Advertisement
  1. Real Estate

Another snag for St. Petersburg's historic former YMCA building?

Published Aug. 1, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — The former YMCA building, which has endured the whims of would-be saviors since being shuttered almost two decades ago, might be star-crossed.

Just when it seemed that work might at last begin on restoring the Mediterranean Revival-style building at 116 Fifth St. S, a new lawsuit has been filed contesting its ownership.

The volley has been fired by music promoter Thomas Nestor, who has already waged and lost a prior legal battle that gave current owner Nick Ekonomou the right to buy the historic landmark. The new suit accuses Ekonomou of interfering with Nestor's plans to purchase the downtown building. Nestor is demanding a jury trial.

Meanwhile, Ekonomou, a South Florida developer and former football player, has plans to convert the former Y into a boutique hotel and to build an eight-story tower with a rooftop bar behind the boarded-up landmark. The new building would contain 39 rooms, while the historic four-story building would have 44 rooms.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: A new design raises hopes for restoring St. Petersburg's historic YMCA building

Ekonomou, though, has struggled to realize his vision since acquiring the former Y in 2015. On July 10, an impatient, but relieved Community Planning and Preservation Commission approved his conceptual plan for the building, but required that almost a dozen conditions must be met by October in order for the project to proceed.

Nestor, who attended the meeting, urged the commission not to approve Ekonomou's plan. He filed his lawsuit days later, but told the Tampa Bay Times this week that the action has nothing to do with Ekonomou's project.

"Regardless of who owns the landmark building, I do have objective concerns about whether the rehabilitation of the building is being shortchanged by Mr. Ekonomou," he said. "Mr. Ekonomou has not submitted the necessary rehabilitation plan, nor a completed Certificate of Appropriateness application. He is not ready."

Ekonomou disagrees.

"We are on course. It's minimal things," he said. "The architect is working on it."

The dispute dates back to 2014, after Ekonomou became a backup buyer for the historic building, in the event the contract between Nestor and the building's then owners fell through.

Nestor had begun soliciting donations through Facebook, guided tours, community jam sessions and even on the steps of City Hall in 2012 in order to cobble together installment payments for the $1.4 million purchase. The donations helped to cover monthly, nonrefundable deposits ranging from $8,000 to $20,000 to buy the building he planned to convert into a music museum and performance venue.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Amid St. Petersburg's building boom, the old downtown YMCA resists any progress

In 2014, though, a circuit judge ruled that Nestor had failed to meet the terms of a court-sanctioned settlement to purchase the building. He appealed the decision and lost and then sought a rehearing and a written decision. That was also denied.

This latest suit continues Nestor's fight to own the former Y.

"Since the scheduled closing on July 15, 2014, and the seller's failure to provide the deed for my purchase ... I have been pursuing legal action to correct this wrong," he said.

Nestor said he sued because of Ekonomou's "interference" with his ability to close on the long-vacant building. He added that Ekonomou "had directed the seller, Philip J. Powell, to reject the amount tendered and to terminate" his contract to purchase the landmark.

As far as Ekonomou is concerned, the matter is over.

"This has already been in trial court and in the appellate court and has already been ruled on, against him, in favor of me," he said.

"So this lawsuit is baseless and frivolous and it's sad to see that there are attorneys out there enabling Nestor to continue this charade. ... What really concerns me is all the people that were taken advantage of and lied to by Nestor for hundreds of thousands of dollars."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Promoter sues title company over former St. Petersburg YMCA

Nestor hopes to pick up where he left off in 2014.

"My team and I would ensure that the landmark St. Petersburg YMCA building was restored and preserved for a community purpose, including a focus on music for all to enjoy," he said.

In 2004, Powell's investment group bought the building for a little more than $1 million, with plans to convert it into luxury condominiums. The partnership put the building on the market two years later and while there was plenty of interest, buyers balked at the potential cost of renovations. A bank offered cash — under the condition that the 1927 building could be razed.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A huge number of homes owned by Baby Boomers will sell in the next 20 years. How will the trend affect the Florida housing market? CAMERON GILLIE  |  NAPLES DAILY NEWS
    The enormous generation born between 1946 and 1964 owns about 40 percent of the homes across the country.
  2. Four board members at Horizon House co-op had their locks targeted by a vandal Thanksgiving week. Clearwater police are currently investigating the incident. Edward Schmoll
    Four members of the Horizon House HOA board had their front-door locks vandalized during the Thanksgiving holiday.
  3. Developers of a proposed apartment complex near St. Petersburg's Mirror Lake area want to tear down this bungalow and replace it with a ramp to the parking garage. Susan Taylor Martin
    The only access would be via a narrow court lined with vintage houses.
  4. Noah Shaffer of Confidant Asset Management says the restaurant sector in the Tampa Bay area has done well in 2019 and to expect more openings in the coming months. Chick-fil-A Brandon South opened earlier this year.
    So far, the economy appears robust enough to support further expansion, says a local industry professional.
  5. A new retail center and health club are proposed for the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon. Preliminary plans show the fitness club near the most eastern edge of the lagoon. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    Ryan Companies proposes grocery, retail stores and health club at neighborhood’s entrance
  6. Renderings of the proposed Red Apple Group project show a 20-story hotel on the west side of the block, and a building of about six stories facing Central with parking, shops and offices. The 45-story condo tower rises at an angle on the east side of the block. Courtesy of Arquitectonica
    The $300 million project by Red Apple Group would include a hotel and badly needed parking space.
  7. This single-family home at 913 Pineview Avenue, in Clearwater (Monday, December 2, 2019), has seen foreclosures, flippers, upgrades and a big price swing. The current owners, Keith Lynch and Mallory Lynch, are the seventh owners of the house since 2006 - they moved here from San Francisco. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes
    A 1950s ranch-style house in Clearwater has had seven owners in 13 years.
  8. The Century Oaks estate in Clearwater Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate
    The main house and guest house have a total of 16 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms.
  9. Shady Oaks, a Victorian-style house in Belleair,  is one of the older homes in PInellas County and has possible links to railroad and hotel magnate Henry Plant. Febre Frameworks
    The Victorian-style house is evocative of what once was the world’s largest wooden hotel.
  10. The Courtney at Bay Pines apartments in Seminole. Google Earth
    The price per unit was among the higher in the Tampa Bay area.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement