Cool Digs: New Spaces In Old Places

Imagine living in a Mediterranean Revival palace, where industrial-sized ovens baked bread for decades. Or, perhaps you'd be more at home in a Greek Revival-style church and its brick three-story Sunday school, where the city's movers and shakers routinely sought spiritual guidance. Maybe you'd prefer to end your day in a downtown 1920s office tower, where Babe Ruth reportedly hung out at the nightclub.

Architects and developers are doing more than just imagining it would be fun to lives in these places: They are transforming historical structures into hip, new residences.

Projects giving old buildings new life in Tampa and St. Petersburg include:

• Sanctuary Lofts and Sanctuary Suites
• The Arlington
• Victory Lofts
• Seybold Lofts
• Box Factory Lofts
• Snell Arcade

They all represent an adaptive re-use trend that's been gaining traction in the Tampa Bay region in recent years.

Visionaries Take Note

Pioneers in such recycling projects include husband-and-wife architects Vivian Salaga and John Tennison, who teamed with developer Russell Versaggi to transform a former church and Sunday school building into office space and residential lofts.

Tampa Heights Methodist Church, also known as Tyer Temple, and its Sunday school to the north, have historic and architectural significance, Salaga says. The church, completed in 1911 at 502 E. Ross Ave., was in Tampa's first suburb just northeast of downtown. Many of the city's early prominent families and political leaders prayed there, and it is one of Tampa's few remaining outstanding examples of Greek revival architecture. The Sunday school, built in 1927, was designed by architect Frank Winn, whose style graces many of Tampa's historic buildings.

"We wanted to make an urban statement. We wanted to do something that was very different in the residential market," Salaga says.
Russ Versaggi, president of Urban Edge Development Group, partnered with the architects and helped secure a loan for the $2.6 million project – enabling the design and construction of 32 urban lofts in the Sunday school and office suites and two lofts in the sanctuary building.

This type of project, which took about 2½ years, "seems to have an appeal cross-generationally. The younger folks, I think, because it's hip; and, the older folks, I think, because it's historic," Salaga says.

Versaggi also paired with architect Stephanie Ferrell, in a $5 million project to convert the former Badcock Home Furniture & More store on the 1200 block of North Franklin Street in downtown Tampa.

The building, constructed in about 1910, originally was a hotel with 52 rooms on the second floor and 10 commercial bays at ground level.  It became a furniture store in the 1950s. In its latest iteration, which took about 2½ years to design and construct, it has 11 residential condos on the second floor and 10 mixed-use spaces downstairs.

When units went on the market, they sold out in a weekend. Ferrell thinks buyers were attracted to the building's historic charm, and the notion of living downtown.

Shelly Barsi says she and her husband, Cliff, were attracted to The Arlington because of its architecture and because they wanted to downsize. Historic tax credits and the rooftop patio were other pluses. "It was just cool," Barsi says.

Architect Tim Clemmons of St. Petersburg designed conversion projects involving the Wonder Bread factory in Tampa's Hyde Park and the Snell Arcade in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg.

"Both buildings are really important historic buildings in their communities," Clemmons says.

Reviving History

The bread factory, built in 1926 as Seybold Bakeries, boasts a distinctive Mediterranean Revival façade. It changed ownership several times, but remained a bakery until ceasing operations in 2003.

Clemmons says his goal on the Seybold was to recapture the building's exterior beauty, while creating quality living spaces and exposing interior components to exploit the structure's industrial roots. Converting the historic factory, at 1501 W. Horatio St., took about four years, at a cost of $8 million. It is part of a larger development, which includes 16 condominiums, 12 townhouses and four single-family homes. 
The Snell Arcade, a Mediterranean Revival building with an impressive 40-by-40 foot tower, was built by developer C. Perry Snell during Florida's boom days of the 1920s.

"The building is just fantastic," says Clemmons, who rates The Snell Arcade and the Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club as downtown St. Petersburg's two most historic buildings.

The building, at 405 Central Ave., was constructed with a two-story penthouse for Snell, retail on the ground floor, office on the upper floors, a cafeteria in the basement and "Spanish Bob's" – a nightclub on the third floor where Babe Ruth, was said to drop in.
The renovation involved converting the full basement into executive-style office suites and transforming office space on the second through seventh floors into 12 residential condos, with units initially ranging from around $250,000 to $600,000. Other parts of the building kept their original uses.

Dar Webb, 62, and Clint Page, 68, live in Snell Arcade. They moved there because the condo's layout suited their needs perfectly, especially a 24-foot corridor – now lined with bookshelves holding volumes from Page's vast collection of books. The couple also appreciates the building's architectural quality, interesting history and prime location.

"We both love downtown," Webb says. "There are 20 restaurants within walking distance. I have a 5-year-old Mini-Cooper. I have 10,000 miles on it."

Other interesting Bay area re-use projects include the Box Factory Lofts in Ybor City and Victory Lofts in Channelside.

Box Factory Lofts, with its 53 lofts, was originally the Tampa Box Co. – where hundreds of workers labored in one of the world's largest cigar box factories. Miles Development Partners of Atlanta developed the project, which is at 2001 E. Second Ave.

Victory Lofts, designed and built by The Beck Group, includes 28 lofts, in a four-story building that once stored Model Ts. The project includes a new building, across the street with 61 condos and parking.

B.C. Manion is a freelance writer working out of her 1932 bungalow in South Seminole Heights. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees

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