What to do with abandoned school sites

June 25, 2013

By Brandy Volovecky

The City of Pensacola held a community input meeting Monday evening to discuss reuse plans for the former Blount and Kirksey school sites. Marcie Whitaker, City of Pensacola housing administrator, said Mayor Ashton Hayward wanted to solicit community input before going forward with any plans.

City of Pensacola council members Jewel Cannada-Wynn of District 7 and Brian Spencer of District 6 were also in attendance as well as District 3 County Commissioner Lumon May and Tim Evans, the executive director of Pensacola’s Habitat for Humanity.

Attendees were divided into groups and asked to complete an “ice breaker exercise.” The exercise consisted of attendees answering about themselves and their neighborhood. Information gathered included: length of time living in the neighborhood, neighborhood areas residents were proud of, areas residents avoid and what they would like to see done with the former Blount and Kirksey school sites. The results were then presented by each group’s designated spokesperson.

There was no clear consensus on what the sites should be used for. Ideas for the former Blount site included building community housing, a park, a senior center, a recreation center with swimming pool, a museum and a regional campus for the University of West Florida or Pensacola State College. Ideas for the Kirksey school site included a community center, tennis or basketball courts, neighborhood garden, affordable housing and a grocery store that would be easily accessible to residents without transportation.

Helen Gibson, chief of neighborhoods for the mayor’s office, said a number of recreation facilities are already in the works for the area.

“We are expecting this fall to complete construction of the new community center at Legion Field, which Legion Field in and of itself is a very large, green, open space within the community,” she said. “If you look at the land-use map, you have four very large green spaces within your neighborhood boundaries which are very much accessed.”

One resident said he would not consider Legion Field a park or even a nice place to take a walk. He said he is concerned as a citizen about “the money that we’re throwing around.” He also added that the community center at Legion Park took away playing field space.
Gibson said the neighborhood can apply for a grant from the Pensacola Community Initiative Program (PCIP) which could be used for neighborhood enhancements. Organized neighborhood groups can apply for up to $10,000 in matching grant funding for neighborhood improvement projects.

Attendees were also asked to complete a survey at the meeting. They were given handouts with images of different types of housing and asked to rate the housing on a scale of one to five taking into consideration type of housing and style. Residents favored single-family detached homes over single-family attached residences, multi-family residences, mixed-use residences and duplexes.

A new neighborhood association was just formed by residents of this neighborhood. Annie Sheppard, one of the organizers of the Westside Garden District neighborhood association, said they have only held one meeting so far. Their next meeting is being held on July 29 at 5:30 p.m. at the West Florida Public Library in Pensacola. Sheppard said the group will discuss forming a neighborhood watch group, grant writing and any other resident concerns.

Evans, from Habitat for Humanity, said there were currently no plans for the former Kirksey school site property which Habitat for Humanity recently acquired.

Whitaker said she would bring back all citizen input to Brian Cooper, City of Pensacola director of neighborhood services.

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  • Dee June 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Sell me – I am not saying “build more”. I am saying that the county portion of Pensacola is usually left out of improvements to Pensacola and more emphasis is placed on the city. If you are driving from out of town, your first impression is of the county, which is part of Pensacola. That impression of Pensacola is not necessarily the best. Yes, I am aware the there is a difference in the city run portion and the county run portion of Pensacola. The “blight” is the run down conditions of the entire Pensacola.

  • Ames June 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Studer got another city debt/Studer squatting idea for sale?

  • jeeperman June 26, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Per todays article in the PNJ, Studer would raze the PNJ building. Not renovate.

  • CJ Lewis June 26, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I was just reading in today’s daily about the Pensacola Sports Museum. There are plenty of places to put it other than evicting Artel Gallery from its current location. The Pensacola Sports Museum could even be integrated into renovation plans for the PNJ building site.

    One other idea that comes to mind reading this post is putting the Pensacola Sports Museum at the location of the old Blount School mentioned here. Surrounding the Pensacola Sports Museum could be a couple of basketball and/or tennis courts. Lumon May’s Southern Youth Sports Association would be right across the street from the Pensacola Sports Museum. The Southern Youth Sports Association could even manage the park for the City.

  • sell me June 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Dee – there are tens of thousands of square feet of vacant space around town right now. Why in the world would you want to build more? The vacant schools were blights on their neighborhoods and needed to be torn down. Leave well enough alone until a viable use can be justified.

  • Dee June 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I know it was kept pretty quiet, but the school board also tore down Wedgewood Middle School. There is now a big empty lot there. I know it is in the county, but I think they need to do something with that lot also.

  • jeeperman June 25, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Build high density subsidized housing so that we can house more Section 8’s.

  • Ames June 25, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Build a single story senior citizen facility with apartments, community space, on-site storm shelter, a garden area with small plots available for residents. Plant 20 or so blueberry bushes, a couple of persimmon trees for the residents.. A nice walking path with benches in shaded areas along the way. A game room would be popular, include wi-fi.