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FDOT has razed a historic Tampa Heights building

Residents hoped to turn the vacant apartments at 1902 N Lamar Ave. into a community center or museum.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Transportation razed the building at 1902 N Lamar Ave. that they have owned since 2015.
On Monday, the Florida Department of Transportation razed the building at 1902 N Lamar Ave. that they have owned since 2015. [ PAUL GUZZO | Times ]
Published Jan. 31|Updated Jan. 31

TAMPA — The Florida Department of Transportation gave the Tampa Heights community 60 days to find a way to save the historic structure at 1902 N Lamar Ave. from the wrecking ball.

The neighbors thought they had a plan.

Tampa Heights Civic Association President Brian Seel offered to personally pay to fix the roof.

The Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association offered to lease and restore the building for community use.

“We had viable ideas,” said Rick Fernandez, a lifelong Tampa Heights resident and former civic association president. “I suppose we can conclude they did not see them as viable.”

The 60 days were up on Friday.

On Monday, FDOT demolished the building that they have owned since 2015.

The 4,000-square-foot vacant apartment building was built in 1925 and considered a contributing structure to the Tampa Heights Historic District.

It was razed “due to unsafe conditions, multiple police calls and the building’s deteriorated conditions,” FDOT spokesperson Kristen Carson wrote in an email. “We understand some members of the community wanted to salvage this building. However, the building conditions were such that FDOT has planned to demolish the structure since 2017.”

Related: Tampa Heights tries to save historic building from FDOT wrecking ball

Fernandez said FDOT’s structural assessment is “untrue. We have asked them for any evidence in the form of a structural analysis that might have been done by a competent engineer. We’ve never received anything from them to suggest that this building was not sufficiently sound.”

Fernandez and Seel cited an offer made by other Tampa Heights residents in 2020 to relocate the structure.

A building mover quoted the cost at $150,000 and believed the structure was stable enough to relocate, they said. That deal ultimately fell through.

Still, it shows that the building “could have been saved,” Seel said. FDOT “didn’t want it to be saved.”

And blame FDOT if the building had become unsound, Fernandez said, because it was in good shape when they acquired it. “Demolition by neglect turned into demolition.”

This former apartment building at 1902 N. Lamar Ave. was demolished on Monday.
This former apartment building at 1902 N. Lamar Ave. was demolished on Monday.

Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association leases a 116-year-old church at 2005 N Lamar Ave. from FDOT. The nonprofit that connects youth and families to community resources uses that building as a community center.

They offered to add 1902 N Lamar Ave. to their lease and then ask the community for help in restoring it, Fernandez and Seel said.

“The proposal was to use this building as a community structure,” Fernandez said. “Either to run more youth programs out of it or convert into an African American museum.”

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FDOT initially purchased the property “with the intent that the interchange improvements would require it,” Carson previously said, but that is no longer the case.

“They didn’t need it anymore,” Seel said. “But they didn’t want it around for whatever reason either. Now it’s gone. They won.”

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