What’s happening to the historic architecture in Downtown St. Pete? First Block, also known as the Detroit Block, has a long history dating to the 1888 construction of the Detroit Hotel. The block is located in the heart of DTSP between Central Avenue and 1st Avenue North and between 2nd & 3rd Streets. The block is threatened by a massive high-rise development proposal (from SPP website). This is why St. Petersburg Preservation needs your voice now.
The best way to protect the block is to designate it or its buildings as local landmarks, either individually or as part of a district. Historic designation and block protection is not likely to happen without the public speaking up (from SPP website).
Peter Belmont, Vice President of St. Petersburg Preservation, answered the following questions for DowntownStPete.com.
Currently, where does the city stand with this issue?
City council, by a 4 to 4, vote denied historic district designation for the block on October 20, 2016 (council members Darden Rice, Amy Foster, Steve Kornell, and Charlie Gerdes supported designation. Council members Karl Nurse, Lisa Wheeler Bowman, Jim Kennedy, and Ed Montenari opposed designation). Historic district designation would have helped to protect the block as it provides incentives to renovate the block and disincentives to demolishing the block. Property owners have recently submitted to the city a plan that calls for a high rise to be built on the block. Mayor Kriseman has indicated that he objects to the high-rise plan and will work to find a way to protect the block. How he may do so is still not known and will likely require city council support.
How long do we have to get letters in?
It is important to get letters to city council now to show council that the public believes the block is a part of what makes St. Pete Special and that the owners should not be allowed to turn the block into a high-rise development. It is likely there will be several different hearings before city council or city commissions before the block’s future is determined, including hearings on whether the owner’s high-rise plan should be approved and probably hearings on additional efforts to designate the block, or some of the buildings on the block, as historic. There are likely to be additional times down the road as hearings are scheduled when it will also be important for the public to speak up and/or to show up.
Unless the public speaks up to city council, telling them the block is a big part of what makes downtown special, we are likely to loose the block. On the other hand there is hope as half of council presently agrees with us!
Find out more about St. Petersburg Preservation.
(All photos courtesy of St. Petersburg Preservation)