Advocacy Issues

The Issue: First Block

Neighborhood: Downtown

City Council Member: Gina Driscoll gina.driscoll@stpete.org 

Action You Can Take Now: Send a message to City Council by clicking here

BACKGROUND

First Block, the group of buildings on Central Avenue and 1st Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd Streets, is arguably the most historic block in all of St. Petersburg.  Its history parallels that of the city at large - both were born in 1888 with the coming of the Orange Belt Railroad. The block’s oldest building, the original Detroit Hotel (now condominiums, a restaurant, and a market) was built in 1888. It was named in honor of the hometown of city co-founder, John C. Williams, who hailed from Detroit, Michigan.  (The man who built the Detroit Hotel, the other city founder, Peter Demens, had already named the city after his hometown, St. Petersburg, Russia.)

The majority of the buildings within the block are pre-1910 structures. They housed the city’s earliest businesses and are some of the city’s oldest remaining buildings. Only one historic structure on the block has been lost to date: the original structure at 1st Avenue North and 3rd Street was demolished in 1966.  All of the other structures retain excellent historic integrity. 

Two of the buildings on the block, the Detroit Hotel (215 Central Avenue) and Bishop Hotel (260 1st Ave N) have been designated as individual local historic landmarks, the applications for designation having been prepared and submitted by Preserve the ‘Burg.  The remainder of the block bears no historic designation, and as such, has no protections in place against demolition or alteration.

You can read more about the history of First Block in the local historic landmark application here

TIMELINE

2013: After advocacy efforts led by Preserve the ‘Burg, an application to designate First Block as a local historic district was initiated by the City in 2013 but the issue stalled for several years.

2016: The application was finally brought before the Community Planning and Preservation Commission in 2016, who recommended its designation as a local historic landmark. It then went before City Council in October of 2016.  The Council deadlocked in a 4-4 vote, resulting in a rejection of the designation. Mayor Kriseman voiced support for the designation, but has not taken additional action since the deadlocked vote. 

2019: In April of 2019 City Council issued a 6 month moratorium on landmark applications submitted by a third party.  This means that only City Council has the power to designate First Block a local historic district, until the moratorium ends in November of 2019.

THE THREAT

Immediately following the failed application for local historic landmark designation, a proposal for a 25-story high rise development located on the site of First Block was submitted to the city. You can view that application, including the renderings of the tower, here. .  The city concluded that the owner’s initial application for redevelopment approval was incomplete.  To date, no further information has been submitted to move the application forward.  

It is only a matter of time before another redevelopment plan is issued for First Block. If such a plan were approved, the city’s hands will be tied in denying a demolition permit for the historic buildings of First Block.  Unless those buildings are designated individual landmarks or part of a local historic district. . Click here to learn more about the local historic district designation process. 

THE OPPORTUNITY

First Block can still be designated a local historic district, by a vote of 5-3 on City Council.  Designation as a local historic district provides a review process, with public hearing, for major redevelopment efforts - allowing the public and City Council to have a voice in major exterior changes, or demolitions, on the block. Click here to learn more about the local historic district designation process

WHAT PRESERVE THE ‘BURG IS DOING

Since 2016 Preserve the ‘Burg has been encouraging individual City Council Members to bring forward the First Block application once again. We believe that the political will to designate First Block as a local historic district exists on our current City Council.   We have been educating Council members and others about the importance of this block and the existential threat it faces as rampant development takes place all around it.  

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Send a message to your City Council member, or ALL the members, telling them that you want to see First Block designated as a local historic district. You can do that by clicking here.

  • Keep up to date on the issue by following Preserve the ‘Burg’s social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), and reading our weekly E-news.  Sign up for E-news here

  • When the issue comes up in the news or on social media, show your support with the hashtag #PreserveFirstBlock .


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Contact:
Preserve the 'Burg
P.O. Box 838
St. Petersburg, FL 33731
(727) 824-7802
info@preservetheburg.org
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