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Sulphur Springs nonprofits fear rising rents at new community center

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jul 19, 2016

The Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center aims to be a celebration of one of Tampa's oldest neighborhoods, but there’s a chance it might not be able to afford to move into the new community center set to replace it.

The new community center will be one of the main attractions at Mann-Wagnon Memorial Park in Tampa. Organizers say the county invested about $700,000 into the $800,000 project, but the building does not come furnished, and for the nonprofits expected to move in, the rent will not be cheap either.

The Sulphur Springs Museum Heritage Center, run by Norma and Joseph Robinson, currently pay Hillsborough County’s Parks and Recreation Department about $125 per month to operate facilities in the small park along the Hillsborough River.

Their new occupancy fee will be around $500 per month, they say, and ramping up to that much larger of a number is proving to be extremely difficult, Norma Robinson told ABC Action News.

“As a nonprofit, every penny that you have is very precious. Donors will donate for programs but a lot of times you have to get other funding for your staff and your utilities and your overhead. All those other items you have to pay for,” said Robinson, who fears the new costs could hamper their ability to help the Sulphur Spring community.

“If young people don’t have a place to go and they don’t have a place where people care and a place where they can learn to care and are treated with respect, then they’re going to find it someplace else,” said Robinson, adding that gangs take advantage of communities lacking those facilities. 

Robinson believes her Heritage Center will help the Sulphur Springs community have pride in its rich history, and says that she hopes their teen youth program, which they also operate in the Mann-Wagnon Memorial Park, will benefit in the new facility as well.

“We interviewed teens and their thing was you have to know where you come from in order for you to go forward,” said Robinson to ABC Action News.

Another nonprofit called Community Stepping Stones is also planning to move into the new park facility, which hired a new director to manage the transition and become a most cost-effective operation.

“It’s going to be a struggle,” explains director Brenda Cook to ABC Action News. “We’re going to launch a Go Fund Me page. You can see our classroom is in desperate need of updating.” 

Community Stepping Stones was just paying for utilities in the old space, and will be charged an occupancy in the new facility that is expected to cost more. Paying more is a challenge for a nonprofit that tries to offer a free service to a lower-income community.

“It’s really important that this community get something for the kids that doesn’t cost anything and that’s our challenge,” says Cook. “We have to make sure we continue to provide opportunities for kids, places for them to go at no cost because if we don’t if we’re not able to do that I don’t know where they’ll go.

Donations can be made to SulphurSpringsMuseum.org.

And you can learn more about the Community Stepping Stones by going to their Facebook page.