It’s been a dark year for historic preservation in Pensacola, but there was a ray of light Wednesday as a 115-year-old home in the city’s Old East Hill neighborhood was saved from demolition.
A Pensacola couple reached an agreement with developers in March to relocate the home at 704 East Wright Street to a vacant lot a few blocks away on East Belmont Street. The house dates back to at least 1900, but because the property appraiser’s records are often inaccurate, we don’t know for sure exactly how old it is.
That relocation took place Wednesday, with police officers closing off sections of Wright and Davis streets as utility workers and a crew from Ducky Johnson House Movers executed the move.
The bulk of the city block bounded by Wright and Belmont streets and 7th and 8th Avenues, where the house had been located, will be redeveloped as The Village at Wright Street, a $5 million project featuring 12 townhome units. Developers originally petitioned the city’s Architectural Review Board for demolition of the house, but in an effort to save it, the board tabled the issue to allow time for someone to come forward and agree to relocate the house — a move that paid off.
The house’s rescue is in sharp contrast to the fate of the historic John Sunday House, a house of similar age and arguably more historic value that came through the Architectural Review Board at the same time. Despite an outcry from the community, developer Charles Liberis used the court system to sidestep the city’s historic preservation rules and demolished the Sunday House in July.
Weeks later, the turn-of-the-century West Hill Taxi Stand, a longtime fixture in the city’s historic black business district in Belmont-DeVilliers, met the same fate.
The new development on Wright Street will feature 12 three-bedroom townhouses spread across four separate buildings. The units are expected to retail for around $300,000. David Richbourg, who is developing the project along with his partner Norman Ricks, said Wednesday that he hopes to begin construction within the next 90 days.