St. Petersburg City Council unanimously passed a new business item Thursday to initiate a formal application for the local historic designation of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Old Northeast.
The church, located at 126 11th Avenue Northeast, was built in 1926 and is owned and operated by the Presbytery of Tampa Bay Inc. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay recently listed the church for $2.3 million. Council member Darden Rice initiated the resolution due to concerns around the potential sale of the church, located in one of St. Petersburg’s most desirable neighborhoods.
According to the listing, the property consists of two parcels, the church property as well as a separate parking lot to the south. The two parcels are comprised of seven total lots, all designated for NT-3 single family zoning.
According to the listing, “The Presbytery ownership is desirous of finding another church group or similar community based organization to purchase the property, and has set a call for offers time period until November 25th, after which they will agree to sell to a potential developer should no such group materialize.”
According to a representative of the Presbytery, Jim Gregory, the church had received an offer the a local education institution to re-use the Western portions of the church as a school, allowing the sanctuary to be converted to residential use. The representative asked City Council not to take action on the new business item, fearing that the initiation of the historic application process could potentially complicate the sale of the property. The potential buyer, Christine Laurenzi, representing nonprofit school Indi-Ed, also spoke.
Monica Kile, executive director of Preserve the ‘Burg, spoke in favor of initiating the historic designation process. She described property values in Old Northeast as “red hot” and warned that without the historic designation, the church would eventually be demolished to make way for unaffordable single family homes. Kile explained that the application process and historic designation itself does not prevent the sale of property and described concerns over restrictions placed on locally designated historic properties as “overblown.”
Joe Reed, a representative from Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association, also spoke in favor, citing “whole hearted” support from both Old Northeast neighborhood and HONNA.
The unanimous approval from City Council will initiate a formal application from city staff, which will run through the Community Planning and Preservation Commission and come back to city council in 2020.