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Man who wanted to buy St. Pete’s historic YMCA takes his case to the courts again

Thomas Nestor had hoped to convert the former YMCA into a music museum and performance venue.
The historic YMCA in downtown St. Petersburg
The historic YMCA in downtown St. Petersburg
Published Jun. 19, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Music promoter Thomas Nestor, who has been trying to buy the historic former YMCA building in downtown St. Petersburg since 2012 and has sued as part of his effort, has launched a new legal battle.

His new federal suit against the former seller and the judge who ruled against him claims that his civil rights were violated. Nestor claims that Judge Jack Day and then YMCA principal owner Phillip Powell and his company deprived him of the purchase of the historic building and his ability to pursue his due process rights. One of his claims is that the judge moved a 2014 emergency hearing to a large courtroom, and he was unable to properly participate because of his hearing disability.

“I was unable to hear and understand what was transpiring in the proceeding, after the judge abruptly and unexpectedly moved everyone from his chambers to the large courtroom,” Nestor said in a written statement. “All parties present, including Judge Day, knew of my hearing disability, and nothing was done to provide me with assistance. My opportunity to be heard was denied, so were my witnesses, who were present and ready to testify.”

He is seeking relief and damages, including another hearing and a decision that he “complied with the closing requirements” and “is the rightful owner of the rights to the historic property.”

The dispute dates back to 2014, after developer Nick Ekonomou became a backup buyer for the Mediterranean Revival-style building at 116 Fifth St. S, in the event Nestor’s contract fell through. Nestor had hoped to buy the building and convert it into a music museum and performance venue. He solicited donations through Facebook, guided tours and community jam sessions in a bid to gather 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.

“I came up with the closing money the day of of the closing, and I was denied the deed,” Nestor said Friday.

Ekonomou, a former professional football player, has said he plans to convert the 1920s building into a boutique hotel. He said the coronavirus has “put back the hospitality business,” and in the meantime, he will “make small improvements to the building.”