Legal issues entangle effort to save historic YMCA - FOX 13 News

Legal issues entangle effort to save historic YMCA

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

The local effort to renovate a 1926-vintage structure in downtown St. Petersburg has a new benefactor, and new legal problems.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Tampa, the YMCA of the USA alleges trademark infringement by Historic YMCA Inc, the non-profit organization trying to buy St. Petersburg's original YMCA building and convert it into a health and music-oriented community center.

"This lawsuit is going to make it really difficult for us to move forward and we would like to see that it stopped," said Dr. Bob Wallace, who recently took over the project.

Wallace said he plans to combine his vision with that of Tom Nestor, a local music producer who so far has stopped the planned demolition of the building.

"The original idea that Tom Nestor had to make this a concert hall and a music venue -- we can use music as healing," Wallace said.

The physician also noted 8,500 square of space on the third floor -- space that could be leased to a variety of not-for-profits, and an unusual asset in the basement.

"Once you see the pool in this building and the fact that it's the original pool from 1926, it's awesome," Wallace beamed. "Water therapy is incredibly helpful."

Several personal loans from people referred to as "angels" have funded the preservation effort to date.

"I have personally paid off all of those angels to the tune of at this point $78,000," Wallace said.

He also pledged $300,000 to finalize the purchase of the building this summer, and claimed he has secured time on the August agenda of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust will be considering requests for large restoration projects at that meeting. Purchasing and renovating the building will cost an estimated $5 million.

Nestor said efforts to discuss the legal issue with the national YMCA organization have proved fruitless. He claimed he met with local "Y" officials last fall, and at their request changed his group's name from "Save the Y" to "Historic YMCA Inc."

"It's been known as the historic YMCA -- I've known it as nothing but that," Nestor said. "So if there's anybody out there that can come up with a different name for this building...with signage outside being YMCA, I'd love to know."

The initials are inset in concrete blocks flanking the entrances into the building.

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