GRAMS PLACE HOSTEL MAY BE SHUT DOWN-Andrew Stelzer

06/02/06

A place to sleep for 25 bucks a night is hard to find anywhere, let alone a mile from downtown Tampa. But a little known youth hostel—the only one in the city of Tampa, has been offering that for the past several years, and has been mentioned as 0one of the most unique hostels in the world in travelers’ guidebooks. However, the city of Tampa has leveled code zoning and code violations on the two-cottage complex called Grams Place, and the high price of repairs is threatening to put the one of a kind business, out of business.

SOUND---MUSIC--I WANT TO BE A MYSTERIOUS WOMAN

At the corner of North ola and west Plymouth in Tampa Heights, a wooden fence surrounds an oasis of musical kitsch, from a tiled pool, to posters of Amsterdam and famous rock and rollers. The brochures proclaim it the world’s only music themed hostel, and owner Mark Holland is proud of that honor. ACT “It’s a music themed guesthouse and hostel..we have a jazz room folk room country, focused on American roots music..Gram Parsons, but its not about him…what was he about..roots music…you see folk room its Bob Dylan..Hank Williams Jimmy Rodgers..Cline, so you got Louie in the jazz room and Ella Fitzgerald, and blues room is Robert Johnson..rock and rollers Elvis and Buddy Holly..�

Grams place was originally a Bed and Breakfast, but after a trip to Amsterdam, Holland was inspired by the character of guesthouses there and over time, it turned into a youth hostel with a roof deck, a recording studio, Jacuzzi, and bring your own bottle bar. Holland turned the laundry room into a building that looks like a train, and began renting out individual beds for low prices. ACT “It’s been here 15 years, it’s provided a safe haven for people from Europe, I've helped bring an international crowd, I’ve tried to bring it forward…�

Last year, a neighbor filed a lawsuit against Holland, for many issues, including a fence that was over the property line. But she still hasn’t served Holland with the suit, and told the St Pete Times she hopes to settle the problem peacefully. Holland says those problems predated him or his neighbor owning the homes, and they all have been settled. But his problems with the city of Tampa have not been so easy to deal with. But earlier this year, Grams place was cited with 11 code violations, and has until August 23rd to make repairs. Holland says that’s impossible. With 7 rooms, and a capacity of about 18 people, Holland estimates that with a slow summer season, he averages a couple of guests per day over the entire year—enough to stay afloat but not to make a profit. And more importantly right now, not enough to make repairs. ACT “Ill have to tear so much down it will ruin the character, and I don’t have the money. I know were talking thousands of dollars an they want me to do it all at one time..’ ACT “I don’t want to live under abridge, I just want Tampa to give Tampa some international flavor.�

Holland says there has been an overwhelming response of public support from a small article in the Tampa tribune month; he’s hoping that the neighborhood and larger community will lobby the city and the zooming commission in defense of Grams place. At a zoning hearing last month, Holland brought a letter from an advisor to former Tampa mayor Dick Greco, stating that years ago, Grams place had been given a waiver from normal zoning codes, and been given a legal non-conforming use for the hostel in a residentially zoned building. But the zoning board said the letter was legally worthless. ACT “When comes to the city i'm not a politician and that’s what its all about..�

SOUND__PHONE RINGS—“GRAMS PLACE�—Aaron Riche, there’s a lot of people, oh yeah, how was the trip to Canada…I guess he read the news today…

Uno Yoon is from South Korea, he found out about Grams place on the internet before he came to Tampa to volunteer at the Lowry park zoo.
ACT-Yoon “I’ve been staying here for about 2 months, I’ve working at the Lowry park zoo…he probably wouldn’t have a place to stay…I can learn English here..and so many people from another country..�

Yoon plans to volunteer at the zoo through November, helping with pony rides, taking care of the animals, and cleaning their cages. But he may not have a place to stay after August 23rd, the day by which the code violations have to be fixed. But another former guest at the hostel is trying to intervene. ACT-Hudson “When I moved down here, I didn’t know anyone, I showed up and stayed there, and because it was so close to public transportation, I saved up money..�

Kevin Hudson, who now lives in Carrolwood, has started the save grams place committee, with the goal of lobbying the city council and mayors office to make an exception for the hostel,--Hudson says without grams place, he never would have been able to stay in town. ACT-Hudson “For 25 bucks a night you can’t stay unless you are surrounded by drug dealers..�

Hudson is gathering petitions and asking people to write letters. Is going to be meeting with a land use attorney to find out if it makes financial sense for Holland to fight the zoning rulings in court. ACT-Hudson “I don’t doubt the city has the best of intentions, but I just don’t think they understand, the mayor wants t bring culture, all we have is condos, people come from around the world to stay at grams place..and then they see Tampa..�

The city of Tamps code enforcement division did not return WMNFs calls for comment. Holland believes that if they wanted to, city officials could intervene. ACT “This is where Tampa needs to be going, they need more than 1, 4 or 5 hostels, that have a labor of love and a soul to em. ACT “We cant have any character or culture in Tampa/….there’s an old sayin about goverment, if they ant to make it work they will..�

To get in touch with the Save Grams place committee, call 813-454-5944 Grams Places website is www.grams-inn-tampa.com

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