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2014-06-13 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.


June 13, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

$6 million in state funds OK’d for new Tampa JCC

An architectural rendering of what the entrance to the new JCC will look like. Notice that the cupola of the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory remains in keeping with preservation guidelines for the historic building. An architectural rendering of what the entrance to the new JCC will look like. Notice that the cupola of the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory remains in keeping with preservation guidelines for the historic building. Efforts to develop a $24 million Jewish Community Center at the historic and long vacant Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa got a major boost this month when Gov. Rick Scott approved a state budget allocation of $6 million for the project.

Soon, if fundraising goals are met, it will be transformed into a new Jewish Community Center together with a newly constructed 14,000 square-foot JCC preschool.

David Scher, co-chair of the development committee for the new JCC project, called the state grant “a watershed for the entire city of Tampa.”

The community, he said, “owes a tremendous sense of gratitude and deep appreciation to the state legislators who got behind our appropriation and made it happen.” Scher singled out Tampa Bay area Republican state Sens. Jeff Brandes and Joe Negron as well as Deputy House Majority Leader Dana Young and House Speaker Will Weatherford, also Bay area Republicans.

Sam Linsky, the project’s other co-chair, also praised the governor for approving the funding, saying the new center will create jobs, stimulate the west Tampa economy and revive a Tampa landmark that serves as the terminating vista for the city of Tampa’s InVision Tampa city redevelopment blueprint.

The art-deco armory, vacant since 2004, is on the National Register of Historic Places and renovations will be in keeping with preservation guidelines.

Located just north of Kennedy Boulevard between Howard and Armenia avenues, the building opened the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. Over the years, the armory not only served the military, but was the venue for speeches by President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and musical performances by the likes of Elvis and The Doors. The property was also the site where Teddy Roosevelt’s Roughriders camped before sailing to Cuba and fighting in the Spanish-American War.

The Tampa JCC & Federation officially acquired the armory and 5.6 acres of the original 10-acre parcel owned by the State Armory Board last October after a due diligence process that included a comprehensive community needs assessment and multiple examinations of the property. The JCC & Federation signed a 99-year lease at $72,000 a year with a guarantee of at least 10 years of lease payments. There is an option to purchase the property for $1.44 million at any time during the lease period.

With the state appropriation, the capital campaign for the new JCC project stands at approximately $16.5 million dollars. Potential sources for the balance of the $24 million project have been identified as well.

That includes another $1 million donation, which the campaign team members say they are close to securing. The JCC & Federation also will be submitting a substantial capital grant request to the Weinberg Foundation later this summer for up to $5.6 million. The results of the grant application should be known by the end of the year, if not sooner, said Jack Ross, excutive director of the JCC.

Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has committed $4 million to the project, which represents the campaign’s largest individual gift to date. Additionally, the Vinik Family, owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning, committed $1.5 million to the capital campaign.

The Golding-Scher Family donated $1 million and Diane and Leon Mezrah and their family (Lee, Todd and Shari) have committed $1 million. Donors pledging $50,000 or more to the effort include the Wuliger family and the Wuliger Family Foundation; the RFLP Group and Mark, David and Nancy Linsky; Frederick and Lynne Merriam; the Gould family; Jack Ross; Jonathan and Karen Levy; Cliff and Linda Levy, Clinical Research of West Florida, and the Segal Funeral Home.

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 additional significant support at the county level as well as from private and public foundations.

The Tampa JCC & Federation is also continuing with parlor meetings and individual meetings with community members throughout the next several months as part of its fundraising efforts.

“While the large donations, government appropriations and grants are key, the mortar which will ultimately hold those large bricks of support in place will be the individual donations of lesser amounts in the aggregate,” Ross said. “It’s critical to have as many of our individual community members participate at their capacity level, so that we will have a broad spectrum of community participation which is what will make this a true community-wide project.”

The goal is to break ground early next year and be open for business 12-14 months after construction begins. In order for this to occur, however, the capital campaign must achieve its financial goal and conclude by late fall, because the board of directors want to avoid the organization taking on any longterm debt for the project.

In addition to the JCC’s traditional services and programs, which include a broad range of cultural, educational, physical fitness, and athletic activities for people of all ages, the new JCC will provide a variety of unique services and programs not typically offered by a community center.

This will include a premier event center for receptions and corporate events, non-clinical health and wellness services, a world-class fine arts center, a stage area for theatrical productions and movies, a variety of social services and a food bank for indigent families.

There will also be a children’s discovery center that will address such universal problems as bullying, anti-Semitism and racism, as well as build upon principles such as tolerance, compassion, social equity and justice.

Included in the plans are an outdoor aquatics center that will accommodate competitive aquatic events, aquatics exercise programs, a splash park for children, and cabanas, said Ross. There will also be a gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, floor hockey and other sports, with an elevated indoor track around the perimeter.

Ross noted that the JCC is in “substantive and serious” discussions with a major health provider to offer the non-clinical health and wellness services at the new project and with a public institution to operate the planned fine arts center.

He cited these as examples of partnerships that enhance the missions of both the JCC and the institutions involved.

Only “appropriate” public and private entities whose missions are in concert with the mission of the JCC are being considered for such partnerships at the new community center, he said.

This is “a new model for a JCC in Tampa or for any other JCC for that matter; a hybrid model which incorporates new entrepreneurial components into the traditional JCC framework,” Ross explained, adding, “Synergistic partners and new services have been identified to become part of the new JCC, which increase JCC operational revenue with tenant rental income and event center service fees, all the while enhancing JCC services and programs far beyond what it could have offered on its own. The national JCC association, the Jewish Community Centers of North America (JCCA), is watching its development with great interest.”

“This project means so much to so many, in both the Jewish and the non-Jewish communities,” said Emilie Socash, who serves as both the director of External Relations for the Tampa JCC & Federation and the executive director for TOP Jewish Foundation (where the monies raised to develop the new JCC will be held).

“The facility has a strong collaborative foundation in its mission, and this collaboration has been attractive to every supporter,” she said. “Even beyond our community, the mission-parallel partnerships that we’ll be developing at the new JCC are of tremendous interest to the JCC Association as a potential model for centers across the nation.”

When plans to consider the armory site for a JCC campus were announced, JCC & Federation officials promised that they would not go into debt to establish the new campus and that it would not be developed at the expense of the existing Maureen and Douglas Cohn Jewish Community Campus on Gunn Highway in northwest Hillsborough County.

This operation sits on a 22-acre property and includes a preschool, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Village assisted living residences, Tampa Orlando Pinellas (TOP) Jewish Foundation, Tampa Jewish Family Services, a summer camp, and administrative and event and program spaces.

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