West Tampa Convention Center to be demolished for Dollar General
WEST TAMPA -
The West Tampa Convention Center soon will be torn down, leaving behind memories of more than 40 years of politicking, fiestas, flamenco dancers, dance recitals and “tastes” of West Tampa cuisine.
Workers began gutting the interior of the building this week in preparation for its demolition. Centro Español de Tampa recently sold the property for about $650,000.
Palmetto Capital Group plans to replace the convention center with a Dollar General store and a second tenant. The Tampa City Council approved the project in June.
The 7,200 square-foot discount store is expected to open by late fall, said company spokeswoman Crystal Ghassemi. It will be the 11th Dollar General in Tampa.
The board of Centro Español last year reluctantly decided to sell the property. Structural problems with the building, including uneven floors, were estimated to cost nearly $2 million to repair.
“There were a lot of repairs it needed,” said board member Rick Caldevilla. “The membership is dwindling. We still have cemeteries we are responsible for. We can now take care of our cemeteries.”
Centro Español was founded more than 120 years ago in Ybor City as the first mutual aid society to offer recreation, education and health care services to workers in the then-budding cigar industry. In 1941 there were about 9,000 members; today, Caldevilla said, there are about 60 members.
The charity supports two historical cemeteries: Centro Español Cemetery on 21st Avenue and Memorial Centro Español Cemetery on East Lake Avenue.
A historical marker in front of the convention center recognizes Hugh McFarlane, who founded what became the town of West Tampa in 1895. It was one of several markers placed at historical locations in West Tampa beginning in 1990. Private donations funded the markers.
Because the marker is on private property, it is up to the new owners to decide what to do with it, said Thom Snelling, the city’s director of planning and development.
“We’re reaching out to the current developer,” he said. “We are going to ask that they certainly preserve it.”
A representative of Palmetto Capital was not available for comment.