West Tampa cigar factory could become an apartment building


TAMPA – For the second time this year, a West Tampa cigar factory on Albany Avenue has a new owner who will restore and seek historic designation for the building.

Developer Omar Garcia announced on Friday that he had purchased the Bustillo Brothers y Diaz cigar factory at 2111 N. Albany Ave. for $ 2.8 million.

He hopes to convert the 33,000 square foot brick structure into a 40 unit apartment building and build 10 townhouses on the open lot of the 1.5 acre property.

The building will be called Cigar Lofts in Albany, said Garcia, who previously converted an office building in downtown Tampa at 220 Madison Ave. in student accommodation.

Dennis Fernandez, director of the architectural and historic preservation review for the city of Tampa, said a hearing to rezone ownership of the cigar factory from industrial to residential is “tentatively scheduled” for Jan. 20 .

The Bustillo Factory is a short walk from the Y. Pendas y Alvarez Cigar Factory at 2301 N. Albany Ave., which was purchased earlier this year by the Boscaino family. It is in the process of being transformed into a cellar and bar.

“This is going to be a transformation for the region,” Garcia said of the two cigar factories being restored. “It will bring West Tampa back to life.”

He said it was too early to provide a construction schedule but, as the Boscaino family did for their factory, will seek to designate a local historic monument for the building. Such a designation prevents future owners from altering the original historic appearance of a building’s exterior.

Bustillo Bros. and Diaz Cigar Company of West Tampa [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

The factory opened around 1901, said Rodney Kite-Powell of the Tampa Bay History Center, and “claimed to have been the largest in Tampa at the time, but it is better known for two other reasons.”

In 1902, the mayor of West Tampa – when it was his own town – was also employed at this factory as a reader, someone who entertained cigar workers by reading to them.

Accused of having instigated a strike that year, he was “kidnapped by militiamen who were going to send him to Honduras, but only made it to Key West before sending him back to West Tampa because the workers l ‘threatened a bigger strike if he was injured ”. Kite-Powell said. “It’s a classic Tampa story about how far the power structure would go to keep the peace in the cigar industry.”

Then, in another strike in 1910, an accountant at a factory with a history of entanglement with unions was gunned down while trying to enter the building, news archives show.

Two Italian immigrants were arrested and charged with the crime. They were taken from the prison and lynched.

“It’s not our best story,” Kite-Powell said, “but it’s Tampa history.”

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