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Industry Making Room For Ybor City Condos

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By SHANNON BEHNKEN

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YBOR CITY - For nearly 45 years, the pale blue building with 244 boarded windows has been a reminder of Ybor City's history as a cigar Mecca.

Soon, the 104-year-old Tampa Box Co. building on Adamo Drive may become a symbol of residential rebirth in the entertainment district.

Atlanta based Miles Properties Inc. plans to turn the 68,000-square-foot building, which stretches a city block, into a 53-unit loft condominium complex.

``We think it's a really neat project,'' said Jason Perry, the company's acquisitions and development manager.

It's more than that, though.

Adamo Drive, which has been a haven for industry since the early 1900s, is slowly changing. The box company building is one of three loft developments planned for Adamo, and there are a half-dozen more condominium complexes sprouting up just north on Fifth and Sixth avenues.

Andy Celeiro, who is selling the box company building at 2001 E. Second Ave. to Miles Property, said that when he heard the company's plans he decided to turn his other building on Adamo, Gulf Mill Works, into condominiums, too.

``It's too profitable not to do it,'' Celeiro said. ``And it will be great for Ybor City.''

Gulf Mill Works has been in Ybor City since 1962; Celeiro has owned it for seven years and last year bought the box company building, which he uses for storage.

Gulf Mill Works makes office furniture and has 18 employees. Celeiro said he is negotiating the price of a new office building for the company just west of downtown.

When Ybor City's historic district gobbled up Adamo Drive two years ago, Celeiro said he knew it would be a matter of time before developers were interested and industry no longer fit in. That time is slowly approaching, he said, and he figures it's best to move now and make a profit.

Other industrial owners might hold out, he said, but eventually their property values will rise high enough that they, too, will want to cash out.

As for Celeiro, he plans to set aside one of his 49 loft units for himself and his wife. ``The trend will be people moving back to Ybor City,'' he said. ``In three to five years, Ybor City will be a very nice place to live. We have the charm of Ybor City's past. Channelside doesn't have that.''

Celeiro's plans for the Gulf Mill Works building are preliminary, but Perry's proposal for the box company building has the blessing of the Barrio Latino Commission, which oversees construction in the historic district. Once the building is rezoned from industrial to mixed-use, Perry said he will begin the permitting process.

Construction is expected to begin in February and to take a year. The units are planned to be 900 square feet to 1,400 square feet and sell for $170,000 to $300,000.

The building will look much the same on the outside: brick and 244 windows. But the inside will mix modern and historical architectural. The building is doughnut-shaped, and there is a courtyard in the middle. A pool and landscaping will go there, said Bruce Wise, the project manager with Brock Green Architects and Planners, also from Atlanta.

The roof will be raised three feet so each apartment will have a second-story loft for a bedroom.

This is the second condominium project in Tampa for the two companies. Miles Properties and Brock Green also are building the Arts Center Lofts downtown, which is nearly complete.

Perry said he is excited about the Ybor City building because he prefers rehabilitating old buildings over new construction.

``There aren't that many buildings left to restore in Atlanta,'' Perry said. ``There aren't many left in Tampa, either.''

Fran Williams, who owns Kimmins Contracting Corp., also has plans to turn his business site into a residential development. Williams plans condominiums, hotels and office space for his 5-acre site and wants to begin moving his business to east Tampa early next year.

Joe Howden, who lives on Seventh Avenue and is a barrio commissioner, said he is happy to see the change to Adamo. However, he said, there's no reason the street can't remain dotted with industry.

``Those that are grandfathered in will certainly have the right to stay and function,'' Howden said. ``This is not suburbia. This is not a place where you'll go miles and miles and see houses.''

Reporter Shannon Behnken can be reached at (813) 259-7146.

This story can be found at: http://www.tampatrib.com/News/MGBI18UWSZD.html

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This sounds like a great project. Ybor's character hopefully will not be destroyed with gentrification as people move in, though a bit of a clean-up in that area will go a long way.

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