Threatened Historic Kress Block

Newberry and Kress Historic Buildings

At its Thursday, August 26, 9:00 a.m. Regular Meeting, the Tampa City Council will vote on whether to approve a resolution that will dissolve an agreement between the City and Kress Square, the owner of the block that includes the Landmarked Kress Building and the adjacent Woolworth Newberry Buildings. At the request of Mayor Pam Iorio, the City and the property owners have worked together to draft a Mutual Termination of a Memorandum Summarizing Development Review Process for the Kress Block.

The 2006 Memorandum is an agreement between the City and the property owners that summarized the specific criteria and that review process to be applied in carrying out the terms of the block’s zoning. The zoning conditions for this block state that the northwestern corner storefront portion of the façade of the JJ Newberry Building, which fronts both Franklin Street and Cass Street, and the southwestern corner storefront portion of the façade of the Woolworth Building, which fronts both Franklin Street and Polk Street, both would be incorporated into the Kress Square Development, effectively preserving the historic façades of these buildings. The 2006 Memorandum details the distinctive features of the façades and outlines how they are to be preserved.

The façades of the Woolworth and Newberry Buildings were designated as Landmarks in March 2006, along with the Kress Building, but the City Council rescinded the façades’ designations as part of the 2006 Memorandum agreement. This was a compromise agreement proposed by the owners and agreed to by City Council, to the dismay of many preservation proponents. While façade preservation has been a trend around the nation over the past decade, it is less preferable than the preservation and reuse of the entire historic building. The Kress Building remains protected by its Landmark status.

The Art Deco façades of the Woolworth and Newberry Buildings are unique in downtown Tampa. Along with the Woolworth Building’s architectural significance, it is notable for its role in African-American history. The Woolworth lunch counter, along with the counter at the W.T. Grant store, was the site of civil rights sit-in protests in 1960.

Note that this is not a public hearing item on the Council’s agenda, so those wishing to speak to this item should be present for the public comments at the beginning of the meeting. For more information about the City Council, including current members contact information and agendas, go to http://www.tampagov.net/dept_City_Council/.

For local news coverage of this topic please see the following articles:
Tampa council to revisit issue of Woolworth, Newberry buildings
Preservation of Woolworth facade sparks a battle
Long hard road: The evolution of Tampa’s Franklin Street
Free Kress block of harmful mandates
The cost of keeping facades
Kress Owners Ordered To Fix Site
Crumbling Kress Building Stressed By Code Violations

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