Pensacola Church on Affordable Studios Idea Backed by Planning Board

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A proposal to turn a vacant church building into six rental units won the backing of the city’s planning board this week, being hailed as an innovative idea to bring affordable housing solutions to Pensacola.

Mount Lily Studios – a redesign of the dilapidated Mount Lily Baptist Church on North A Street – would involve gutting and dividing the church’s large open space into six studio apartments designed to be marketed to low- to middle-income residents, such as servers who often travel by car. – free downtown.

Developer John David Ellis said the team, which also includes Jordan Yee, Allistair McKenzie and Jamaal Warren, came up with an adaptive reuse project that could lend itself to affordable housing development after reading the report from the affordable housing task force that was released. in 2020.

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The planning board unanimously approved the application for conditional use of the project to proceed, but it will need to be submitted to city council before the team can begin construction.

“This is one of the most responsible infill projects we have seen to date,” said planning board member Bianca Villegas.

Ellis previously said that between the city’s approval process and construction, it would likely take at least 18 months before the studios are available to rent, although at that time the goal is to offer these at an affordable monthly rate to residents whose income is at or below 66% of the region’s median income.

Developers plan to convert the former Mount Lily Baptist Church building at 209 North A Street into affordable studio apartments.

The developers have not requested any specific affordable housing incentives from the city authorities, and if they do, it will come at a later date.

“In my opinion, this (project) is trying to maintain a semblance of neighborhood fabric while also allowing for this affordable housing that I think on this council, and in other parts of the city, we haven’t seen a lot of push,” said board chairman Paul Ritz.

There has been some opposition from neighbors who are concerned about issues such as parking congestion and crowded bins in front of their house, as there is currently only street parking on site.

“There are homeless people staying there and a neighbor and I had to kick someone out on Sunday so it’s pretty regular,” neighbor Robert Nay said, adding that he had put together a seven-signature petition opposing the development .

“As a community, we all want something done with the property, but everyone is going to be affected by the lack of parking this property provides.”

Ellis outlined a plan that diverts the sidewalk toward the church building to meander around four parking spaces directly in front of the building, but he said his team will work harder to find solutions to the potential litter problem.

The project also gained support during a public comment period from Crystal Scott, vice president of development for Pensacola Habitat for Humanity and chair of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and Scott Sallis, a prominent city architect. with Dalrymple Sallis Architecture.

The affordable housing problem in Pensacola has been called critical by many advocates and officials, as average home purchase and rental prices are skyrocketing without wages following. The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines housing as affordable for a resident if it costs no more than 30% of their income.

The Mount Lily Studios project will now go to City Council to approve, vary or deny the Planning Board’s recommendation.

Emma Kennedy can be reached at [email protected] or 850-480-6979.

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