City looking to lease properties to new businesses
By Dave Walters
Zephyrhills Free Press
Two of the most historical buildings in the city are ready to be leased as city officials look to continue the revival of the downtown business district.
The Jeffries House at the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue and the neighboring Carriage House were on full display during an Open House Thursday hosted by the city for realtors and entrepreneurs looking to set up shop in downtown Zephyrhills.
The Jeffries House was the residence of the city’s founder, Captain HB Jeffries. And the Carriage House was an active horse carriage house on the property.
Both buildings are owned by the City of Zephyrhills. Between purchase prices and the cost of renovations to both buildings, the city has more than $500,000 invested in both properties. A request for proposal (RFP) was created by the city to entice a business or businesses to enter into a lease and bring business and more people downtown.
“We held this to generate some interest and excitement about these buildings,” said City Manager Billy Poe. “Maybe some of the realtors who didn’t know about can now push it towards their clients. We hope we can get a larger response pool from our RFP.
City officials agree that profiting or recouping the monetary investment is not the goal in leasing these properties, but attracting businesses and people to downtown Zephyrhills will be the reward.
“The return on investment is important and just cash coming back to the city,” Poe said. “But the full picture of vitality of the building and the extra flow of traffic to downtown could be our return on investment.”
Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson, the president of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, toured the facilities during the open house and was proud of the city’s willingness to preserve its history.
“The city has a commitment to preserving our history, especially as it relates to these historic structures and it is being under-utilized as the Main Street office. We want to open it up for opportunities for people to invest here and increase the vibrancy to downtown.
Wilkeson said the city is looking for a compatible business that draws people downtown.
“Right now, we don’t’ know what looks like yet.”
For Councilman Lance Smith, he’s hoping for a restaurant to pick the Jeffries House as its new home.
“The founder’s house is important and probably the most important house in Zephyrhills,” Smith said. “I would like to see a good restaurant with some outdoor seating on that great porch and maybe some live music on the weekends.”