Jewish Center To Take Over Armory, West Tampa

The Tampa Jewish Community Center & Federation plans to expand by Spring 2013 into the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory at 522 N. Howard Ave.

The approximately 75,000-square-foot historical building will become the new JCC South Campus. The original 22-acre campus is located at 13009 Community Campus Dr., off of Gunn Highway in Citrus Park.

“Originally, the core of the Jewish community was located throughout the south part of Tampa, but as new communities like Westchase, New Tampa and Carrollwood developed, there was a shift from the south to the north,” says Jack Ross, executive director of the JCC & Federation. “Over the last decade and a half, we've seen a shift back to South Tampa while new Jewish families who come to the area are now heading directly to the south.”

According to Ross, the Tampa JCC has recently entered a period of economic health and stability, and is currently debt free for the first time in years. Because of this, the JCC & Federation was able to address the increased need for service and programming closer to South Tampa, looking at the future in a more serious way in terms of expansion. The TJCCF signed a 99-year lease with an option to buy the Armory.

“Soon, we will have a national marketing firm go into the neighborhoods in and around the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory property -- as well as the Jewish community throughout South Tampa -- to poll the community to find out what they would like to see in terms of the development of our new community center,” Ross says. “What is something that would be welcomed? Not welcomed? What would make members of the community become members? This will create a road map as far as what the inside of will look like.”

Ultimately, the outside of the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory site will become restored, much of the historical building's facade and exterior remaining intact.

Once the project develops, the JCC & Federation plans to begin offering free one-year memberships to the entire community within a certain mile radius surrounding the Armory; currently, the radius has not been determined.

“We really want to become part of the fabric of the South Tampa community, letting them know that we want them to become a part of ours, as well,” Ross says.

Writer: Alexis Quinn Chamberlain
Source: Jack Ross, Tampa JCC & Federation
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