Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to tour and photograph the Historic YMCA in St. Petersburg.
It was built in 1926 with $500,000 of community funds, the building has a rich history of assisting Bay Area residents plus worldly visitors to downtown Saint Petersburg. Built in the Mediterranean Revivalist Architectural style, this 51,512 square foot, 5-story landmark features grand entrance ways, a large gymnasium area, basement with a hand placed tile pool, outdoor courtyard plus a roof top viewing tower. The interior features cypress beams, ornate plaster plus Mayan, American Indian, Spanish & Cuban decorative features.
Historic St. Pete Inc. was formed by a collective of professionals to save The Historic YMCA Building from demolition by purchasing and rehabilitating this historic landmark and preserve it’s integrity for many generations to come by ensuring the public the primary uses compliment the community of St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Region.
If you wish to learn more about Historic St. Pete, you can visit their site here. If you wish to view the building for yourself or wish to help in it’s preservation, you can also visit their Facebook page here.
I am currently working on a full post on the building’s history but in the mean time, please enjoy the gallery below.
I’m asked all the time why some places sit abandoned for so long. One reason is called “Demolition by Neglect”, a term used to describe a situation in which a property owner intentionally allows a historic property to suffer severe deterioration, potentially beyond the point of repair. Property owners may use this kind of long-term neglect to circumvent historic preservation regulations.
To keep it simple, the term is usually brought up when an owner has abandoned a property listed on the National Historic Register, which can be difficult to demolish or renovate due to the fact that they are meant to be preserved. The owner can apply for a demolition permit as many times as they’d like, but they will usually be denied. Though the property can’t be demolished, it doesn’t mean there has to be any upkeep either, so the owner decides to let the building run it’s course.
After a couple of fires, some water damage and a bit of graffiti, they’ve succeeded; the place has become an eyesore and a danger to the community. After complaints from neighbors who are tired of kids throwing parties there or vagrants coming in and out of the property, the owner now has the community’s support when they decide to apply for yet another demolition permit. A prime example of this is the Belleview Biltmore in Clearwater.
This process occurs countless times and ends with the building being demolished or being saved before any irreversible damage can be done. The Bostwick Building in Jacksonville is a good example, where the city stepped in to save the building after it was clear the owner didn’t care about it.
Another example is the Thomas Strawn Packing House, where the previous owner applied for a demolition permit multiple times, acknowledging that he intended to demolish the buildings to sell the property, but was denied each and everytime. A couple of the buildings were lost due to fires over the years. In the end, the property was bought out and is currently in the process of being renovated.
So when people ask me why a place sits abandoned for so long, this is usually the reason why.
Town commissioners met Tuesday evening and unanimously voted to reverse an earlier decision to wait six months before discussing new zoning options for the Belleview Biltmore property.
Current zoning on the Biltmore site allows only for a hotel or single-family homes but new zoning options would allow the developer to tear down the historic structure to build anything from condos to restaurants, depending on what they apply for.
St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem, who has a contract to buy the deteriorating hotel, explained that a portion of the hotel will have to be demolished and envisions a mixed-use plan in which he would transform a portion of the 117-year-old Biltmore into a small boutique hotel that would operate alongside condos and townhomes.
A large number of people have been fighting for restoration of the structure but no one has come forward with the money to do so. Commissioner Mike Wilkerson stated that a full hotel restoration is preferred, but Cheezem’s proposal is a compromise. He noted that even if the new zoning options pass, someone could still come forward to purchase the hotel with the option to preserve it.