TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa City Council approved a rezoning permit Sept. 22 that could have serious consequences for local small businesses along West Kennedy Avenue, potentially paving the way for some to be demolished.
Many of these businesses said they only discovered the license a few days ago.
“I’m really freezing,” Fran Bowles said. “I woke up the next morning and I was instantly pissed off.”
Powers is the founder and executive director of Powerstories Theatre, an intimate 40-seat stage for amplifying plays with different voices. She started it 20 years ago and moved to her West Kennedy location a decade ago, thinking it would be her forever home.
“It doesn’t feel good that the city or anyone just kicks out a small business,” Powers said.
During the more than three-hour city council meeting, theatre power and supporters showed up to support her.
“We can’t lose it — for the townhouse?” Kristin Kent said. “Florida is known for townhouses. It’s not known for drama.”
Kent is a transplant from Los Angeles and most recently worked as an actress at Powerstories. After moving here about a year ago, she set out to find the cultural experience she found in Los Angeles — she found it at Powerstories and starred in Silent Conspiracy in April.
“I know there are legal consequences and people,” Kent said. “Outside developers come to Florida and they love it, but at the same time, they’re balancing the culture of our city.”
The Council voted 5-2 to approve Local Acquisitions, LLC’s license, with members Bill Carlson and Charlie Miranda voting against. The company plans to buy the land under Powerstories and some other storefronts and turn them into apartments and stores.
“When you’re trying to vote on things you can’t use tenants — because the tenants aren’t notified — because the people who are notified are the owners, they’re the owners of the building,” Councillor Miranda said.
Miranda voted no because of a lack of parking spaces at the proposed development and problems with the loading bays. He said council members could not vote on permit applications based on tenant issues – only on the principles of the proposal itself and its impact on landlords.
“We’re looking for something that we dream of, and something we’re really looking forward to growing,” said Jose Gomez.
Gomez is the co-owner of Shadow House, an art gallery he helped start a year and a half ago. He is only halfway through his three-year lease and says he has received little warning about the changes.
“Among the ruins of all these plans, there are two art 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 a crooked sign on a side street. Lawyers for Local Acquisitions and the company that owns it, Subtext Living, said the company is not allowed to talk to tenants about the transition, only owners. He said the company “exceeded the requirements of the city notice” and conducted extensive 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 have also contacted the landlord but have not heard back.
Second reading of the agenda item discussed on September 22 at Tampa City Hall on October 20 at 9:30 am. Anyone with a problem can talk to the applicant from time to time to try and fix the problem.