A notable piece of Zephyrhills history is set to be restored — in hopes of boosting Zephyrhills’ main street corridor, while preserving a landmark of the city’s storied past.
The Zephyrhills City Council has approved a $155,000 project to renovate the Carriage House — a two-story wooden structure connected to the Historic Jeffries House, at 38537 Fifth Ave.
The Jeffries House was built in 1910 for Capt. Harold Jeffries, the founder of Zephyrhills. Jeffries was responsible for bringing many Union Civil War veterans into the area. The house where he lived is a part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The council awarded the $155,000 construction contract to Zephyrhills-based Kerns Family Construction Company Inc.
The motion passed 4-1 during an Aug. 24 regular meeting, with Councilman Alan Knight dissenting.
The scope of the project includes myriad interior and exterior improvements to the dilapidated structure. The renovation includes new roof trusses, windows, lap siding, doors and second floor balcony. It also calls for replacing electrical wiring, plumbing, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, among several other enhancements. The project is expected to be completed in four months.
In voting against the project, Knight reasoned the Carriage House attachment should be bulldozed, with the money spent on other projects, such as sidewalk repairs, new playground equipment and sprucing up the Hercules Park property.
“I just can’t see putting $155,000 into that building,” Knight said.
Once the project is finished, the city plans to lease it out to a business tenant for around $1,500 to $2,000 per month.
But, Knight also noted, there’s plenty of other empty storefronts along “the main drag” of Fifth Avenue.
He said the city has failed to rent out the Jeffries House, which the city purchased for $110,000 in 2014 and renovated for $50,000 in 2016.
The building is currently utilized by the Zephyrhills CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) and nonprofit Main Street Zephyrhills Inc.
“We did the same thing with the Jeffries House, ‘Oh we’re going to lease it out,’ and we never leased anything out,” Knight said.
“I think we made a mistake,” he said.
While Council President Charles Proctor ultimately voted for the renovation contract with Kerns Construction, he sided with Knight’s sentiments about the project, in general.
“Personally, I would’ve liked to have just leveled it over, took the money and spend it on something else, but here nor there, we’re going to redo it and I do hope that it stays in budget, that’s my biggest thing,” said Proctor.
Other supporting council members reasoned that the undertaking is a long-term investment in the city’s historic downtown that will pay dividends in time.
“I totally understand where Councilman Knight is coming from, but I look at it more as like an investment in the downtown area, an investment and maintaining a historical building,” Councilman Lance Smith said.
“I look at it as this was the property that the founder of Zephyrhills owned, and it should be worth saving, I would think,” he added.
Council Vice President Jodi Wilkeson, expressed support for saving the Carriage House, noting it’s worth the investment.
“This is a learning opportunity,” Wilkeson said. “It’s an opportunity to promote our downtown. It’s an opportunity to promote the Jeffries House, because right now it’s an eyesore (with the Carriage House). When it’s finished it’s going to be beautiful…”
As a bonus, Kerns Construction will organize a series of public workshops at the Carriage House during ongoing construction — inviting residents to see how to complete restoration tasks, such as stripping floors and repairing windows. These “How To” activities also will be live-streamed on various social media platforms.
“People are interested in that, and it’s attracting young people to our city, and it’s changing the demographic to our community,” Wilkeson said.
Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe also provided updates on several development projects:
- City staff has submitted required documents to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for the U.S. 301/Pretty Pond Road signalized intersection project.
Issues recently arose over the city’s selection of BRW Contracting Inc., a Land O’ Lakes company that isn’t on FDOT’s pre-qualified vendor list. Poe said “fingers are crossed, prayers are being said,” FDOT will approve the proposal and a forthcoming agreement will be on the city’s Sept. 14 meeting agenda. The intersection project is being funded via a $2.3 million appropriation included in this year’s state budget; the project has a seven-month construction timeline.
- The bid letting process for the multimillion Country Road 54 enhancement project remains “on hold” until the city and Pasco County can reach an agreement on splitting costs for it. The scope of the project calls for various turn lanes, a signalized intersection and a multi-use path along a 1.31 mile stretch, generally from east of U.S. 301 to 23rd Street.
- The city’s planning department is working on designs for the Kossick Road extension to Otis Allen Road, to help make way for the Zephyr Lakes single-family residential development. The city manager explained the idea is to tie in a four-lane road, but a large transmission pole may prevent that, “so we’re working on getting meetings scheduled with Pasco County and Duke Energy to see what can be done.”
- The $4.9 million Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center final completion date is targeted for Sept. 29; the scheduling of a grand opening date is still to be determined.
Published September 02, 2020