Developer wins right to restore historic former YMCA in downtown St. Petersburg

Published Nov. 27, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The battle over the sale of the historic former YMCA building is over and developer Nick Ekonomou, who bought it more than a year ago, is ready to begin restoration.

"The project now moves forward full steam ahead," he said Wednesday.

Ekonomou said he has hired local architect Jack Bodziak and is engaging a contractor to convert the 1927 building at 116 Fifth St. S into short-term luxury rentals. It will also feature a wedding venue, restaurant and a members-only club. The South Florida developer also said he's about to sign a contract with Scatter Brothers Productions to film a documentary of the restoration.

Ekonomou previously had a contract to buy the old YMCA back in 2008, but changed his mind because of the recession. In 2014, he decided to become a backup buyer if a contract between the owners and music promoter Thomas Nestor fell through.

Nestor had been soliciting donations, seeking investors and making installment payments since October 2012 in a bid to buy the Mediterranean Revival-style building and turn it into a music museum and performance venue. He couldn't close on the deal in July 2014 and a circuit court judge ruled in Ekonomou's favor over who had the right to buy the building. Nestor appealed and lost. He then asked for a rehearing and a written decision. On Nov. 20, that was denied.

Ekonomou said the dispute has cost him and the seller more than $575,000 in legal fees.

"It's sad. That money could have been spent on restoring the building," he said. "We've prevailed and there is nothing in the world this guy can do to stop us now."