Tampa - The brick building at 1800 East 8th Avenue in Ybor City was founder Vicente Martinez Ybor's gem. It was at one time the largest brick building in Florida and the largest cigar factory in the world.
"To have them take care of the building and maintain it. I do know in the past, the county, the state or the city, sometimes is not able, due to the economic situation, to preserve an architectural jewel like that," said Wallace Reyes, an Ybor City historian.
Today, the old Cigar factory has been restored, inside and out. It now bears the insignia of a controversial church that has made headlines in the Tampa Bay area and around the world.
We were invited to tour parts of the new Scientology location which has 88,000 square feet. That's four times the size of Scientology's old location in West Tampa. The historical renovation took $6 million, according to Scientology Community Relations Coordinator Lisa Mansell.
"The West Tampa location was an earlier expansion. We had gone from being a storefront to having 18,000 square feet which at the time was enough space for us. But then Scientology has just expanded internationally all over the world, and its expanded big-time here," said Mansell.
Mansell says Ybor City brings the Church of Scientology more foot traffic. It keeps its doors open to the public including a chapel which she says can be rented as a meeting place.