AIA Tampa Bay breathes new life into historic, old West Tampa warehouse

After a 15-year search, AIA Tampa Bay has found a home of its own by breathing new life into an old West Tampa warehouse.

A meticulous building rehab project mixing historic preservation with modern amenities and energy efficiency upgrades has converted the long-vacant, circa 1904 building at 1208 N. Howard Ave. into the regional chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ new Center for Architecture & Design.

The new headquarters was long-time coming. AIA Tampa Bay, which has approximately 750 members from a seven-county area, leased space for 40 years and spent a decade and a half looking for a building of its own to purchase and renovate. 

“We have everyone from historical preservationists to architects building the skyscrapers of our downtowns,” says AIA Tampa Bay President Jonathan Moore. “In an effort to practice what we preach, 15 years ago we formed a 501c3 to start to look for a building. It’s a good business model for a nonprofit to have a building of its own. We’re 40 years old and we had always rented office space. Two years ago, we found this building. It was in rough shape. It needed a lot of love. But we saw the historic potential of it. We practice what we preach. We took a historic building and we breathed new life into it while restoring it to its historic 1904 nature. It’s really a great catalyst for the West Tampa area we are in that shows it’s possible to take an old, stagnant building, save the bones and bring modern uses to it. It shows historic buildings can be successful modern business uses.”  

AIA Tampa Bay's new Center for Architecture & Design is a renovated historic warehouse building that's stood in West Tampa since 1904.The 3,000 square-foot white block building with dark trim is a prime example of an adaptive reuse project, Moore says. Ninety-five percent of the exterior walls, the ceilings and the floors, including the original terrazzo tile, were preserved. By prioritizing reuse, AIA Tampa Bay reduced the need for new materials and the environmental impact of the project while preserving the building's historic character. 

Modern energy efficiency upgrades include a reflective roof cap sheet to reduce heat, LED lighting and occupancy sensors, environmentally friendly materials and repurposed existing furniture to reduce embodied carbon and minimize landfill waste.

The modern design of the interior includes meeting rooms, a kitchen, office space, and ADA upgrades. Moore says the new Center for Architecture & Design will host continuing education classes and events for AIA Tampa Bay members. But the organization also wants their new home to emerge as a community gathering and meeting space for homeowners associations and community groups, the high school and college students who will be the next generation of architects, out-of-town AIA members and anyone interested in the architecture and historic buildings of Tampa. Already, there is an exhibit on display about the architecture of Tampa.

AIA Tampa Bay also sees the historic restoration and renovation as a catalyst for the continued redevelopment of West Tampa. The building is within the West Tampa Historic District and only blocks away from the Fort Homer W. Hesterly Armory, the renovated historic building that now houses the Shanna and Bryan Glazer Family Jewish Community Center. It’s two blocks away from the renovated cigar factory that now houses St. Leo University’s Tampa Education Center and next to another historic former cigar factory building that developers have eyed for renovation into a hotel.

“It’s a big step for AIA Tampa Bay,” Moore says. “We’re getting a lot of attention because we're taking a chance here, building in an area with a potential for a lot of redevelopment and encouraging people to look at existing buildings that may have been abandoned and look to reuse them. As a small nonprofit, we’re leveraging a lot to make this investment. I think it speaks well of our members because this ultimately is our members’ building. They want to practice what we preach. They want to look to sustainability and preservation when we can and not waste resources when there are resources available that, with a little bit of love, we can bring back to life.”

MVH Construction was the general contractor on the project. Sol Design Studio/Peter Hauerstein provided architectural services pro bono.

“It’s one thing to have an architect overseeing a project,” Moore says. “It’s a different thing to have 750 architects as a client. So hats off to our contractors.”

For more information, go to AIA Tampa Bay and Center for Architecture and Design
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.