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Bayshore's historic Stovall-Lee House could become exclusive club

Tampa's historic Stovall-Lee House on Bayshore Boulevard was built in 1909 and is named for the a former owner, Wallace Stovall, the founding publisher of the Tampa Tribune. [Photo courtesy of Coldwell Banker]
Tampa's historic Stovall-Lee House on Bayshore Boulevard was built in 1909 and is named for the a former owner, Wallace Stovall, the founding publisher of the Tampa Tribune. [Photo courtesy of Coldwell Banker]
Published Oct. 30, 2017

TAMPA — Blake Casper first saw historic Stovall-Lee House on Bayshore Boulevard when he was in the seventh or eighth grade, possibly on a school trip, and "it was amazing."

"It's a gorgeous piece of property," said Casper, now 44 and setting his sights on buying the walled mansion and preserving it as a private "membership-based estate," with high-end dining for members, verdant gardens and a richly landscaped border for privacy.

Casper recently sent letters to about 40 neighbors outlining his vision for the estate at 4621 Bayshore Blvd., owned since 1991 by retired senior Coca-Cola executive Harry E. Teasley Jr.

"An exclusive sanctuary," a marketing brochure says. "Working closely with the neighborhood, our goal is to preserve and enhance this home as a membership-based estate with lush gardens, impeccable design and incredible culinary experiences."

Casper, the CEO of a company that owns 53 McDonald's restaurants around Tampa Bay and the redeveloper of the Oxford Exchange, along with his sister, has told neighbors that he and his wife, Tate, plan to buy the house.

He told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday that he expects a closing at the end of January. Neither he, Teasley nor Teasley's real estate agent, Jennifer Zales, would disclose the price. The property went on the market in 2015 for $13.9 million, but more recently it was listed for $9,995,000.

Built in 1909 by the general manager of the Florida Brewing Co. in Ybor City, the property is named for former owner Wallace Stovall, the founding publisher of the Tampa Tribune.

The 2.6 acres overlooks Hills­borough Bay and has a main house with six bedrooms and nine baths, 8,000 square feet of living space, antique chandeliers, a 1,400-bottle wine cellar, original mahogany and cypress moldings, and some original leaded-glass windows.

There's also a guest house, a conservatory, a koi and lily pond with a gazebo, a fitness building and a pavilion that opens to a pool area with a wood-burning fireplace and full-service bar.

Casper said he wants to preserve a home that's been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974 and plans to do it in cooperation with neighbors.

"It's very much in the conceptual stages," Casper said. "Nothing's hard and fast. … I think if the neighborhood rejects the concept, we're going to be respectful of the neighborhood."

Casper said he would not build anything in the existing setbacks from surrounding properties and does not plan to ask the city to grant any variances from its development codes. He said he believes the property's current zoning would allow a private recreation facility. The inspirations for the plan include two exclusive social clubs in London, 5 Hertford and the Arts Club, as well as the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

Casper has proposed meeting with neighbors to discuss his plans in detail. The goal is not to have an event venue, he said, or something that will generate a lot of traffic. A sketch shows about 70 parking spaces behind a 25-foot-wide landscaped buffer, two driveways onto Bayshore Boulevard and Coachman Avenue.

It's too soon to say how many members it might have or what it would cost to join, he said.

Along with sending the letters, Casper has talked to several homeowners about his plans. One, attorney Norman Cannella Jr., said what Casper envisions would be better than breaking up the property to build tightly crammed condominiums or putting up another Bayshore tower.

"I think he's going to keep this under control," said Cannella, whose driveway is directly across Coachman from one of the estate's existing driveways.

"I definitely like this idea better than a high-rise on the property like Bayshore is starting to turn into," he said. "At least someone is preserving what's been there for a long time. I think all these high-rises on Bayshore look horrible. I think it's going to turn Bayshore into something like Miami Beach with high-rises all the way down."

Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin and senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.