Proposal to restore West Tampa armory gains endorsement
WEST TAMPA - A proposal by representatives of the Jewish Community Center to restore the Homer Hesterly Armory as a mullt-purpose community center moved a step closer to its goal. On Monday the volunteer Architectural Review Commission unanimously voted to recommend the project. Tampa City Council will hold its initial vote on the matter at a July 25 public hearing. If approved, commission members will again review the proposal on Aug. 5. The volunteer group has an advisory role regarding historical landmarks such as the armory. The armory which opened the day after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 is a historical landmark noted for performances by Elvis Presley, The Animals and James Brown. President John F. Kennedy gave a speech at the armory four days before his assassination in Dallas in 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also spoke there.The armory also was a popular venue for wrestling. Last year, representatives of the Jewish Community Center announced plans to pursue a 99-year lease for the armory with an option to buy the building and about half of the 10-acre site at 522 N. Howard Ave. The National Guard would keep maintenance operations on another portion of the site. Plans are to re-open the armory as the Jewish Community Center's southern campus. A community center in Citrus Park has operated for about 25 years. The armory has been vacant for about eight years since the National Guard moved most of its operations to Pinellas Park. The proposed project includes a preschool, a pool, a children's pool and splash pad, a kosher cafe, a theater for film and stage productions, and meeting rooms. There also are plans to have an events venue and wellness center.