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A new 23-unit luxury residential development is planned for the 1.5-acre downtown Pensacola property formerly occupied by the historic John Sunday House, developers announced Monday.

“We are excited to be able to announce Girard Place,” said Dean Parker, the managing director of Mobile-based Segen Ventures, which purchased the property earlier this month. “Our community will be one that is truly different from any other residential development in downtown Pensacola.”

Girard Place as it would appear from the corner of Reus and Hilary Streets. (Segen Ventures/Special to The Pulse)

The Girard Place townhomes — named for Stephen Girard, an 18th-century philanthropist in Parker’s native Philadelphia — will be a “fully connected community,” incorporating automated design elements that allow owners to complete control their home from their smartphone. From an app, residents will be able to remotely control garage and entry doors, thermostats, lights, and fans, with an optional upgrade adding an integrated alarm system, outdoor and indoor cameras, and more.

The development’s focus on technology will even include ultra-fast gigabit internet access, Parker said.

Units will include hardwood floors, walk-in closets, granite kitchen countertops, stainless steel appliances, and more. Other amenities will include a pool, fitness center, club house, fire pit, and a “private walk path” to the nearby Ever’man Cooperative Grocery & Cafe. The development will include both two and three bedroom units, which will retail starting at $499,000. Presales will begin Monday, Parker said.

The 115-year-old Sunday House, built in 1901 by one of the most prominent African-American figures in Pensacola’s history, was demolished last July after Pensacola attorney Charles Liberis obtained a court order which essentially allowed him to bypass the city’s historic preservation process. Parker said he didn’t get involved until September, when he began looking for potential sites for the Girard Place development.

John Sunday, date unknown. (Florida State Archives/Special to The Pulse)

Born in Pensacola as the son of a slave and her master, John Sunday fought for the Union in the Civil War before returning home and serving as a city alderman and state legislator during Reconstruction. A natural entrepreneur, Sunday’s business success allowed him to amass significant land holdings and to become one of the wealthiest African-American men not only in the state or in the South, but in the nation. Black author Booker T. Washington in 1907 estimated Sunday’s worth at $125,000 — more than $3 million in today’s money — a remarkable sum for an African-American man in the Jim Crow South.

When those Jim Crow laws forced black businesses out of Pensacola’s downtown core, Sunday helped build up the Belmont-Devilliers area as a center for black commerce, with Sunday’s firm erecting several buildings which still stand. In 1901, as he prepared to retire, Sunday built his dream home on the corner of Romana and Reus streets, residing there until his death in 1925.

While plans haven’t been finalized, Parker said the development will honor Sunday’s legacy in multiple ways, including some sort of publicly-visible monument. The development’s clubhouse will also be named in Sunday’s honor, Parker said.

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