May 20, 2024
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By Paul Guzzo

Santaella Cigar Factory is leased by a couple who is negotiating to purchase it and restore its appearance.

The owners of West Tampa Santaella Cigar Factory, who chose to paint over the yellow bricks on the outside with white in 2019, angered historic preservationists.

City Council also weighed in on whether it should intervene and force the local historic landmark status of the building which would prevent exterior modernization.

It was feared that the new paint would damage the historical integrity of the 1904 cigar factory. The city decided not to intervene, as it believed that property owners were responsible for making the decision.

The Santaella was painted in white on the majority of its interior, and about half of its exterior. However, the job never got finished. The building will soon be sold to new owners who have as their first priority to strip the paint.

The paint can do more damage than just ruining the historic value of the factory.

Andrew Coogan and his fiancée, Allie Ryann leased the factory to begin the restoration process while they finalized the purchase deal.

He explained that the paint covers the pores in the brick which releases moisture. This eventually leads to deterioration. It is unlikely that the factory will be in immediate danger but its paint may prevent it from lasting another 119.

They plan to build a restaurant, wedding venue, and distillery on the first floor. Outside, they will create a courtyard garden and rooftop bar with a downtown view. The couple also wants to update the address to reflect that the cigar factory was opened in 1904, not 1906 N. Armenia Ave.

Second and third floors are to be renovated, but will remain as artist lofts. They have been that way since 1998.

When they bought the 3 story, 58,000 square foot cigar factory in 2018 for $3.2 Million, current owners Philip Farley III, and Henry Bentley had similar plans.

Coogan’s Coogan Window & Door Installation company has extensive experience with renovations, while Ryann rents space at the factory to do her photography.

Ryann stated, “I would walk in and see what the place could look like.”

A tenant informed her that the property was up for sale.

Ryann stated, “It’s not like we were looking for it. It just happened.” It wasn’t that we searched for it. Then we just kind of started playing around with different ideas, and continued on. “We both agree that investing in cigar factories is worth it.”

Tampa’s cigar manufacturing industry peaked at more than 200 factories. Today, two dozen remain. One still makes cigars and about half of the buildings are designated as historic local landmarks. This designation also makes it harder to tear down a building. The exterior of the building must be maintained to maintain its historic appearance. However, landmark status can bring government grants.

Coogan or Ryann may seek this designation. They want to first focus on the finalization of the sale, sign first-floor renters and remove that white paint.

Coogan stated that “it’s a big goal.” The building is valuable and worth the effort. “We didn’t wish to be the people that are unwilling to fight.”

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