TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa City Council approved a rezoning permit September 22 that could have serious consequences on local small businesses along West Kennedy Boulevard, potentially paving the way for some to be demolished.
Many of those businesses said they only found out about the permit a few days earlier.
“I was really kind of frozen,” said Fran Powers. “The next morning I woke up and I went right into anger.”
Powers is the founder and executive director of Powerstories Theatre, an intimate, 40-person stage for plays amplifying diverse voices. She started it 20 years ago and moved into her West Kennedy location ten years ago, thinking it would be her forever home.
“It doesn’t feel good that the city, or whomever, just kind of swats away a small business,” Powers said.
Powers and supporters of the theatre showed up to support her during the more than three hour city council meeting.
“We can’t lose that — for townhomes?” said Christine Kent. “Florida’s known for townhomes. It’s not really known for theatre.”
Kent is a transplant from Los Angeles and a recent actress at Powerstories. After moving here about a year ago, she went looking for the same cultural experience she found in LA — she found it at Powerstories, and acted in “Conspiracy of Silence” in April.
“I know there’s legal ramifications and people,” said Kent. “Outside developers come to Florida and they love it, but in the meantime they’re leveling the culture of our city.”
The council voted 5-2 to approve the permit for Local Acquisitions, LLC, with Councilmen Bill Carlson and Charlie Miranda voting against. The company plans on buying the land under Powerstories and a few other storefronts and turn them into apartments and shops.
“When you make an effort to vote on something you can’t use a tenant — because a tenant wasn’t notified — because the owner’s the one that are notified, they’re the ones that own the building,” said Councilman Miranda.
Miranda voted against due to lack of parking for the proposed development and issues with the loading bays. He said councilmembers cannot vote on permit applications based on tenant issues — only on the tenets of the proposal itself and its impact on owners.
“We’re looking at something that was our dream and something that we were really looking forward to growing,” said Jose Gomez.
Gomez is the co-owner of the House of Shadows, a fine art gallery he helped start a year-and-a-half ago. He’s only halfway through his three year lease, and said he was given little to no warning about the changes.
“In the rubble of all these plans there’s two artistic venues that are very unique in their own right,” Gomez said.
Gomez said the only information he got from Local Acquisitions, LLC and his landlord was in the form of a crooked sign down a side street. The lawyer for Local Acquisitions and the company that owns it, Subtext Living, said the company is not allowed to speak with tenants about the transition, only owners. He said the company went “Over and above what the city requires for notice” and did plenty of community outreach.
8 On Your Side reached out directly to Subtext Living, the company behind Local Acquisitions, LLC, but they have yet to hear back. We also reached out to the landlord, but have not received a reply.
There is a second reading of the agenda items discussed on September 22 on October 20 at 9:30 a.m. at the Tampa City Hall. Anyone with issues can talk to the applicant between now and then to try to sort problems out.