Plans are underway to transform more than 12,000 square foot of warehouse space in Ybor City into more than 50 affordable artist workspaces and gallery space. It’s named in honor of Jerry Meatyard, an Ybor artist and professor at Hillsborough Community College’s Ybor City campus from 1969-2001.
The building at 1728 E Second Ave. is owned by Ybor Pedroso LLC, an entity of Darryl Shaw, the CEO of BluePearl Veterinary Partners who is retiring soon. Shaw is also developing Gas Worx, a 50-acre tract of land between Ybor City and downtown Tampa that could include housing, retail and office space.
We talked to Shaw about his vision for Meatyard Ybor: a “critical mass” of artists, art institutions (such as HCC, the University of South Florida and University of Tampa), galleries and public art in the district. He said he wants to bring an arts community back into the district after so many artists left due to gentrification.
“I’ve got a strong desire to see artists return to Ybor,” he said. “And the only way that they’re going to be able to do that is to have affordable studios for them ... We anticipate we can get 50-plus work studios in a super cool building.”
The project is still in the design phase, so the cost is unavailable. Fadi S. Garcia and Jessica Shell of the firm Open Workshop for Architecture are transforming the space, which was built by the Dave Gordon & Co., a distributor of industrial machinery. According to newspaper clippings, it operated in the 1940s.
The goal is to retain the building’s original charm by keeping its shell intact. Historical architectural details such as wood trusses in the interior of the warehouse space have been cleaned and preserved.
Because the building is historic, Garcia said the project has to get approval from the Barrio Latino Commission to ensure the historical architectural guidelines are being met. After that, the permitting process through the city of Tampa will begin.
Shaw said he hopes to open it next year.
Neil Gobioff, president of the Gobioff Foundation and chair of the Tampa Arts Alliance, helped Garcia set up a focus group for the project to learn what needs artists might have. Garcia said the group helped inform decisions about the interior and how to program the building.
As part of the Tampa Arts Alliance’s initial mission, a series of town halls were held to understand the needs of artists. Gobioff said the need for more studio spaces and places to exhibit and perform was consistently expressed.
He said that while he hopes to see multiple arts districts in Tampa, the historical aspect of Ybor City is a good place to start.
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“We need spaces where artists can gather, connect, collaborate — and creating the kind of central hub that that can happen at will just help facilitate and catalyze those opportunities,” he said.
Shaw said the idea of a collective or central hub for artists is what he’s hoping to bring to the district.
On March 19, a pre-renovation open house will feature work by local artists and live music. Curated by Tempus Projects’ director and chair Tracy Midulla, artists include Neil Bender, Selina Roman and Cynthia Mason. Musical acts include Nervous Turkey, Fantastical Tigers and The Burke Brothers.
Garcia and Shaw said the goal of the open house is to create awareness and excitement among local artists, as well as the public.
“We really want (the artists) to get involved as soon as possible,” Garcia said.
If you go
Meatyard Ybor’s pre-renovation open house is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. March 19. 1728 E Second Ave., Tampa. For more information, visit facebook.com.