Hillsborough County Commission not ready to sign off on Urban League building by Mitch E. Perry

11/01/06

The Hillsborough County Commission today voted today to delay approving a deal that would allow a group led by Without Walls International Church to purchase the historic Centro Espanol de West Tampa building in West Tampa.

That building had been the home to the Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League in recent years, but financial mismanagement led the civil rights organization to dissolve this summer, at a debt over $3 million dollars.

With the County owed over $400,000, officials had entered into negotiations back in September to possibly puchase the building. But Mike Kelly with the County’s Real Estate Department, said that’s when they first learned that the Urban League had already worked on a deal with a group connected to Without Walls International Church (roll tape#1 o.q.�November 14th�)

Kelly said that after studying the deal, Hillsborugh officials endorsed the (roll tape#2 o.q.�and that’s through this organization�)

But both community members and members of the County Commision were not so ready to sign off on the deal.

Maura Barrios is director of Voces De West Tampa, and has been working with the Tampa Hillsborough County Planning Commisison on redeveloping the West Tampa area for the past 2 years. She said she was blindsighted to read about the building being sold off (roll tape#3 o.q.�in secret�)

County Commmisioner Thomas Scott, who represents West Tampa on the Commission,said he heard from many members of the African American and West Tampa community in recent weeks regarding this possible sale. Centrol Espanol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Scott said he had also heard from people just concerned that they had had no say so on what would happen to the historic structure (roll tape#4 o.q. “okay?�)

Commissioner Ronda Storms, in one of her last meetings on the Board, said that it would be totally inappropriate to give the go-ahead to Without Wall Church at this time (roll tape#5 o.q.�for their own community�)

Pastor Randy White then addressed the Commision. He said the new group taking over the building would carry on the economic empowerment mission of the Urban League, and said i, and said that if the Commission would not bless their purchase of Centro Espanol, he simply didn’t know what would happen to it (roll tape#6 o.q.�not a religious building�)

Despite those pleadings, the Commission voted to have Pastor White engage in more conversation with all of the interested parties, before any type of sale of the building were to occur.

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