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Is it the alleged ghost, the curse or the high cost of renovations that keeps buyers from fulfilling their plans?

Attention, big idea people: The historic downtown YMCA building is up for grabs. Yes, again.

For those keeping count, this is the sixth time in eight years that a developer has washed his hands of the project and put the building back on the market. It seems like every time someone invests in the land, they turn around a short time later trying to palm it off on someone else.

It's not like the 59,516-square-foot building doesn't have potential. It's near downtown's growing social scene, has glorious touches of 1920s architecture with arched windows, sculpted columns and ornate iron work, and is surrounded by free street parking.

Partly to blame is the staggering costs of renovations. The tepid real estate market has not helped, either.

Developers have proposed turning the site into another condominium tower, but that not-so-original plan went down the tubes when it became clear that other condo projects in the city were having problems selling units. A more lively rumor is that the building is cursed.

Sure, there is no proof to support the chatter, but it sounds smarter than saying the place is haunted by ghosts.


A continuing saga


The YMCA puts its Fifth Street building, its home since 1927, on the market as it plans a new $11-million building on First Avenue S at Central Plaza.

JUNE 2000

Developer Grady Pridgen of St. Petersburg agrees to buy the building for $845,000 from the YMCA and plans to renovate it to hold 12 condominiums. A year later, he withdraws, offering no explanation. Did you see the ghost, Grady?

JULY 2001

Y officials ask the city of St. Petersburg for permission to tear down the boom era building. They change their minds when they finally get a sound offer.


Clearwater businessman Tony Amico pays $440,000 for the old Y with plans to turn it into a private residence and offices for himself. He spends $70,000 removing asbestos and repairing termite damage before deciding he would abandon the idea.

JULY 2002

Local developer Ed Jackson announces plans to turn it into a mixed-use facility that would have residences, restaurants, shops, offices and a tavern. The sale does not go through, and developer Gary Bennett steps up.


Bennett buys the YMCA from Amico for $675,000. He describes it as an "absolutely beautiful building" that needs to be restored and saved. Two years later, he says he doesn't have the energy to go through with his planned 15-unit condominium. He blames his ailing health. Or was it the curse?


Vector Properties Inc. purchased the YMCA for $1,045,000. Last week, president Ken Heretick was recuperating from a recent surgery. A "for sale" sign hung on the building, tauntingly. The price tag? $3.4-million.

Compiled by Cristina Silva, Times staff writer, from Times files.