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Jackson House to Be Put to the Wrecking Ball

Nov 20, 2013

The Jackson House might not be standing for much longer on 851 Zack Street in Tampa.
Credit WUSF/Yoselis Ramos

One of the last historic pieces from the time when Tampa's Central Avenue was a thriving hub of black-owned businesses will soon fall to the wrecking ball. Recent attempts to save the Jackson Boarding House have been futile.

The 24-bedroom boarding house that played host to Ella Fitzgerald, Martin Luther King Jr., and Cab Calloway during segregation has been on life support for a while as owner Willie Robinson Jr. and others have attempted to get the structure stabilized. But with no money on the table and a November 30th city deadline, Robinson is not going to continue the fight to save the more than a century old structure.

"I weighed all my options," Robinson said. "I put everything on the table-the positives as well as negatives, and I came out with just too many negatives. There were too many "if" chances that I would have to take."

To save the house, it would have to be fenced in. There would have to be a structural stabilizing plan ready for permitting and there would have to be liability insurance, all within the next 10 days.

"I just ran out of time," Robinson said.

Recently, former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena and redevelopment activist and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's district director Chloe Coney met with Robinson to explore options for saving the structure.

Robinson said he is grateful for the effort the community has put in.

"I would like to thank the individuals who were involved in it directly and indirectly, for all of those people who gave me encouraging words through the years, and I would really like to pull my heart out to them and say 'thank you.'"

No demolition date has been set yet but the city attorney has asked to start getting a demolition order ready.