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Historic South Tampa mansion could be razed to make way for 6 new homes

The Mediterranean-style mansion spans nearly an entire block between Bay to Bay Boulevard and Santiago Street.
This South Tampa home built in 1925 by by Val Maestro Antuono, the largest cigar manufacturer of the time, went on the market for $2.995 million in 2018. It sold in May for $2.5 million to a developer who has filed an application to split it into six lots.
This South Tampa home built in 1925 by by Val Maestro Antuono, the largest cigar manufacturer of the time, went on the market for $2.995 million in 2018. It sold in May for $2.5 million to a developer who has filed an application to split it into six lots. [ Bryan DeVore, DeVore Design ]
Published Jun. 22|Updated Jun. 22

A 1920s-era estate in South Tampa that was once home to an Italian cigar mogul could be demolished to make room for six new homes, according to the previous owners.

Kay Hubbard-Cruz and Ray Cruz first put the home at 4024 W Bay to Bay Blvd. on the market in 2018 with an asking price of just under $3 million.

“I showed the house to hundreds of people across the United States,” Hubbard-Cruz said. “Everybody loved our home, but no one could see themselves in it.”

The nearly 6,000-square-foot Spanish revival-style mansion — which boasts six bedrooms, six bathrooms, two kitchens, a library and a separate mother-in-law-suite — spans almost an entire block between Bay to Bay Boulevard and Santiago Street.

In the end, “it was just too much home,” Hubbard-Cruz said.

Related: For sale: 1925 Tampa mansion built by cigar king, featured in horror flick

After several years and a couple of price reductions, the house caught the eye of South Tampa builder Milana Custom Homes.

In December 2021 the company filed an application with the city of Tampa to split the property into six separate lots. That request was approved in March. Milana applied for a demolition permit later that month and is still waiting for the city’s approval.

The company closed on the home last month for $2.5 million.

Brandon Lanci, Milana’s CEO, said the home is seriously damaged and would not pass a code inspection.

“It’s very run down,” he said. “If you hire a contracting service, you’re looking at putting in a lot of money to get this back up to be even insurable.”

Thomas Connelly, president of the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association, said several neighborhood residents were disappointed that the home would not be preserved, “but it’s an authorized use of the property, so there’s nothing we can do.”

The house was built in 1925 by Val Maestro Antuono, an immigrant from Naples who started off selling cigars out of the back of his family’s grocery store. He eventually grew the business into one the biggest cigar manufacturers in the country.

Antuono was an important figure in the local Italian community. He served as Italy’s vice consul in Tampa for several years before he died in 1941.

Though many of the home’s original features, including the tiles, hand-painted ceiling beams and stained glass windows are still intact, it was never granted any type of historical designation.

This South Tampa home built in 1925 by by Val Maestro Antuono, the largest cigar manufacturer of the time, went on the market for $2.995 million in 2018. It sold in May for $2.5 million to a developer who has filed an application to split it into six lots.
This South Tampa home built in 1925 by by Val Maestro Antuono, the largest cigar manufacturer of the time, went on the market for $2.995 million in 2018. It sold in May for $2.5 million to a developer who has filed an application to split it into six lots. [ Bryan DeVore, DeVore Design ]

Local preservationist and former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena said this means the builder has free rein to redevelop the property as it sees fit.

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“We need developers who understand the value of a historic property and use the original structure as a centerpiece for their development,” she said, adding that she’d like to see Milana keep the home’s facade intact and try to incorporate some of the historic design elements into whatever gets built.

“All the new homes I see in that area are cut of the same cloth,” she said, “whereas this development has the potential to be unique and therefore more special and valuable.”

Lanci said he wants to salvage materials from the original mansion and use them to build the new homes with the same Spanish revival-style architecture.

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