Pensacola city council members on Monday overrode a city review board, issuing unconditional approval to the proposed 23-unit Girard Place townhome development in downtown Pensacola.
The council approved the project unanimously, with Council President Brian Spencer abstaining from the vote and Councilman Larry B. Johnson absent.
The project, first announced by Mobile, Ala.-based developer Dean Parker in January, will be built on the site of the former John Sunday House, the historic 1901 home that was controversially demolished last summer. Parker purchased the property for $1.7 million earlier this year. The site, located at 302 West Romana Street, is located just blocks from the downtown core and within one of five districts which require review and approval by the city’s Architectural Review Board.
Opponents have argued that the project, with its street-facing garages, is not compatible with the “built environment” of the Governmental Center District, which covers much of the western section of downtown. Other pending townhome developments in and around downtown Pensacola, including The Warfield in the Seville neighborhood and the Junction at West Hill in Belmont-Devilliers, place resident parking behind the buildings rather than facing the street.
That board issued a conditional approval of the project in March, but Parker appealed that decision to the city council, asking for the project to be approved as originally submitted. Parker told Council members on Monday that complying with the ARB’s conditions would increase the cost of the townhomes to the point that it would no longer be feasible to move forward with the project.
Councilman Andy Terhaar on Monday reiterated his support for abolishing the Governmental Center District, which was originally established in the late 1970s when much of the established Tanyard neighborhood was razed to make way for new city, county, and state government buildings. The city council last year voted down a proposal to eliminate the district, which extends limited protections to a number of historic structures still within the district’s borders.
Parker has previously said that he’s already presold 70% of Girard Place’s first phase, which includes the units fronting on Romana and Reus Streets. The units are priced between $499,000 and $699,000.