AVON PARK – One of downtown Avon Park’s most venerable buildings was recently sold and its future remains uncertain with its owners reportedly looking for suggestions from city officials.
According to the Highlands County Property Appraiser records, the brick, two-story Max Wild building built in 1921 -- which over the years has housed a furniture shop, apartments and pool halls -- was sold to Jayeola and Helen Enigbonjaye of Bronx, N.Y. Records show the 13,180-square-foot building was sold in February for $60,000 in a quitclaim deed transfer -- which “quits” any interest in real property -- by the Catalina Tax Co. LLC based in Wilmington, Del.
Stephen Weeks, executive director of the Highlands County Economic Development Commission, said the Enigbonjayes visited Avon Park and toured the building May 15. He said at the time, the couple sought suggestions from the EDC about what types of businesses may be suitable in a 93-year-old structure. Among the uses discussed was a individually-owned “mom-and-pop” dress or clothing shop or a business “incubator” -- organizations geared toward speeding up the growth and success of startup and early stage companies. He said the major hurdles facing the New York couple would be getting the structure up to building codes and finding an appropriate business.
Another obstacle, said Weeks, is there is no elevator to the second floor, which hasn’t been used in recent years and would be required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I think they were a little surprised at the amount of work the building would require,” said Weeks.
According the appraiser records, the building is worth $93,691 and the land $26,622. Currently, the downstairs has been mostly cleared and the upstairs vacant.
Next to the Wild building, Ray’s Laundromat has been churning out clean clothes for the past 29 years. Owner Ray Cuencas said his maintenance man, Frank Hughes, also met the Enigbonjayes and said they were looking into turning the upstairs into 18 rental apartments and maybe opening another barber shop on the first floor.
Cuencas said he figured it would cost about $1 million to make the building to the point of “looking new.” He said an earlier buyer was considering turning the Wild building into a computer school and hoped the New York couple had the finances to make the mostly-vacant structure viable again.
“We need ideas here (downtown) and a lot of money,” he said. “Maybe they have the money; that’s what the area needs here. People don’t realize how beautiful the street here is and we need city money being spent here.
Elaine Levey, director of the Avon Park Depot Museum, said the Wild building originally housed the George Mostris food and vegetable stand and then became the Mostris pool hall in the 1930s. The cement bricks for the building’s construction was made by hand by Avon Park’s W. A. Wooten Brick Co. Over the next 40 years, some of its occupants included Barshall’s Barber Shop, McCarthy Bakery, Walliwork’s grocery and Pearl Spinks’ five-and-dime. The second floor was once a hotel and housed rental rooms.
Calls and text messages to the Enigbonjayes weren’t returned Thursday.