Today Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, joined by Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan and Councilmen John Jerralds and Brian Spencer, announced the demolition of the old Blount Junior High School that has been closed since 1982 and his plans to work with the Pensacola City Council and the School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas to come up with a plan for all closed and abandoned schools within the Pensacola city limits.
“I and my staff will present to the Superintendent and School Board a plan to ensure that vacant school district properties are kept up to code and to encourage a proactive plan for reuse of those facilities,” said Mayor Hayward at press conference held on the steps of the old school. “My goal will be to ensure that Hallmark, Spencer Bibbs and all the other vacant school board properties in Pensacola don’t become another eyesore like this one.”
Hayward talked about how the Blount property had become a haven for crime, drugs and vandalism. He talked about how he had two options- either go through a costly and lengthy foreclosure process or to use existing federal funds to purchase the building at a reduced cost and tear it down by the end of the year.
“I made the decision that this neighborhood had suffered long enough, and it’s time for this building to go,” said Hayward.
Sheriff David Morgan agreed with Hayward’s assessment that abandoned properties hurt the spirit and quality of neighborhoods. “I am here to show my support for Mayor Hayward’s efforts and assure him and the citizens of Pensacola and Escambia County that we are in this fight for neighborhoods for the long haul,” said Sheriff Morgan. “We either sink or swim together. There are no winners and losers as we support each other.”
Morgan pointed to the damage to neighborhoods that abandoned buildings can cause. “They are havens for crime.”
I talked to several of the neighbors who came to listen to the Mayor and Sheriff. They talked about how they had gotten use to the abandoned Blount building, but knew that it was hurting their neighborhood. One neighbor talked about the positive impact of the tree beautification project two blocks over on A Street. “You would think that silly project wouldn’t make a difference, but it has,” he told me.