In its nearly 98 years, the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church building has witnessed its fair share of history.
It was once home to one of Tampa's largest black congregations, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and baseball legend Jackie Robinson have stood in the church's former sanctuary. President Bill Clinton spoke to congregants in 1996.
Last week the church added even more history. Nearly a year after the defunct church became part of new "workforce" urban living project Metro 510, an office safe within the church was converted to a time capsule. The capsule preserves items from church history, Metro 510 residents' history and Tampa history.
It will be reopened in 2037.
Metro 510's developers wanted to preserve St. Paul AME's history and capture things that happened historically in Tampa, said Debra Koehler, owner of Sage Partners, the project's development company.
Now, Koehler said, "When everybody walks in, they're reminded of the history."
Metro 510, a six-story complex at 510 E. Harrison St., began leasing its 120 units in October and now is fully occupied. The church inside has been transformed into the Metro 510 Life Center – a communal two-story space that brings together tenants and surrounding neighbors, including residents of Vista 400, a senior-complex formerly known as the Methodist Place Apartments.
The 1,500-pound safe, possibly dating to 1914, is inlaid into the floor at the life center's entryway.
Among items placed in the new time capsule: a key to the city, photographs and written details of the church's history, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a postcard of Tampa's skyline from 1914 and a poem about the church written by Tampa's poet laureate.
Metro 510 resident Barbara Soto, a tennis instructor, drew a smiley face on a tennis ball and added it to the capsule. She said Sage Partners' capsule concept is great.
"They are trying to create a sense of community through activities," she said.
Fellow resident Vinny Tafuro included a draft copy of a book he is writing. He said the capsule will serve as a snapshot of a time when Tampa is trying to establish more urban housing in its downtown.
The Metro 510 project represents a nearly $27 million private and public partnership of local, state and federal funds. The downtown's special taxing district contributed $200,000.
Metro 510 is the first downtown complex designed to rent at affordable rates for people who work in the service industry. Monthly rents are on a sliding scale based on income, starting at $588 for a one-bedroom apartment, increasing to $701 for a two-bedroom and $808 for a three-bedroom.