News Column

Group settles suit with Y's owner, has loan to buy it

June 26, 2014

By Josh Boatwright, Tampa Tribune, Fla.



June 26--ST. PETERSBURG -- A group looking to preserve the aging downtown YMCA building settled a lawsuit Thursday over late payments to the property's owner and expects to close the deal next month.

The owner of the imposing 1926 Mediterranean-style recreation center agreed to allow Historic St. Pete Inc. to complete the purchase by July 15 after previously canceling the group's contract because of a late deposit payment, said Russ Cheatham, a lawyer representing the preservationists.

The group's leader, Tom Nestor, says he has secured a $1.6 million loan to close the deal with property owner VPC3 II by next month's deadline.

Historic St. Pete Inc. had sued to enforce the contract, arguing that the late deposit fell within a grace period to make the payment.

The legal dispute was scheduled to go before a Pinellas County judge Thursday morning, and Nestor had raised concerns the property would be sold to developers with plans to destroy or dramatically alter the historical structure.

During the course of nearly two years, Nestor has held fundraisers and tours of the YMCA, showing off its exquisite Spanish dÉcor and expansive interior rooms, but no one came forward with enough capital to complete the purchase.

Last week, during a final round of tours at the property at Second Avenue and Fifth Street South, an anonymous group agreed to loan his group enough money to acquire it, though a long and costly restoration process still lies ahead.

"We're all on the same page as far as where the building is headed for the community of St. Petersburg in the future," said Nestor, a local music promoter. "We intend to restore the building to what it was in 1926, and for many more generations, hopefully, than we're alive to enjoy it."

In the past several months, groups that shared Nestor's preservationist vision came forward to offer financial backing, but none would commit because of concerns about whether the original contract still was valid.

"There were people that thought it wasn't, and today that's obviously been taken care of and resolved," he said.

The private lender who stepped forward prefers not to be named but has sent Nestor a letter of commitment for $1.6 million.

As soon as the closing is finished, Historic St. Pete Inc. will launch a new round of community fundraisers for the multimillion-dollar renovations needed to restore the building.

Ultimately, the goal is to reopen the Y as a multiuse center that could include a restaurant, cafÉ, concert hall and even a community swimming pool.

"The one thing we can promise going forward is we're not going to do anything to destroy the building," Nestor said. "We're going to do everything to save her and maintain her."

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-1277

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(c)2014 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)


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