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Burned Ybor building to be torn down

Crews plan to demolish a historic Ybor City building today after a fire Sunday gutted it, leaving the brick structure too weak to stand.

The building, at Seventh Avenue and 22nd Street across from the Columbia Restaurant, burned Sunday night in a blaze so intense embers shot onto the restaurant's roof.

On Monday morning, an engineer inspected the building and deemed it dangerous, too damaged to be used again, said Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade. The building next door, home to One Net Enterprises, an Internet wholesale company, also suffered serious damage and will require a similar inspection, Wade said.

The fire's cause remained a mystery Monday as investigators combed through the charred rubble at 2201 E Seventh Ave., Wade said. The two-story building housed Le Chateau European Antique Imports on the first floor and was vacant on the second floor, he said.

The fire closed stretches of Seventh Avenue and 22nd Street near the building. The streets are expected to reopen after the demolition, Wade said.

The shop's owner, Azza Ahmed, 40, declined to speak with reporters. Fire crews salvaged boxes from her shop, and they carried them to her Monday as she watched from across the street.

Officials will allow Ahmed to remove any remaining antiques and shop goods before the demolition, Wade said.

Eric Schiller, 39, is the landlord for the building across Seventh Avenue from 2201. His building was spared. His biggest problem: food spoiled after he lost power. For that he was thankful, but he mourned the destruction of the historic building. "I'm a little sick over the whole thing. It's a beautiful building."

Built in 1916, the structure used to house a Masonic Lodge, according to Fire Marshal Todd Spear.

Columbia owner Richard Gonzmart stood behind the tape that ringed his restaurant. He learned of the fire when his wife saw it on the news Sunday night. About 100 people were evacuated from the Columbia, but the restaurant had only minor roof damage. As he watched crews examine the burned building, he felt fortunate that fire crews had contained the flames. "This Thanksgiving holiday brought out a whole new meaning of thanks," he said.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or