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  1. Business

Downtown Tampa's historic Kress building back on the market

TAMPA — It looks like the rebirth of the historic S.H. Kress & Co. building will take awhile longer.

The dream has been around for at least a decade, and it appeared it was about to come true last fall when a development team filed plans with City Hall to incorporate the grand old department store into a 22-story tower with a hotel, apartments and more.

But Kress owner Jeannette Jason said this week that she no longer has a contract to sell the four-story building on N Franklin Street to Walson Ventures, a partnership between Tampa developers Alex Walter and Casey Ellison. The contract hasn't been in place since December because of issues on her end of the transaction, she said.

Those have since been resolved, Jason said, and she hopes a deal can still come together, perhaps with Walson Ventures, perhaps with someone else.

"I'm interested in getting it back under contract as soon as possible," she said. One possibility is co-listing the property with a national real estate brokerage firm.

Built in 1929 a block north of the Tampa Theatre, the Kress is adorned with bronze marquees, coats of arms and a terra-cotta renaissance revival facade. Inside are pendant lights and a 27-foot first-floor ceiling. Next door on the same block is the old Woolworth's storefront, which is historically significant as the site of the sit-in that led to the peaceful desegregation of Tampa's lunch counters in 1960.

Tampa's top development official said it's not unusual for something like this to happen with a building like the Kress, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2005, the City Council rezoned the Kress block for 401 apartments, but that plan fell victim to the crash of the real estate market. In 2013, Mayor Bob Buckhorn delivered his state of the city address inside the old department store in an effort to highlight its potential.

"The Kress building redevelopment is a fairly complicated deal," said Bob McDonaugh, the city's economic opportunity administrator. "It's not like you're scraping (a piece of property) and starting fresh. It's a historic structure, so if you're trying to layer tax credits, it's complicated."

Still, McDonaugh said, the development climate in downtown is good and that should help.

"I'm sure with the way things are going that either that developer or someone else will take another look at the project," he said.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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