Bubba the Love Sponge bails on historic Jackson Rooming House renovation, blames Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

12:40 PM, Jan 16, 2014   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Tampa's historic Jackson Rooming House will be torn down.

Radio host Bubba the Love Sponge Clem was leading the final effort to save the landmark in Tampa's black community. But he announced Thursday that he's giving up... and he says Tampa's mayor is to blame.

The city has said for years the house just east of the Hillsborough County Courthouse is on the verge of collapse. Pieces started falling off last year and they looked at demolition.

However, the city offered Bubba's foundation a four-month extension to get the house stabilized if they bought the property.

In a press conference on his radio show Thursday, Clem said that time frame is not enough, and he's backing out of the project.

At first, Bubba blamed the city's bureaucrats and red tape for pushing him off the project to save this crumbling landmark.

Then he laid it squarely on the shoulders of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

"I think it's a personal thing against me -- and not necessarily against me per se -- but because I stuck my ugly head into this at the 11th hour. Because it was supposed to be bulldozed by now," Clem said.

He adds, "Two, I think he's got some plans for this place. This is a very nice piece of property. It really is, it's right in the center of what they're doing. And three, I think that he does not prioritize African-American projects like he does others."

The mayor's office declined our offer for Buckhorn to respond directly. The mayor's spokeswoman told me the city has no development plans for the property and there's no personal vendetta.

City Attorney Julia Mandell said she has given the same answers and timetables to two other groups looking at buying the house.

"This is not a new conversation. This is not a conversation because of who wants to buy it or who the owner is," Mandell said. "This is a conversation about assuring the public's safety and stabilizing that structure."

Estimates to fix the historic house that hosted such important African-Americans as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. ran over a million dollars.

The radio shock jock said he had raised $125,000 to buy the house and had volunteers lined up to repair it. His goal? Turn it into a center where Tampa's poor can get free legal help.

Now that the Jackson House is off the table, would he still go through with that charitable plan to serve the community?

I asked, "You could still bring those law firms in and offer that help. Is that something your foundation is going to commit to continue to do?"

"I'm not going to commit to anything. I'm committing to doing good causes," Clem replied. "And if something like that would come my way, somebody would give me a proposal, I would think about doing that."

Clem said he intends to use the money he has collected so far to buy the property anyway for $100,000, pay the owner, and then demolish it.

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Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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