A historic city block in downtown Pensacola that once laid claim to encompassing the largest and grandest buildings in Florida is undergoing a massive transformational redevelopment as part of the rebirth of the centuries-old downtown.
The Brent, Blount, Moulton and Marston-Quina buildings are some of downtown Pensacola’s most historic landmarks and — after more than a century — will soon be returned to their original glory. Through a historic restoration and redevelopment, the block will be revived as a new live, work, and play community in the heart of the Pensacola metro that’s home to nearly half a million people.
Bobby Switzer, great-grandson of prolific Pensacolian and Brent Building namesake F.C. Brent, purchased the 4.5 acre block with a group of investors known as One Palafox Place, LLC, in 2015 for $7.5 million. The historic city block is bounded by Garden, Palafox, Romana, and Baylen Streets.
Durnford Enterprises, Ltd, founded by Pensacola resident Crawford Rainwater, Sr., previously acquired the property in 1980. While Dunford did make some investments in the buildings, the company never committed to a renovation of this scale and much of the buildings’ upper floors remained vacant.
“We have an exciting opportunity to bring new developments to our vibrant and growing downtown, and we look forward to continuing this block’s tradition of being right in the center of the action,” said Switzer.
This isn’t the first investment in downtown Pensacola for Switzer. He acquired the nearby Theisen Building, also once the tallest building in Florida, in 2012.
After the 1905 Halloween night fire consumed the original buildings on the block, new buildings were commissioned by Francis Celestino Brent and William Alexander Blount. The Brent building was designed by architect Higdon Hawley and constructed by M. T. Lewman. The Blount building, originally known as the Blount Watson building prior to the fire, was constructed by Charles Hill Turner in 1906 for a cost of approximately $200,000, more than $5 million in today’s dollars.
A complete historic restoration will preserve this 110-year-old downtown Pensacola landmark building. The property, which has been newly-branded as One Palafox Place and includes seven buildings and 200,000 square feet of commercial space, will be rehabilitated and repurposed to include 26 one and two bedroom apartments, more than 13,000 square feet of retail space, and 20,000 square feet of office space. In addition, the plans call for a open-air pedestrian breezeway connecting the block to the east side of Palafox Street and the Jefferson Street parking garage, a 4,000 sq ft rooftop deck, several restaurants, meeting space, a coworking annex, fitness center, and spa.
Construction is well underway and will be completed in phases, with an estimated final completion date late in 2017.