Rick Kriseman has a decision to make on Manhattan Casino
The future of the iconic Manhattan Casino, empty for more than a year, is back on Mayor Rick Kriseman’s desk.
But less than three weeks before the Aug. 29 mayoral primary, it’s unclear when the mayor will pull the trigger on a project that has been an ongoing sore point with the city’s black community since Sylvia’s was shut down more than a year ago.
"There's no timeline for a decision," said Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby. "We just want to get it right."
The Manhattan Casino’s fate has become a campaign issue between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker with Baker criticizing one plan to launch a “Floribbean” fusion restaurant in the iconic spot on the “Deuces”.
That plan has been revised and now has competition: three other bids were submitted by the city’s July 28 deadline for proposals.
The mayor has read the proposals and met with all four applicants, Kirby said.
The Callaloo Group, headed by Pipo’s restaurateur Ramon Hernandez announced in its revised plan that former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is now a partner. The group has also tweaked its previous proposal, adding elements of community participation to sweeten the pot.
Another bid, developed by a non-profit called the The Manhattan Casino Legacy Project was developed in part by Gloria Dixon Campbell, a Deuces Live Inc. member and past president. Other members include Gordon Davis, founder of the Soho Dining District in South Tampa, Frederick Alan Robert Johnson, a vocalist, writer, percussionist and performing arts administrator and Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil, vice chairman of the West Central Florida Manufacturing Community Partnership, a group which trains students in computer-based desktop manufacturing and 3D printing.
The Legacy Project proposes to launch six different food and beverage operations at the site, ranging from barbecue to soul food to lower-priced fare like chicken gizzards and pimento cheese and crackers.
The food offerings like the proposed “Jordan Dance Hall” on the second floor and a training program for docents seek to ground visitors in the historic importance of the building as a center of black life during the city’s harsh segregation.
A list of of more than two dozen supporters include community activist Jabbar Edmunds, high-profile attorney and community leader Rob Kapusta, former state senator Arthenia Joyner and former NAACP president Ray Tampa.
A third bid by the Dazzio Art Society, in the neighboring Warehouse Arts District, proposes an “art and jazz oriented” restaurant. Joseph and Judy Dazzio say they will donate their Holocaust art collection, appraised at $2.1 million, to the city in exchange for $13,000 a month indexed for inflation.
The final bid by Safrone Presley, who owns and operates a string of restaurants in the city, says the city should run Manhattan Casino and hire her as a director to oversee operations.
All of the proposals can be read in full on the city's website here.
It's possible that Kriseman won't pick any of the four proposals. Earlier this year, he ultimately rejected two bids to develop the space and sent the project back out to attract new ideas.