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Second buyer eager to buy, renovate historic St. Petersburg YMCA

The YMCA, at 116 Fifth St. S, has been empty for years.
Published Jun. 27, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — A second buyer is waiting in the wings to purchase the historic YMCA building at 116 Fifth St. S, with renovation plans that include a spa, restaurant, youth recreation area, and apartments or hotel rooms.

Nick Ekonomou, a former Florida State University football player who has redeveloped several apartment projects and single-family homes in Miami-Dade County, said he hopes to also have his own residence in the building. "I am prepared to close and I have the money," he said. "I love this building and this is a long-term goal for me."

Ekonomou had a contract to buy it in 2008 but decided not to after the economy soured. He said he hopes to buy the 1926 Mediterranean revival-style building July 16 if another prospective buyer doesn't come up with $1.2 million by July 15.

Ekonomou estimated design work and permitting would take more than a year and construction would take at least two years.

Local music promoter Thomas Nestor signed a purchase agreement to buy the property through installment payments in late 2012. He has managed to raise money from partners and lenders, often at the 11th hour, each time an installment was due. Nestor said he has a letter of commitment from a group for the $1.2 million balance due and will be able to take ownership July 15.

Phil Powell heads the investment group that paid $1 million for the building in 2004 with plans to develop it into condos. That project proved too costly.

After Nestor was late on a payment earlier this year, Powell accepted a contract from Ekonomou to buy the building for an undisclosed price.

A confidential settlement was reached Thursday in the chambers of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jack Day. It keeps the contract with Nestor intact and allows him to pay the balance due on July 15. If not, Ekonomou can step in.

Nestor has hosted tours and events at the building to raise money and awareness. His dream is to renovate the YMCA, which has been empty for over a decade, into a facility called the Music Mansion. It would house a concert venue, music classes for at-risk kids, a ballroom, a cafe, and possibly apartments or hotel rooms.

He said he has been waiting over a year for approval to form a nonprofit organization so he can finance construction through donations and grants in addition to bank loans.

Dr. Robert Wallace, known for his work with AIDS patients, pledged $360,000 in May 2013 with visions of a center for social programs to help veterans, women and children. He and Nestor parted ways when their plans conflicted.

Last month, Wallace filed a lawsuit seeking $70,000 plus interest from Nestor.

"We feel it's without any merit," said Nestor's attorney, Russell Cheatham, who has filed a motion to dismiss the suit. Wallace's attorney, Jessie Bowden, declined to comment.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at kssmith@tampabay.com.

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