Photo by Glenn Judah
Flagler College announced Monday it has agreed to purchase the Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) headquarters buildings in downtown St. Augustine when the company vacates them later this year.
College President William T. Abare, Jr. says Flagler has no definite plans for the use of the facility yet, but it is expected the buildings could serve as dorms, or even classrooms and offices. The buildings are actually three connected towers that have become a landmark on the corner of King and Malaga streets on the western entrance of St. Augustine.
“The acquisition of the Florida East Coast Railway buildings is one of the most important milestones in the college’s history, and it will enable us to enhance greatly the educational environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Abare said.
The purchase was approved July 19 at an Executive Committee meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees. FECI employees were told Monday of their company’s plans to relocate their headquarters to Jacksonville.
The college currently leases a parking lot on Malaga Street from FECI, which provides approximately 120 parking spaces for students. The parking lot is included in the acquired property.
Like Flagler College’s centerpiece, the former Hotel Ponce de Leon, FECI was founded by railroad and luxury hotel magnate Henry Flagler, who built the Florida East Coast Railway primarily to bring northern guests south to his resorts. The railway is still part of FECI today, and moves freight along 351 miles of track from Jacksonville to Miami.
Abare said the college plans to carry on its long-standing tradition of historic preservation with the acquisition of the FECI buildings, which sit on the San Sebastian River three blocks from the main campus.
“Part of our mission is to be a memorial to Mr. Flagler, and the acquisition of the FEC buildings will allow us to amplify that mission by adding this important building to our campus,” Abare said.
To date the college has spent more than $25 million on restoration and preservation of the campus’ historic structures.