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Two century-old downtown Tampa buildings have been demolished

A 42-story condominium tower will be built on the site.
 
Demolition of downtown Tampa's former Tarr Furniture building began on Saturday.
Demolition of downtown Tampa's former Tarr Furniture building began on Saturday. [ Courtesy of Chip Weiner ]
Published Feb. 6, 2023|Updated Feb. 6, 2023

TAMPA — Historic preservationists hoped to save downtown Tampa’s century-old buildings at 514 and neighboring 520 N Tampa Street.

But the Florida Department of State declared that 514 N Tampa St. was not a historic structure, allowing it to be razed.

The city of Tampa then considered forcing historic designation on the other, but the owners successfully lobbied against it.

Over the weekend, the brick buildings were demolished. A 42-story condominium tower will be built on the site.

“Those were two of the few historic structures still standing in downtown Tampa,” said Linda Saul-Sena, the advocacy chairperson for the Center for Architecture and Design Tampa Bay, which lobbies for historic preservation. “We are very dismayed over the loss of the historic buildings.”

Still, the property owner, real estate developer Kolter Urban, will honor the building at 520 N Tampa St. by incorporating its architecture onto the lower five floors of the eastern and northern façade.

“It was compromise with the city to move the project forward,” said Brian Van Slyke, regional president for Kolter. “We thought it was a nod to the building’s story while also blending it with the modern revitalization of downtown.”

Kolter Urban will honor the former building at 520 N Tampa St. by incorporating its architecture onto the first floor of their 47-story condominium tower. This is an artist's rendition of how it will look.
Kolter Urban will honor the former building at 520 N Tampa St. by incorporating its architecture onto the first floor of their 47-story condominium tower. This is an artist's rendition of how it will look. [ Courtesy of Kolter Urban ]

The five-story structure at 520 N Tampa St. was erected by the Tampa Tribune in 1912 for the Tarr Furniture Co. and was supposedly designed by Bonfoey and Elliott, the architectural firm behind Old City Hall and the Centro Asturiano building.

Preservationists argued the building should be a historic landmark because of those architects, but Kolter Urban countered that there was not enough evidence that they designed it. The owners also said the building was in too poor of condition to survive being incorporated into the tower.

Tarr Furniture Co. and the Tampa Tribune building on the 500 block of N Tampa Street in the 1920s.
Tarr Furniture Co. and the Tampa Tribune building on the 500 block of N Tampa Street in the 1920s. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]

Erected in 1895, the building at 514 N Tampa St. was originally Hotel Arno. Clara Barton was among those who stayed at the hotel, doing so for at least one night during the time when her Red Cross used Tampa as a base for efforts in Cuba during the Spanish American War.

The Tampa Tribune purchased Hotel Arno in 1905 and converted it into their headquarters. The Tampa Morning Tribune sign remained painted on the building until demolition.

Hotel Arno on N Tampa Street in 1900. The Tampa Tribune purchased it five years later.
Hotel Arno on N Tampa Street in 1900. The Tampa Tribune purchased it five years later. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County Public Library ]

Though that building hosted people and events of historic significance, the state decided that it had undergone too many changes to its exterior to be a landmark.

Local historic landmark status, which protects the exterior from being modernized and the building from demolition, is typically sought by the owner. Adhering to the regulations can be costly, but some request it to protect their restoration work from future owners.

The city can force the designation onto an owner if they feel the building is too important to lose. It’s a move used rarely.

Said Saul-Sena, “That’s beyond frustrating.”