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Renovation will begin on the historic Ybor City Sanchez y Haya building

Rendering of colorful park across from black and white building.
Courtesy J.C. Newman Cigar Company
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An artist's rendering shows the plans for Cigar Workers Park. The park will be located across from the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory in Ybor City's historic district north of I-4.

After restoration is complete, the building — located across the street from Newman’s cigar factory — will include a 15-room inn, cigar bar, and cafe.

The Sanchez y Haya building in Ybor City was once a thriving cigar factory. Now, it's in a state of great disrepair.

Drew Newman, general counsel of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. says the building on the corner of East 7th Ave. and 15th St. will soon be at the heart of a revitalization project creating the El Reloj District.

Newman says the area north of I-4 is a part of Ybor City that for decades was forgotten. But he hopes to change that.

“Last year, more than 10,000 people came to our historic cigar factory to learn about Tampa's cigar heritage and to see the last working cigar factory still in Ybor City,” Newman said.

“And what we learned from those visitors is they wanted more.”

The revitalization of the area began after the company earned a Hillsborough County Historic Preservation Challenge Grant last year.

Rendering of a colorful park layout and bat houses in front of an awning.
Courtesy J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
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An artist's rendering of the Cigar Workers Park in Ybor City (left). The park will house a colony of 5,000 fruit bats (right).

After restoration is complete, the building — located across the street from Newman’s cigar factory — will look a lot more like it did a century ago. The renovated structure will include a 15-room inn, cigar bar, and café.

But currently, a colony of about 5,000 fruit bats call the Sanchez y Haya home. Newman says before construction begins, the bats need to be relocated.

They will eventually be moved to a new, nearby greenspace called Cigar Worker’s Park.
Construction on the outdoor space is expected to begin later this week and the goal is to complete it by May 5th. The park will be just under 10,000 square feet and will have native plants and trees, as well as the bat houses.

“Our park’s going to serve not only the visitors and our employees and our neighbors, but it's also going to serve our colony of bats,” Newman said. “We have some beautifully designed bat houses that are going to go in there and we hope to also be an attraction too, and help people see how bats are really important to the ecosystem.”

Newman said permits were filed Jan. 16 to restore the Sanchez y Haya building. He hopes the renovated structure will open on May 5, 2025, with his company’s 130th anniversary.

In the meantime, he said his company will do simple cosmetic changes, like repaving their parking lot and installing a new metal fence.

The J.C. Newman Cigar Co. on North 16th Street has a large clock tower that inspired the name for the new district. El Reloj means “the clock” in Spanish.

“All of this is just our efforts to give back to the community and make it nicer,” Newman said. “We love Tampa. This is our home.”

Collection of historic black and white photographs.
Courtesy J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
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The Sanchez y Haya building was once home to a real estate company. After renovations, it will include a 15-room inn, cigar bar, and café.

Meghan Bowman is the WUSF Rush Family Radio News intern for spring of 2023.
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