The Florida Citrus Building, otherwise known as Nora Mayo Hall, has been vacant since the fall of 2014 after the Florida Department of Agriculture moved to smaller office space at the Bartow Air Base. Since that time the building has been overseen by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (or DEP) . After at least 2 rounds of bidding for the building in which the City offered first $1M and then $500K for the building, was the only bidder, and the bid was declined by the state, it looks like there may be some hope.
Last week the City was approached with a potential lease agreement from the state. The proposed terms are $300 per year for 50 years. Currently the City is reviewing the potential lease. It goes without saying that there is work that needs to be done on the building and the City is currently evaluating what costs of renovation and maintenance will be to the building.
From a community perspective it has been very difficult for those who need larger event space to find a home in Winter Haven since Nora Mayo Hall shuttered. We are still 18 months to a year away, by conservative estimates, from the construction of the field house, which will primarily be used for sports, but could have the ability to hold large meetings, expos, conventions and events. Nora Mayo Hall could be a good compliment to that space, knowing that not everyone would need 6 basketball courts worth of space.
A few photos of Nora Mayo set up for past Chamber events:
In the past the Commission has been in favor of trying to acquire Nora Mayo Hall as a community asset. As State Representative Sam Killebrew was quoted in the Ledger today, " It's a win-win for both [the state and the city]. This building should belong to Winter Haven and now it does, at least for 50 years."
Read more in today's Ledger article here.
Today someone asked me why it is called Nora Mayo Hall. Of course I knew I could rely on Mr. Winter Haven History and former Executive Director of the Chamber, Bob Gernert. In an article written for the News Chief Bob writes:
The building and the state offices it housed came into being while Nathan Mayo was the Florida commissioner of agriculture. Josephine Burr, writing in "The History of Winter Haven," noted, "The year 1949 began with breaking ground for the new Citrus Building when Commissioner Mayo piloted the bulldozer that did it. It was to be a big boon (to what was then called) the Citrus Exposition as well as providing the area with a 2,000-seat auditorium."
This writer is fairly certain the the original 2,000 (uncomfortable) seats were still in use when the building was mothballed last year. So the recent rediscovery that the city donated the site brings the building full circle as the state is asked to do the right thing in releasing it back to the community.
The building was dedicated in February 1950 and Mayo was on hand for the dedication. The building housed both state and federal food inspection departments. Many prominent local dignitaries participated in the ceremonies and Florida Secretary of State Robert A. Gray dedicated the building and the auditorium, which had been named "Nora Mayo Hall" in honor of Commissioner Mayo's wife.
Read the entire article here.