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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Owner fights bid to demolish decaying Davis Islands mansion

TAMPA — The city of Tampa is on a campaign to tear down vacant buildings that have fallen into dangerous levels of disrepair.

But the home that's next on their list doesn't fit the pattern. Located in the exclusive downtown suburb of Davis Islands, it's a 4,000-square-foot mansion with a spectacular waterfront view, across from the airport and marina, in a neighborhood where homes go for $1.5 million.

Still, it's a decaying mansion, the soaring, turreted, concrete-and-glass front marred by broken windows and unkempt grounds.

Neighbors pushed for the demolition.

“It was in disrepair when we moved into the neighborhood,” said Kim Fatica, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years. “It has only gotten worse. I don't think the owners understand the impact that house is having on his neighbors.”

Neighbor Bill Newman has seen chunks of the exterior falling into the driveway and yard. Other neighbors call it a fire hazard and a danger to kids who use it as a hangout.

Some of them drink beer there, smoke marijuana, shoot birds with air guns, and add to the decay by breaking windows, kicking holes and painting graffiti.

“Some kids don't do anything wrong,” said Antonio Amadeo, chairman of the the Davis Islands Civic Association. “They just want to find a hiding place. For them it is fun. But they are going to get hurt.”

The owners of the home, John and Mary Perez, live elsewhere in Tampa. They're fighting the demolition order, forcing a hearing that is set for 9 a.m. Wednesday at Old City Hall.

City inspectors determined the structural damage was so serious they suggested a demolition the day of the inspection, said Sal Ruggiero, manager of the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Division.

But the owners were given 21 days to respond. They waited 22, Ruggiero said, but were granted a hearing anyway.

The Davis Islands Civic Association is asking island residents to attend the hearing.

“If the appeal is granted the situation can be dragged on for years, affecting the safety and wellbeing of our neighbors,” the group's newsletter says.

John and Mary Perez could not be reached for comment.

They purchased the home at 545 Severn Ave. in 1995. Records in the Property Appraiser's Office show they own three other homes, two of them on Davis Islands.

Neighbors who were contacted said they haven't made an effort to reach the couple directly.

Real estate website Trulia says similar homes in the area list for $1.5 million and it's not hard to see why.

Newman has lived on Davis Islands all his life and remembers when the original homeowner, Norman Bond, built it in 1971.

It was a spectacle, he said — a one-bed bachelor pad that was the size of a mansion, complete with a tennis court and pool. Newman said Playboy magazine once listed it as one of the top bachelor pads in the country.

Newman has never met the Perez family.

“I understand he wants to keep it, but I wish there would be some rational thinking applied to this situation. Either fix it up or let the city demolish it.”

On second thought, Newman adds, it shouldn't be left up the Perez family at this point.

“There is no way it can be fixed. It needs to come down.”

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