In Glasgow in Scotland, the historic Govanhill Baths are gradually being brought into a new community use. Over 4000 miles away in St Petersburg in Florida another swimming pool lies empty with proposals for a new community use, this time as a music venue. The historic YMCA building was built in Spanish style in 1926 at a cost of $550,000, but since its closure has been threatened with redevelopment or demolition, Decay has meant that many of its features such as the cast ironwork survives. Two music professionals, Thomas Nestor and Eric Ihlenfeldt, have set up a collective called Historic St. Pete Inc. to create a community music centre which would include an education centre, a recording studio, a radio station, a 2000- seat concert venue, a digital gallery and accommodation for visiting musicians. “We could take a kid that’s never played, teach him, record him, put him on the air and then have him open for a big act,” said Nestor, who is a music promoter. “All of the parts will complement each other.” The historic building has been designated No 7 on the “11 Most Endangered Historic Sites” by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.
There are many challenges to this project, for which funding has yet to be secured. St Petersburg has built a reputation in the arts through its new art galleries such as the Dali Museum and Chihuly Collection, which have contributed to the regeneration of the city. The building is in the Central Arts District not far from the Morean Arts Centre and the Holocaust Museum, so would add to these facilities. Let’s hope it succeeds as it would provide a great facility for the community and the City.
The latest news (November 2014) is that the historic building will be refurbished by Miami developer Nick Ekonomou as a The Edward, named after his father, providing vacation rental apartments or suites with a restaurant, spa and, micro-brewery, while the former gymnasium will be converted to a ballroom for hire for events, weddings and parties. Architect John Bodziak is reported to have been commissioned to progress with designs for the refurbishment.
St Petersburg also has a stunning example of restoration of a historic building with the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel, built a year before the YMCA. Originally a seasonal hotel open during the winter months, it closed in 1974 and was left empty and derelict, becoming a home to vagrants until the early 1990’s when it was carefully restored with a $93 million renovation as part of a larger resort development, including a beautiful Chihuly chandelier in the main ballroom.