Many celebrities, including one celebrated by the nation yesterday, had visited the Jackson House in Tampa. Martin Luther King, Jr. once stayed at the former boarding house for blacks during segregation.
The building is now falling apart, as did the recent deal with radio host Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem to prevent it from demolition.
Clem, who gave the city a plan to buy and renovate the Jackson House, accused Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn of creating unreasonable demands and setting unreachable deadlines, all of which ended up killing the deal.
“This has turned into a personal vendetta with the Mayor,” Bubba told Gloria Gomez of Fox 13 Tampa.
Buckhorn responded by saying Clem’s proposal was just a publicity stunt.
“We’re serious,” Buckhorn said. “I’m not sure he was.”
Former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena is now saying Clem’s approach was sincere. As a civic leader who has preserved historic sites for nearly four decades, Saul-Sena has tried restoring the Jackson House since last year.
Once she learned that Clem wanted to get the property, and his listeners were contributing, Saul-Sena began to think it might actually happen.
“A lot of people have put a lot of donated time and effort, including myself, into trying to save this historic house for the entire community,” according to Saul-Sena.
She added that a last minute order by the city at the closing table is when the deal fall apart.
“It wasn’t a PR stunt,” Saul-Sena told Gomez.
“We were very disappointed and shocked when the city did a sudden about-face,” she added, “when they said these are the fines, these are the deadlines, where we could come in at any time and demolish it.”
“It was very discouraging.”
Saul-Sena reached out to the mayor to revive the deal; Buckhorn has not yet responded.