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Restoring history

A movie theater, two schools and an apartment building are getting make-overs in four different rehab projects.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 15, 2002

MOVIES RETURN TO BRITTON PLAZA: It's only been a year since the Britton 8 movie theater closed. Now the Atlanta-based Entertainment Film Works theater chain plans to open Britton Cinema 8.

The theaters are scheduled to open two weeks from today.

Approximately $400,000 has been spent on retrofitting and remodeling the movie house, according to Entertainment Film Works spokesman John Duffy. Originally opened in 1952 as a single theater, the old Britton 8 was a long-struggling cinema that was finally done in by a chain-wide rash of closings by its former owner, Regal Cinema, Inc.

Entertainment Film Works currently has 14 other cinemas in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

HISTORIC CAMPUS CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS, PART 1: Will the University of Tampa remain "the most beautiful thing Anglo Tampa has done," in the words of former Tampa poet Michael Pool?

Keep an eye peeled, as big changes are in store for the campus that's based around the former 1891 Tampa Bay Hotel.

The parking lot immediately north of the Bob Martinez Sports Complex has been cleared. There, a six-story, 900-space parking garage is expected to rise in time for fall term. Another 600 spaces are proposed to be added later.

Directly across N Boulevard and immediately north of Pepin Rood Stadium, an eight story, 490-bed residence hall will be built. UT spokesman Grant Donaldson says it should be completed by the fall term of 2003.

The project will also push the issue of the outdated stadium to the fore. Donaldson said the university will decide whether to modify Pepin Rood, or demolish it and build another stadium, during construction of the residence hall.

Across campus on the Hillsborough River, renovation of the McKay residence hall will begin in the summer. Donaldson said all of these projects will total $27-million.

HISTORIC CAMPUS CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS, PART 2: If you drive by Tampa's oldest school on MacDill Avenue, it appears as if the Academy of the Holy Names is building a whole new school. Not quite, but close.

An extensive construction campaign started in October and will yield the Campus Center, home to a combination theater, auditorium and cafeteria, plus a media center, fine arts classrooms, and pre-kindergarten classrooms.

A covered pedestrian bridge will span MacDill Avenue and connect the main campus to the smaller boys' division across the street. It is there that the new Steinbrenner Aquatic Center will be built (guess who's paying for most of that?).

That's just phase one.

Phase two, beginning in the fall, will renovate the main campus' original 1929 building facing Bayshore Boulevard. (The school was founded downtown in 1881.) Phase three calls for construction of a soccer field, tennis courts and basketball courts on the current site of the boys' division, which will be demolished. The boys have moved across the street to the main campus. The start date of phase three "of course depends a lot on the fundraising," Myra McLeod, the academy's director of advancement, said with a laugh.

She estimated that the entire project will cost $15.5-million.

PALACE OF FLORENCE REGAINS GRANDEUR: It was hard for the Palace of Florence to do what it was supposed to do -- welcome you to Davis Islands with old world grandeur -- with crumbling balconies, peeling paint, and dingy hallways that were sometimes prowled by rats.

But soon Gaspar Properties will complete its $1-million renovation of the 1926 apartment building, and it can better live up to its pedigree. It was, after all, patterned after the 13th century Palazzo Vecchio of Florence, Italy.

Some of the building's 28 apartments will be ready May 1, with the rest completed some time in June, according to Gaspar Properties' Hamilton Jones.

Jones said the building's original doors, hardware, light fixtures, wood trim, wood floors, terrazzo floors and wooden staircases have been restored. The southern turret, missing for many years, has been replaced. The taller north turret has been refurbished as an observation area and overlooks Davis Boulevard five stories below. A rooftop garden is a new addition.

The apartments range from studio to two-bedroom townhomes, with rents starting at $599 and topping out at $2,000. Call Jones at 259-9898 for more information.

-- Do you know something that should be Everybody's Business? Call Michael Canning at 226-3408 or e-mail him at

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