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Old March 29th, 2009, 11:58 PM   #1
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Bank Spares Historic Downtown Building From Wrecking Ball

Bank Spares Historic Downtown Building From Wrecking Ball

Photo from Richard Foshee, superintendent, Ed Taylor Construction
The bank's owners wanted to maintain the historic character of the building while giving it a more contemporary look.
By CHRISTIAN M. WADE | The Tampa Tribune
Published: March 26, 2009

TAMPA - Like so many of Tampa's old buildings, it could have fallen to the wrecking ball.

Instead, the faded brick building on the corner of North Tampa and East Whiting streets is being given a second lease on life as the corporate headquarters of USAmeriBank.

Jose Castellanos, whose Tampa architectural firm, RRW Architects & Planners, AIA, Inc., designed the $1.5 million project, said the bank's owners wanted to maintain the historic character of the structure while giving it a more contemporary look and feel.

And that meant keeping the building's 100-year-old brick fašade largely intact.

"It would have been cheaper just to construct a new building," he said. "But the bank wanted to make an investment in downtown by maintaining its historic character."

Much of the interior had deteriorated because of rot and termite infestation, he said.

A Key feature of the building's interior redesign will be the steel barrel-vaulted ceiling.

"The whole idea was to keep that open air feeling of historical warehouses while at the same time give it more of a contemporary, modern look and feel," Castellanos said.

When the project is completed, sometime in May, the building will serve as the bank's headquarters with about 7,000 square feet of office space including retail teller lines.

The building was built in 1907 on land adjacent to the former Fort Brooke site. Over the years, it has been home to a produce market, a printing shop and several restaurants.

An archeological survey of the land uncovered Colonial-era pottery shards, buttons and pre-historic projectile points used either for spears or arrows and other artifacts.

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner and architect Joseph Chillura is a senior shareholder in the community bank who is acting as a consultant on the project.

He called the work an example of a local business investing in its own back yard.

"In the current financial climate, we need to support local business," Chillura said.

His son, Joseph Vincent Chillura, is the CEO of USAmeriBank.

USAmeriBank, which is based in Largo, has an estimated $612 million in assets and five offices in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, including the downtown Tampa branch.

Robert McDonaugh, manager of Tampa's downtown redevelopment area, said the bank is making a major contribution to the commercial district by renovating the building.

"It's going to be a wonderful addition to the downtown," he said. "That building has been vacant for so many years and it's great that they are willing to make this investment."

Many of Tampa's historic downtown buildings have fallen into a state of disrepair.

The historic Kress building, which has been vacant for years with broken and boarded-up windows, is crumbling. The Guida House, built in 1952 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and St. Paul AME Church, are also steadily deteriorating.

The old federal courthouse, one of Tampa's most prominent downtown landmarks, sits vacant along Florida Avenue after plans to renovate the historic building fell apart.

And the Ferlita Macaroni Factory in Ybor City, built in 1924, is slated for demolition.

McDonaugh said despite the bank building's age, it's not a protected landmark and could have been razed and replaced with a newer and less architecturally significant structure.

"But they chose to preserve it," he said. "That's something that deserves recognition."

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Old March 30th, 2009, 07:18 AM   #2
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Nice, I was wondering what was going on there. They were working on replacing the roof recently, it has a curved shape on top.
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Old April 17th, 2009, 10:03 AM   #3
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Neat article!
Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Groups! Anonymous

A head buried in the sand cannot see the light of truth. g. lilly
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