The new JCC is opening this week and is a major step forward in revitalizing West Tampa.
“We’re not only able to restore history in Tampa but also to be the catalyst moving forward,” Jack Ross, the executive director of Jewish Community Centers, said.
The old Armory building is now restored and transformed, with some original elements still inside. The state, county and city contributed to the $30 million makeover. The building is more than 110,000 square feet, with event space, workout facilities, art studios and pools. The building itself is steeped in history.
“Elvis Presley performed here, his first album cover was taken, a picture was taken inside the armory, Martin Luther King spoke here, John F. Kennedy just four days before his assassination,” Ross said.
On top of the building is the Or Chai'im, or light of life. It's a memorial to fallen American soldiers but also represents bringing light to the West Tampa neighborhood.
“We’re hoping to get a lot more traffic once the JCC’s open,” Chandni Chudasama, a designer at Ampersand Design Company, said.
They are located right across the street from the JCC and are counting on more foot traffic and visibility to grow their business.
“Down the street on Howard there’s so much going on so there always was a lot going on in the south part of it but I feel like it’s all just stretching down and now the JCC has literally just opened all of this,” Chudasama said.
“It’s a community coming alive and we’re privileged again to be at the heart of this renaissance,” Ross said.
The JCC will officially open Thursday. Memberships start at about $47.