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Friday, Jan 18, 2019
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NAACP wants stab at saving Jackson House

TAMPA — The local chapter of the NAACP is stepping in where others have failed to save the historic Jackson House.

Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP, told Tampa City Council members Thursday that her group will lead an effort to secure and restore the 113-year-old rooming house, which is in danger of collapsing. Other groups and individuals have championed the Jackson House in the past, but an organized plan and funding to save the structure have failed to materialize.

“We want to do it for the history of Tampa and to make sure we maintain not only the history of the city, but the African- American community,” Collins said after the meeting.

She said the project would cost between $2 million and $3 million, but did not elaborate on a source for the money.

The group will announce details of its plan to save the Jackson House in coming days, Collins said.

The executive board was set to take a final vote to approve it Thursday night, she said, and a community meeting will be held next week.

“We’re going to do this one right,” she said.

The Jackson House, at 851 E. Zack St., is a legacy of Central Tampa’s once-thriving black business and entertainment district. The frame house once hosted the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., James Brown and Cab Calloway.

But the old building has deteriorated in recent years. City code officials deemed it a “safety hazard,” saying it could collapse at any time.

A crumbling chimney was removed last summer, and the property remains roped off from the public.

In October, Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Bel­den, who attempted to form a coalition of civic activists to preserve the Jackson House last year, called the undertaking “too cost-prohibitive.”

The city council had requested an update on the status of the house at Thursday’s meeting.

City Attorney Julia Mandell told council members that city staffers are speaking with property owner Willie Robinson Jr. and his lawyer about what the next steps will be concerning the Jackson House.

The priority now is to stabilize the house, ahead of bringing it into code compliance and meeting historical preservation guidelines, Mandell said. The Jackson House is not scheduled for demolition, which would be a last resort.

“But there are concerns,” Mandell said. “The structure is not stable.”


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Twitter: @LizBehrmanTBO

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