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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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JCC offers space for Hyde Park Art Studio in former Tampa armory

WEST TAMPA - A city-owned art studio that has outgrown its space in Hyde Park might move to a redesigned Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. City officials and representatives of the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation are exploring the possibility of moving Hyde Park Art Studio to the armory. JCC is offering up to 10,000 square feet for the studio, said Greg Bayor, the city's parks and recreation director. The city might not need that much space, but the studio needs help. "We're in dire straits there," Bayor said. Half of the art studio building at 702 S. Albany Ave. is condemned and boarded up. There also is a small jewelry studio. A construction trailer at the Albany Avenue site adds some classroom space, but Bayor said it is cramped.
The existing buildings and trailer have about 4,200 square feet. An additional 300 square feet outdoors has kilns. The city is considering the JCC offer but also will look at costs of new construction or renting at another location, possibly a shopping center. Nearly a year ago the JCC announced plans to pursue a 99-year lease with an option to buy the vacant armory building and about half of the surrounding property for a southern campus of the JCC. The organization recently received a six-month extension to complete its plans before signing the lease. The organization has operated a community center off Gunn Highway in Citrus Park for about 10 years. "This (art studio) is another example of the strategic partnerships we've lined up to enhance the level of services we bring," said Jack Ross, executive director of Tampa Jewish Community Center. Previously, the JCC announced agreements for an events center with TPepin's Hospitality Centre, and a wellness center with USF Healthcare and the University of South Florida. Other plans for the armory include a preschool, a kosher café, a recreational swimming pool, a gymnasium, a theater for film and stage productions, and meeting rooms. If the city opts to move the studio to the armory, Bayor said, artists would receive free studio space in return for teaching classes. "It works out wonderfully," he said. "They get cubicles for their artwork and they teach for you." The armory is a historical landmark that has stood vacant for more than seven years. The 75,000 square-foot building was dedicated in 1941, one day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is between Howard and Armenia avenues, a few blocks north of Kennedy Boulevard. Elvis Presley, The Animals, The Doors and James Brown performed at the armory. President Kennedy was keynote speaker for the Florida Chamber of Commerce four days before his assassination in Dallas. And it was a popular venue for wrestling. Many plans have been put forward to revive the site, all unsuccessful. Among them was a $98 million project with a 300-room hotel, spa, restaurants, boutiques and a cultural center. The JCC plans to launch a capital fundraising campaign within two months, said Ross. About $4 million already is available from tax credits, grants and a donor for whom the pre-school would be named.

ksteele@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7652

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