Planned academic building runs into resident opposition

By Tiffanie Reynolds |

Residents like Robert Hall want Flagler College to build more learning space on campus, but they don’t want students looking into the bed and breakfast across the street.

“It’s the commercial versus the residents,” said Hall, a resident of downtown St. Augustine and a retired Flagler College Art Department chair, “and the people who are living there are generally in favor of the smaller building.”

The building in question is a planned classroom building at 31 Cordova St., replacing the current Communication Building on that corner. The original plan was four buildings, all about 35 feet tall, with connecting walkways or covered sidewalks. After objections from Hall and other residents during a Planning and Zoning Board meeting in July, Flagler changed the height and design of the plans. Flagler will present its plans to the St. Augustine City Commission on Oct. 8.

“We’re hoping to address any issues and concerns that the city might have, and we’re encouraged that they’ll say we’re doing a great job in the city of St. Augustine in the historic district,” said Larry Weeks, director of Business Services at Flagler.

The new plans consist of two buildings, 25 feet high and in the second Spanish Colonial Period style. There will be two entrances into a center courtyard.

Hall put a big emphasis on style only because the new building would be in one of the city’s historic preservation zoning districts, which covers Cordova to Charlotte streets. This district is called Historic Preservation-Three, and is one of five zoning sites in downtown St. Augustine that dedicates the architecture to an era in the city’s past. Historic Preservation-Three has been dedicated to bringing back the look of its founding years, from 1565 to 1821, and is referred to as the “Restoration Area” because it is so close to Castillo de San Marcos and the city gates. The district was established in the 1970s, with Hall as part of the committee that created it.

Guidelines such as the style and height of the buildings are set within the zoning district.

Weeks and others hope that the changes to the height and design of the building will allow the plans to move forward. Once completed, the building will hold four faculty offices, nine classrooms, a television studio and a screening room for Flagler College students majoring in communication.

If the St. Augustine City Commission approves of the new design, Flagler College will go to the Historic Architect Review Board for approval of an accurate late Spanish Colonial Period design of the building. If approved, construction could begin as early as January 2013.

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