The Jordan Park Historic Village controversy may finally be at a close. Thursday morning, the St. Petersburg Housing Authority board voted to demolish the Historic Village, which has been standing since the historic development’s founding in the late 1930s. Board Member Ann Sherman White was the single dissenting “no” vote.
Long-time advocate for preserving the Jordan Park Historic Village, Terri Lipsey Scott, Executive Director of the neighboring Carter G. Woodson African American History Museum, denounced the Board’s decision Thursday afternoon. The Woodson Museum is housed in one of the first buildings of Jordan Park’s historic development, and Scott recognizes the importance of the Historic Village for St. Petersburg’s African American community.
“I was proud to have had the support of the entire city council, School Board member Rene Flowers and County Commissioner Ken Welch, as well as Congressman Charlie Crist and his staff,” said Scott. Each of the elected officials was present Thursday at the St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners Meeting, standing in solidarity against the measure.
In July, City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler Bowman called a press conference, alongside Flowers and Scott, to denounce the St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s actions in Jordan Park, to advocate for former residents, and to asking Congressman Crist to request a formal investigation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) into the St. Petersburg Housing Authority’s business practices. That request resulted in a letter from Crist to HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
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The vote for demolition comes even as the Housing Authority was denied funding from city and county grant sources. According to an estimate from Wedding & Associates, the architects for the new building proposed for the Historic Village, rehabbing the less than 700-square-foot historic units would cost the Housing Authority $180,000 per unit. To demolish and build new, they claim, would lessen the cost per unit significantly.
Many advocates for the Historic Village are skeptical of such claims – especially in light of the conflicting reports produced for the St. Petersburg City Council in Ma,y 2018. At that time, the Housing Authority was asking for a soft letter of support from the council to allow it to secure HUD funding to demolish the historic units.
A 2016 independent home inspection, performed on behalf of the residents of Jordan Park, did not call for demolition. A later report commissioned by SPHA – a Physical Needs Assessment written by the proposed architect for the new senior housing building, Wedding & Associates – recommended demolition of the structure, noting the life expectancy of a “wood structure” and the cost of replacing the original iron pipes.
According to the 2016 independent home inspection, the Historic Village is constructed from concrete block, and the 2016 photos and inspection show modern PVC piping.
“I’m still convinced that an investigative report needs to happen to understand what is happening and where the money is going,” said Scott. Despite the lingering questions of advocates, it appears demolition will more forward as planned.
St. Petersburg Housing Authority and Mayor Rick Kriseman did not return calls for comment.