia Corbett.

"That's enough for me," said council member Mary Alvarez.

Iorio made a rare appearance at the City Council meeting Thursday to make the case for the proposal, which also includes the city making $6.4-million worth of repairs to an adjacent parking garage and selling its share of the garage to American Capital Partners, which owns the Pavilion and the cylindrical office building next to it.

Once the museum increases its endowment from $1.5-million to $4-million, the city will approve an operating agreement that will release the museum from most city control.

Iorio came to the council meeting with an entourage that included her key staff members and several museum board members. She also met in the past seven days with all council members to discuss the plan.

Council member Kevin White used Iorio's presence and the packed room Thursday to ask the mayor if she will make sure minority businesses get a chance to work on the museum project.

"These are questions that I will be asking in the future as these agreements come to us," he said.

Preliminary results of a study of minority business contracts show a serious disparity, he said.

"It's something we need to take a look at," he said.

Iorio said the museum project would follow the city's guidelines for minority business contracts.

Advocates of Kiley Gardens, a park on the proposed museum site that was designed by a lauded landscape architect, said they're pleased the museum conflict is close to resolution, but they want the park protected.

Iorio promised to restore the park's concrete design, but couldn't guarantee the landscaping would be replaced exactly as it is now because it poses structural problems for the garage underneath. It's an engineering decision, she said, not a policy decision.

The museum, Iorio said, is a critical piece in making downtown Tampa into a neighborhood. She applauded the council for approving contracts to design the Riverwalk, and redesign Ashley Drive and Curtis Hixon Park.

"This art museum truly fits into the equation in a positive way," she said.

Corbett credited Iorio with moving this museum proposal forward, when just a few weeks ago it appeared dead.

"Mayor Pam did bring it back on the table and to a successful conclusion," she said. "We are overlooking the park, overlooking the river, overlooking Henry B. Plant and have a huge presence on Ashley. It's exactly what we wanted all along."

The museum, the city and American Capital Partners still need to finalize contracts to make the deal happen and bring them to City Council for approval.

Janet Zink can be reached at

(813) 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com.

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