St. Pete reaches agreement with preservation group over demolition of hotel, bank

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St. Pete council members agreed Thursday to let demolition proceed on the Pheil Hotel and Central National Bank buildings.

In allowing it to go forward, council members declined a request to designate them as historic structures. Such a designation would have prevented the buildings from being razed.

The decision came after St. Petersburg Preservation, Inc. agreed to withdraw its petition against the city. The non-profit organization and the city have also agreed to work together in pursuing shared goals related to historic preservation in St. Petersburg.

One example relates to the procedures for demolition of historic resources that are both located within the downtown center and included on the list of potentially eligible properties for designation.  The city is committed to initiating an ordinance change within 90 days that will disallow demolition exemptions for these properties, before site plan approval and submission of a complete application for building permits. In addition to the amendment, the city will provide an analysis on the appropriateness of including additional buildings for protection within the DC zoning districts.

St. Pete also plans to continue its promotion of heritage tourism through expansion of the city’s heritage trail program, a valuable cultural resource that brings life and adds value to the surrounding physical environment.

“It is time to move forward, allow for the restoration or demolition of the buildings on the 400 block, and work with St. Petersburg Preservation to protect what makes the Sunshine City special,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

St. Petersburg Preservation vice president Peter Belmont said, “We have worked hard to reach a resolution with both the city and the block property owners to bring our community a long-term benefit that will include moving preservation forward. It is difficult to accept the loss of buildings that represent an important piece of St Petersburg’s history but we are convinced the result will be a positive. As a result of today’s settlement, St. Petersburg Preservation will be in a better position to partner with the city and others to preserve and to have reused the unique buildings and community pieces that make St. Petersburg so special.”

Derek Kilborn, the city’s manager of Urban Planning and Historic Preservation, said, “The city is committed to supporting historic preservation and heritage tourism. This agreement identifies collaborative opportunities that will help expand our current programming and successes.”