Repairs being made at Kress building
TAMPA - It took the threat of hefty fines and other sanctions by the city, but the owner of the Kress building have finally begun fixing the facade of the downtown landmark. "Something is finally being done," said Jake Slater, the city's code enforcement director. In January, Tampa's four-member code enforcement board found the owner, Doran Jason Group, guilty of a litany of violations and gave it six months to resolve them. A follow-up inspection in July found little progress toward resolving the violations, so code enforcement officials slapped the building's owner with a $500-a-day fine for each infraction, which could have added up to nearly $14,000 a month.In the past week, city officials said, workers have replaced broken windows, cleaned and painted overhangs, and made other improvements to bring the aging building into compliance. Once the work is finished, the city will decide how much the owners should pay in fines, said Kevin L. Amos, area supervisor for Tampa's code enforcement department. The building on Franklin Street used to house the S.H. Kress department store. The loss of the 95-year-old landmark Gary Adult School last year highlighted the plight of Kress and other historical downtown buildings, many of which have been neglected. Last year, the city council created an emergency building stabilization fund with about $100,000 available for owners of historic buildings to make repairs. But the fund offers loans, not grants, and so far nobody has requested the financial assistance. A recent inspection of the Kress building, which was put up for lease by the owners this year, found no "imminent threat of structural failure" despite its rundown appearance.
Reporter Christian M. Wade can be reached at (813) 259-7679