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West Tampa cigar factory with iconic clock tower is yours for $4.5 million

The owner, criticized for painting another historic factory white, bought the Pendes & Alvarez building in January for $3.3 million.

TAMPA — Michael Hettrich drew the ire of historic preservationists when he painted the Santaella Cigar Factory white, covering up the raw bricks that had always defined the 114-year-old building in West Tampa.

Preservationists questioned whether he’d also ignore historic precedent in redeveloping the 109-year-old Y. Pendes & Alvarez Cigar Factory nearby, best known for its signature clock tower.

Work continues on the Santaella building. But now, Hettrich has signaled he is willing to part with the Pendes & Alvarez building. The 60,000-square-foot structure at 2301 N. Albany Ave. is on the market for $4.5 million.

Hettrich bought the building in January for $3.3 million, according to Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s records. Hettrich could not be reached for comment.

His real estate agent, Michael Braccia, said Hettrich and his business partners are interested in other ventures now.

RELATED STORY: A white cigar factory? The new paint job renews talk of protections for Tampa’s icons.

RELATED STORY: City shuts down remodeling at West Tampa cigar factory, spurring new call for landmark status.

Only 23 remain of the 200 or so factories that operated in Tampa’s heyday as a cigar capital, the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. Of those, just 11 are protected by a local preservation ordinance that prevents owners from altering the original historic look of the buildings’ exterior, according to the city of Tampa.

It is up to owners to request the designation.

Neither the Santaella nor Pendes y Alavarez factories are protected.

Missy Martin, president of the Macfarlane Neighborhood Association in West Tampa, hopes the next owner of the Pendes y Alavarez “respects the history of the building and just restores it rather than changes it.

“I know it is lot to ask but I hope they also seek" historic status for the building.

Historic designation carries a burden for the owner: Changes must follow city guidelines meant to preserve the original appearance. That can be expensive and time consuming, but owners can apply for grants and they might see the value of their property rise.

The Santaella building at 1906 N Armenia Ave., now branded as Ampersand Cooperative, will include a micro-brewery, cafe and updated studios for artists, some of whom have been renting there since before Hettrich owned the building.

The old Santaella Cigar Factory on N Armenia Avenue in Tampa, now undergoing remodeling, has been painted white.
The old Santaella Cigar Factory on N Armenia Avenue in Tampa, now undergoing remodeling, has been painted white.

In January, the city temporarily shut down construction at the Santaella building after finding a number of code violations. At that time, tenants credited Hettrich with stabilizing and improving the interior of the factory.

His other cigar factory, the Y. Pendas y Alvarez, was the talk of the town when it was built in 1909. Designed by architect Fred J. James, who later created El Centro Español of West Tampa, its 120-foot high clock tower was the tallest in the state, played music in a syncopated gong, and lit up the night.

Historians say the only other clock tower in the area back then was probably on the former Hillsborough County Courthouse, where the Tampa Police Department stands today. A century later, the clock doesn’t work any more but it its four faces remain intact.