The 1.5 acre property formerly home to the John Sunday House has been sold to a Mobile developer who plans to announce new plans for the property later this month.
The historic Sunday House, built in 1901 by one of Pensacola’s most prominent African-American leaders, was demolished last year after a circuit court ruling allowed developer Charles Liberis to essentially side-step the city’s historic preservation rules.
Mobile developer Dean Parker served as the national finance chairman for Dr. Ben Carson’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last year. After the campaign ended, Parker had a conversation with longtime friend and Pensacola resident Rebecca Garcia about downtown Pensacola’s need for innovative housing developments. From that conversation, their company, Segen Ventures — segen is German for “blessing” — was born.
“Something Pensacola has never seen”
Parker says he started talking with Liberis last September about the possibility of purchasing the Sunday House property, located at 302 West Romana Street.
“One of our key metrics was to be within three blocks of everything,” Parker said, noting that the Sunday House property is within three blocks of both the downtown core and the waterfront. Segen’s purchase of the site closed Wednesday.
Parker and Garcia plan to announce new plans for a residential development on the site later this month. “This will literally be something that Pensacola has never seen before,” Parker said. “Everybody that’s seen the plans has been blown away.”
“We are looking forward to investing into Pensacola with this one of a kind community, that will transform living in downtown Pensacola,” Parker added.
Development will “properly honor” Sunday
The new development plans to “properly honor” the memory of John Sunday, a black Pensacola native who built a successful business and served as a city alderman and state legislator in the years following the Civil War. “I have worked with Ms. Pearl Perkins, great-great granddaughter of Mr. Sunday, to make sure that our development will pay a proper tribute to Mr. Sunday’s legacy,” said Parker.
“I am honored that Mr. Parker reached out to me to discuss, and I am excited to work together on the plans for the tribute,” Perkins said.
A builder, 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.
Local preservationists fought alongside Sunday descendants to stop the demolition last year, culminating in a series of meetings before the city’s Architectural Review Board in May and June. Perkins was among those who fought to preserve the home.
The homeowner and developer sued the city in June, seeking to bypass the review process and obtain a demolition permit immediately. Escambia County Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh ordered the city to issue the demolition permit in early July, and the home was razed less than two weeks later.