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2014-01-17 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


January 17, 2014  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Bucs, Lightning owners lead donors for south Tampa Jewish Community Campus

A vision of the transformation of the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, located between Howard and Armenia avenues in Tampa, into a multi-faceted Jewish center. A vision of the transformation of the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, located between Howard and Armenia avenues in Tampa, into a multi-faceted Jewish center. Owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tampa Bay Lightning have stepped up in a major way to help the Tampa Jewish Community Center & Federation move closer to its goal of transforming the historic Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in south Tampa into a second Jewish Community Center campus.

Already, the Federation has received commitments of more than $9 million toward a $20 million goal during what Federation officials call the “quiet” phase of its “Tomorrow Campaign.”

The “public” phase of the campaign will be launched at the JCC & Federation’s annual President’s Dinner on Jan. 26.

Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has committed $4 million to the project, which represents the campaign’s largest gift to date.

Architectural rendering of the entrance to the planned JCC in south Tampa. Architectural rendering of the entrance to the planned JCC in south Tampa. “The new JCC will be the center of Jewish life in South Tampa. It will be a place where people of all ages can go and find limitless activities at any hour of the day,” Glazer said. “I felt the Armory opportunity couldn’t be passed up. Not having a JCC convenient to the large Jewish community living in South Tampa was a void that needed to be filled and I wanted to help make the dream a reality.”

Additionally, the Vinik family, owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, committed $1.5 million to the capital campaign.

“We’re excited to be a part of the creation of an additional JCC presence in Tampa, and we know this will be transformative for so many members of our community,” Vinik said. “This project holds great promise and we hope that the entire community will embrace it as we have.”

The project will renovate the 83,000 square-foot armory on Howard Avenue into a 100,000- plus square-foot community center that includes a preschool, aquatics center, fitness facility, event center, Young People’s Discovery Center, art center, health and wellness center, and much multipurpose space.

The Federation is also in discussions about partnership programs with Tampa General Hospital, the city of Tampa, and potentially other major institutions as tenants as well as providers for the delivery of arts, culture, wellness, and social support services.

Tampa Jewish Family Services plans to open a branch office at the new JCC South campus, Ross said.

Donors giving $50,000 or more to the effort also include the Golding Scher family; the Wuliger family and the Wuliger Family Foundation; the Rosenblatt-Linsky family; Frederick and Lynne Merriam; the Gould family; Jonathan and Karen Levy; Cliff and Linda Levy; Jack Ross; and Clinical Research of West Florida.

The project has also been selected to receive a matching grant from Hillsborough County through the historic preservation program and the campaign team is seeking significant support at the state level as well as from private and public foundations.

Tampa JCC Executive Director Jack Ross said they have rounded up bi-partisan support from four state legislators, led by Republicans, state Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and state Rep. Dana Young of Tampa. The legislators, all from districts that include or are adjacent to the armory, will seek state support for the center.

Ross’ argument for state and foundation support is this: The JCC is restoring a local, state and federal historic landmark, and it will create jobs and stimulate the west Tampa economy. The new center, which will be open to all, would benefit the public because it will bring arts and culture to the community, social services, and a health and wellness center.

The art-deco facility, which is on the national registry of historic places, has stood vacant since 2004, and was officially taken over by the Federation last October after a due diligence process that included a comprehensive community needs assessment and multiple examinations of the property. The new JCC will occupy the armory structure and sit on a 5.6- acre portion of the 10-acre block between Howard and Armenia avenues, north of Kennedy Boulevard.

When plans to consider the armory site for a JCC south campus were announced, JCC & Federation officials promised that they would not go into debt to establish a JCC South Campus and that it would not be developed at the expense of the existing campus along Gunn Highway in north Tampa.

Ross said those promises are still intact. “We will not break ground until we have the project fully funded in commitments. When that total reaches $20 million, we will apply for permits and hopefully break ground five to six months later.” Though he said there is no official goal of when the $20 million will be raised, his “aggressive, personal goal” is to have that done by this fall. He said he would like to see a planned new JCC preschool open at the facility for the fall term of 2016.

The plan is to remodel and preserve the Armory building in keeping with historic preservation rules.

David Scher, co-chair of the project to turn the armory into a JCC South campus, noted, “The Tampa Jewish community has been migrating centrally for the last number of years. The new JCC will provide a game-changing dynamic for to the Jewish community and general population of Tampa. Our family is proud to name the Art Center at the new facility in honor of Roberta M. Golding, who was passionate about the arts.” Golding was Scher’s mother-inlaw.

Sam Linsky, the project’s other co-chair, added, “This promises to be a landmark project that will benefit the community for generations to come. Because of the project’s importance, I wanted to be involved in a major way from the outset.”

The site of the armory is where Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders encamped before the troops sailed to Cuba for the Spanish-American War. The armory opened the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 and was a venue where President John F. Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. gave speeches. The building also hosted performances by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Doors and Pink Floyd, and was the site of many professional wrestling shows.

The Tampa JCC & Federation currently operates the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Jewish Community Campus on Gunn Highway. The 22-acre campus includes a preschool, Weinberg Village Assisted Living Residence, Tampa Orlando Pinellas (TOP) Jewish Foundation, Tampa Jewish Family Services, a summer camp, and administrative, event and program spaces. Federation officials say this location will continue to operate and it is anticipated that it will serve the community for decades to come.

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