On Centro Ybor: offer, then chaos

Questions still abound on the proposal.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published August 24, 2007

TAMPA - City Council member Charlie Miranda was so frustrated Thursday with hearing complaints about the failure of Centro Ybor that he made an off-the-cuff proposal:

Give us 50 cents on the dollar for the city's $9-million mortgage on the financially troubled entertainment complex and deal with the new owners yourself.

Miranda had a taker.

Jacob "Booky" Buchman, unshaven and disheveled in an oversized T-shirt, patterned pants and tennis shoes, said he'd pay the city $4.5-million for the city's stake in the property, which Tampa officials have said is worthless.

"We have an offer on the table," cried out council member Tom Scott.

The council chambers dissolved into chaos. Questions swirled: Was the offer something the board could even consider?

What impact would it have on the city's negotiations with Centro's new owners?

City Attorney David Smith chased after Buchman, who left the meeting after dropping his bomb and stood in the foyer. Smith returned smiling broadly.

"God bless that individual," Miranda said of Buchman. "I'll shine his shoes every Thursday at City Hall for free."

Smith, who with the economic development staff has been negotiating for months to limit the city's losses on Centro Ybor, said he wanted to talk to Mayor Pam Iorio about the proposal and consider its implications.

An hour later, he came before the council again, this time somber. We need another week, he told them.

In an interview later, Smith said he was "dubious" that Buchman's offer would go anywhere. Smith said that during the hour break the city staff had been meeting in one room as Buchman met with his associates and lawyers in another, and as the two groups talked, the offer changed.

Smith described Buchman, who refused to comment for this story, as "confused" and said he added unacceptable conditions to the proposal.

And Iorio, he said, "was unhappy with the way it makes the city look."

"This circus-like atmosphere is very embarrassing to the city," he said.