Emergency demolition ordered for historic home

Posted at 6:21 PM, May 30, 2016

A historic home in West Tampa has been reduced to an eyesore.

Neighbors say it's been a public safety concern for months, but the city was slow taking action.

Now help is on the way for the neighborhood, as safety concerns win out over bureaucratic procedures.

The house is more than a hundred years old, but in early March, it was totally gutted by fire.

And even though it's been a fixture in the neighborhood for the past century, neighbors says it's long past time to have been torn down.

“With a good strong big wind, it's gone,” said Quiana Whaley, who lives next door to the home, which until Friday, was leaning within feet of her home.

“It's hazardous because little kids can go in there and play or something, go in there and start messing with stuff, and then it could just collapse,” she said when we first interviewed her last Thursday.

Vagrants set fire to the home March 9, but the city never boarded it up.

The house, built in 1915, is also in a historic district next to a cigar factory, which meant even more paperwork than usual to have it condemned.

Eventually, the city issued a demolition order, but it gave the absentee owner, who lives in New York, until July 3, nearly four months from the time it first burned to have it torn down.

Neighbors worried, with storm season approaching, it wouldn't make it that long.

“Everybody would be concerned with that in your neighborhood,” said 94-year-old Lottie Henderson, who lives across the street.

“It could fall on somebody or something,” she said.

One potential victim was her 100 year old neighbor, Whaley’s grandmother.

“I would hate for anything to happen and then me trying to get her down the stairs or anything,” Whaley said.

After the I-Team sent pictures to the city showing how far the house was leaning, officials re-inspected it and got an emergency order to tear it down.

The Code Enforcement Department said the structure was in much worse shape than it had been the last time it was inspected several months ago.

“I'm very happy,” said Whaley. “They should see that if it's abandoned or not being occupied, and not wait so long for us to get action. They should just go ahead and knock it down.”

Since the judge didn't sign the emergency demolition order until late Friday afternoon, the crew was only able to partially knock it down.

But workers are expected to be back at the site Tuesday morning to finish the job.

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