Scientologists rethink plans for cigar factory

St. Petersburg Times/April 19, 2002

St. Petersburg, Fla. -- Officials with the Church of Scientology's Tampa headquarters say they probably won't relocate to an old west Tampa cigar factory building they purchased last year.

Sheri Payson, executive director of the Church of Scientology of Tampa, said Thursday that moving from a cramped office on Henderson Boulevard to the brick building on Habana Avenue doesn't look likely.

The possibility of a move was reported Thursday in the Tampa Tribune.

"We are weighing selling the building," Payson said. "We are looking at possibly buying another building in the area" to move the headquarters into.

Payson said the church bought the Andres Diaz building in October for $1.1-million with a move in mind. But a month later, officials started talking to tenants and realized they wanted to stay.

"We started reconsidering," she said.

Church officials also realized they need about 5,000 square feet more than the 18,000 the Diaz building offers, Payson said.

Payson said they are looking "everywhere" for a new site. No matter where they move, she expects the church will be welcomed. That includes older, revitalizing neighborhoods such as west Tampa, Payson said.

"We are very much into historical preservation," she said. "Any neighborhood would really welcome us."

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