Let me start by saying that it is a shame the Tampa chapter of the Urban League had to fold. The Urban League is a great organization that helps lower-income African-Americans enter the economic and social mainstream. Other good programs will step in and fill the void, but few have the history or national network of the Urban League.
As you may recall, the Urban League was forced to disband in part because of the debt associated with its renovation of the Centro Español de West Tampa building in 1999. The issue that remains is what to do with the building.
At first, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce expressed an interest. The Chamber’s lease at the Channelside complex ends in April, so they are hunting for a new home. However, the debts associated with the building and the signicant insurance bill could pose significant hurdles for moving the Chamber.
Now, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has said the City of Tampa is interested in purchasing the building for use in a civic function. The Tampa Tribune said:
Iorio wouldn’t say how she would like to see the building used but said she “wants it to be a positive use for the community.”
So I have an idea.
The Proposal: Center for Non-Profit Assistance
The Centro Español building could be used to provide a number of services to non-profit or not-for-profit organizations. The larger organizations, such as United Way or Metropolitan Ministries or The Children’s Home would not need these programs; however, smaller groups such as the Tampa Jaycees, Ad 2 Tampa Bay, or even neighborhood organizations could use new programs.
First, the Center for Non-Profit Assistance would function like the Small Business Development Center does for small businesses. The Center would offer classes on a wide aray of topics such as recruiting and retaining members, fundraising and financial management, public relations and marketing, or even grantwriting and administration.
Second, the Center could provide office space at below market rates for smaller organizations. Perhaps the only ‘office’ would be enough room for a desk and file cabinet, but that is more than many organizations currently have.
Finally, the Center could be used to provide low-cost meeting space to many organizations. There is a clear need for meeting space from small ‘board rooms’ to larger audience events. While I do not know the interior layout of the facility; therefore I can not predict what the cost would be to accomodate this option.
I had thought this would be a good use for the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory – however the size and scope of that project necessitate additional commercial uses.
So that is my idea. I will be sending this to the Mayor as a suggestion. Hopefully there could be some interest.