PALMETTO -- The Palmetto Community Redevelopment Agency inched closer to finalizing the $130,000 purchase of the historic National Guard Armory building at 810 Sixth St. W.
According to CRA Director Jeff Burton, the purchase agreement between the CRA and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2488 should be signed by the end of the week.
The VFW has called the building home since 1962. Under the proposed deal, the veterans group can maintain its first floor offices for 10 more years, renting the space from the CRA for a "nominal" fee.
Post Cmdr. Wayne Marge, a Vietnam War veteran, said the cost of maintaining the building was taking away from the key services the VFW offers its veterans. The agreement will give the VFW financial stability and
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the CRA will assume all costs for renovations, which are meant to preserve the historic nature of the building, built in 1937, and bring it back to its glory years.
During World War II, the building was home to the Florida Defense Force, which conducted home-front campaigns in support of Manatee County soldiers serving in the war.
"For a multitude of reasons, this is exciting," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant. "It's a historical preservation project, but it also helps our veterans. We particularly hold them in high regard and value them."
Bryant said the project also will help the city in the long term.
"The building is located next to a city parking lot, and we will move forward with plans to improve the public parking there," said Bryant. "The historical significance is critical to the area. It's just a positive direction to go."
Burton said the timeline for redevelopment hasn't changed since they first discussed the purchase. The CRA will begin with some immediate improvements, including a new roof and tenting the building to prevent further damage. Plans also will be developed for the restoration of the upstairs, which will become the CRA's offices at some point.
In 2017, redevelopment will begin on the upstairs and the CRA will apply to the Southwest Florida Water Management District for grants to improve the parking lot with stormwater friendly red brick pavers and bio-swales. Redevelopment is scheduled to be complete by 2019.
"It's just exciting to guarantee that a local historic treasure, a national treasure really, is going to be brought back and redeveloped to what it originally was," said Burton.
The two-story brick building was last appraised for $354,656.
It was constructed for $30,000 under former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era New Deal program and is one of only two Works Progress Administration projects in Manatee County that was designed to put people back to work.
The other project is the National Guard Armory building in Bradenton, currently occupied by the public works department.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 9410745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.