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Updated May 2024


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USF wants to put an art museum in city-owned Old Tampa Free Public Library building near Armature Works
By Ashley Gurbal Kritzer
Tampa Bay Business Journal
Published: May 13, 2024

The University of South Florida has approached Tampa officials about converting a historic city-owned building into the College of Arts Contemporary Art Museum and Graphic Studio.

The building, the Old Tampa Free Public Library building at 102 E. Seventh Ave., is leased to Hillsborough County, which uses it for library administrative offices. The county's lease expires in 2026. In December 2023, USF officials sent a letter of interest regarding the building to Mayor Jane Castor's administration, a spokesperson for the mayor confirmed to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

USF and Castor's administration are in "preliminary discussions" about the proposal, mayoral spokesperson Adam Smith said.

"It’s currently an underutilized city asset, so the USF proposal is definitely appealing," Smith said.

Smith did not respond to additional questions about a timeline for the conversion. A spokesperson for USF did not respond to a request for comment.

While USF's Tampa campus is 10 miles removed from the city center, the facilities it has opened in the urban core have been a catalyst for revitalization efforts. In 2012, USF Health opened the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in downtown Tampa — years before Water Street Tampa or The Heights began construction. USF Health's Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Health Institute was the first building to begin construction in Water Street, where it is an anchor of the district.

“Transforming the historic free library into a vibrant arts hub in collaboration with USF only further enriches the cultural innovation of our community," Nicole Travis, the city's outgoing development economic opportunity administrator, said in a statement. "It is a super exciting idea."

The old free library building is just under 13,000 square feet and was built in 1915, according to Hillsborough County property records. Its transformation into an art museum would activate a dead stretch of East Seventh Avenue that's in the middle of a construction boom. The Heights, anchored by the mixed-use Armature Works, is directly across North Tampa Street from the library property. The library is just a block south of Central City YMCA's property, where the Y and Ellison Cos. plan to build a mixed-use district similar in scale to Water Street Tampa. The YMCA redevelopment will begin in early 2025.

The library property has a rich history. It was one of 10 libraries in Florida to receive funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated to the establishment of public libraries across the U.S. in the late 1800s and early 1900s. (Two of Florida's 10 Carnegie-funded libraries are in Tampa; the West Tampa Library also received Carnegie money.)



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