Effort to save Tampa’s historic Jackson House blocked by neighbors
TAMPA – There are big plans for the historic Jackson House.
The nonprofit that owns the segregation-era Black’s boarding house wants to restore the vacant structure, which is one bad storm away from collapsing. The goal is to make it a museum of black history. The Jackson House Foundation has secured over $2 million for the cause.
But the project is at a standstill, perhaps definitively.
The restoration effort requires the owner of neighboring properties to provide 2,100 square feet of his land to the foundation. This would create a city-required 10-foot buffer between the property lines on the east and west sides.
After a year of negotiations with owners Jason and John Accardi, no deal was reached although the proposal would add square footage to their properties.
The foundation loses hope and fears the downtown Tampa building will collapse sooner rather than later.
“I have a real problem understanding Accardis’ reluctance to work with us,” said the foundation’s president, Carolyn Collins. “The house is trying to tell us that we don’t have much time left.”
It has been stabilized, but the collapsing roof and exterior walls and missing windows expose it to the environment.
When the two-story, 4,000-square-foot structure was built at 851 E. Zack St. at the turn of the 20th century, it was built very close to property lines – three feet west and one foot east. is, according to restoration architect Jerel McCants.
The restoration requires the building to comply with modern city fire codes, which includes the 10-foot distance between it and neighboring properties.
It will cost $2.5 million to restore the house with the stamps, according to the Tampa Bay History Center, which is partnering with the foundation for the business.
Without pads, it could cost triple to make sure the house meets the city’s fire code, McCants said.
The Accardis did not respond to two voicemails or emails.
Their lawyer, Bryan Sykes, said he “cannot discuss the existence, nature or scope of any negotiations in which any of my clients are involved with respect to any business matter”.
In emails provided to the Tampa Bay Times by the City of Tampa via a public information request and by the foundation, the Accardis acknowledge the significance of the Jackson House. This is where James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway stayed and where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited.
Read inspiring stories about ordinary lives
Subscribe to our free How They Lived newsletter
You’ll have a memory of the Tampa Bay residents we’ve lost, including heartwarming and fun details about their lives, every Tuesday.
You are all registered!
Want more of our free weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s start.
Explore all your options
“Restoration of the Jackson House must begin as soon as possible and would be a great win for the city, the Vinik Group and us and prevent the loss of an invaluable cultural asset that enjoys strong support in the community,” wrote Jason Accardi in a September 2021 email to the city and the Jeff Vinik’s Family Foundation, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, which donated $1 million for the restoration.
“Unfortunately, we are not willing to provide an easement on either side of the house,” Accardi continued. “We would like to continue to support you, the City of Tampa, and the Jackson House with any issues related to the delay in issuing a building permit for the reconstruction project with the design necessary to maintain the home’s federal historic status. “
Collins thinks it was lip service.
“I don’t think they want the house there and will only be happy if we tear it down and give them ownership,” she said. “They don’t seem to respect our city’s history and the importance of preserving it.”
The emails show that the Vinik Family Foundation and the city participated in the negotiations. Through a spokesperson, Vinik declined to comment.
According to the emails, the Jackson House Foundation requested that the Accardi properties be used for easements, i.e. the right to go onto or use someone else’s land without having of property rights. The Accardi property to the west is used by an Enterprise car rental facility. To the east is one of the parking lots of their company 717 Parking. They have at least 40 parking lots throughout Downtown, Channelside and Ybor City.
“We offered to buy it, we offered to trade it, we offered everything,” Collins said. “They always said no.”
The easements would erase 20 existing parking spaces in total – 10 from each property. The properties could then be reconfigured to add 10 parallel parking spaces.
“The loss of 10 spaces with the parallel parking configuration, as proposed, is not acceptable,” Sykes wrote in that email.
In exchange for the easement, the city has suggested in emails that it could give Accardis, pending city council approval, the vacant 9,172-square-foot public right-of-way that runs behind the Jackson home and the two properties. Granted.
City emails estimate that a narrow strip of land could accommodate 27 parking spaces. In total, Accardis could net 17 spaces and approximately 7,000 square feet of property as part of the deal.
In an email to the city and Accardis, Vinik Family Foundation attorney Tyler Hudson called it a “reasonable and minimal request.” But Sykes replied that his customers would only agree to the terms if they could continue to use the parking easements until the land was developed. The city told the Tampa Bay Times that parking on the easement would violate fire codes.
Without a west buffer, it will be more difficult to make the ADA house accessible. This is where they planned to add a ramp.
“Without more room, we’d be over the property line,” said architect McCants.
There are other options, McCants said. They could rebuild a smaller version of the house or build new exterior east and west walls made of materials that provide better fire protection. Each could meet code, McCants said, but double or triple the price of construction and cost the house its status as a local and national historic landmark, which requires structure to retain its original exterior.
“It’s not a full throwback to drawing board time,” Collins said. “We have funding. But we have to go back to the drawing board to modify some things. We will move forward. »
Collins said she was initially shocked when Accardis rejected their offers.
“They had been good neighbors,” she said.
For years, the Accardis have provided free parking for the descendants of those who built the house, and space on their properties for construction equipment used to stabilize the structure.
“It’s their right to do whatever they want with their property,” Collins said. “It is the consensus of the board of directors that we will never sell our property to anyone. Perhaps in rebuilding, we lose the historical designation. Maybe we end up with a historical marker saying the Jackson House was once there. But this property will forever tell the story of the Jackson House in one way or another.