Months after the initial steps were taken to convert a defunct multi-parcel property in downtown Pensacola into a viable structure, the site’s owner and prospective buyer await further environmental remediation of the land before its redevelopment can push forward.
The additional cleanup delays the site’s use, but the property could eventually play an integral role in transforming the west side of downtown.
Two Hundred Garden West Inc., a business registered to local attorney and developer Jim Reeves, agreed to purchase Escambia County School District’s former headquarters in September. The 4.85-acre property at 213 W. Garden St. sold for $3.4 million, with Reeves’ development team aiming to demolish the vacant building and replace it with a mixed-use development that would include residential and commercial space.
The property transaction has yet to close, because the site requires remedying of pollution from a gas station that had existed on the corner of Garden and Spring streets. The school district had the building torn down but discovered garbage in the ground when removing the gas tanks. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said the school district anticipates the completion of remediation by the end of February or early March, at which point Two Hundred Garden West could close and move ahead with its development.
Rick Harper, an economist and professor at the University of West Florida, said the project “would be a welcome addition,” because it would increase downtown’s population density — a necessary ingredient to sustaining urban core vibrancy.
“We need the additional developments, because to support a thriving retail and restaurant environment, we need enough people living down there so that businesses have enough foot traffic,” he said. “The density also helps people feel more comfortable walking the streets, because there are always a few people out.”
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