A push to abolish one of Pensacola’s five development review districts fell flat on Thursday as city council members rejected the idea by a wide margin.
Mayor Ashton Hayward and City Councilman Andy Terhaar had sought to abolish the Governmental Center District, which encompasses about 15 blocks on the western side of downtown Pensacola. Established in 1979, the district was created as part of a push to redevelop the largely-residential Tanyard neighborhood with a series of new city, county, and state government buildings.
It’s one of five districts where historic properties enjoy some degree of protection, as demolitions and new construction within the district must be approved by the city’s Architectural Review Board, which is tasked with encouraging a “coordinated architectural character” and ensuring projects are “compatible with the built environment” of the district.
Critics including Hayward and Terhaar have argued that the district is obsolete and that regulations are unclear, causing confusion and increased costs for developers.
Abolishing the district, however, would have created a development free-for-all on downtown’s west side, where much of downtown Pensacola’s future development is likely to take place. Several notable or historic buildings would also lose protections, including the former Vernon McDaniel school district building, the Spring Street USO, and a brick warehouse on Romana Street.
UWF historic preservationist Ross Pristera urged council members to keep the district in place. Pristera is leading a team of UWF interns which will complete a survey of the district this summer, creating an inventory of its remaining historic buildings and architectural character. Pristera said he hoped to have a draft report on the district completed by August.
Ultimately, council members voted 6-1 against abolishing the district, with only Terhaar voting in support of his proposal.