Financing sought for 1883 Depot-Waterworks building

300-GARDEN-CENTERThe last formal proposal to return the North City Water Works building to use was reported by Historic City News on July 16, 2011, when Colin Bingham proposed that the property could be repaired for community meetings — tonight, the St Augustine City Commission will revisit what should be done with the aging, deteriorating structure.

The building first opened as a train depot serving the Jacksonville, St Augustine, and Halifax River Railroad in 1883 before Henry M Flagler converted it to a waterworks for the city around the turn of the century.

Substantially unused for five years since the local Garden Club was forced to move out, the city-owned property near Davenport Park on San Marco Avenue continues to attract attention, not all of which has been good.

Bingham had expressed interest in forming a non-profit, Community Development Coalition Corporation, and to pay the City $350 monthly in rent, plus the entire cost of rehabilitation using his own funds; estimated at that time to require about $40,000. In exchange for financing the entire project with private funds, Bingham asked for a 30-year lease to recover his investment. The commission received mixed public comments and declined to move forward with the proposal when Bingham emerged as the sole bidder to show interest in the project.

Inaction by the city did not stay the building’s need for additional stabilization and hazardous material abatement. A chain-link hurricane fence was erected around the property to keep vagrants at bay and minimize the risk of liability from any injuries that could arise to citizens due to the condition of the building.

No new use of the building is at hand, according to information forwarded to commissioners from City Manager John Regan; however, during the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference, many ideas that focused on a mixed use that is sustainable and beneficial to the community were discussed.

At tonight’s regular meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, members will decide if they want to invest $50,000, half in cash and half in-kind, to apply for a $50,000 matching grant from the “2015 Small Matching Historic Preservation Grant” program before the June 3, 2013 deadline.

The $100,000 in public funds, if raised, would be used for research to document missing architectural elements, removal of non-historic features, and building program analysis to prepare it for a new use; putting it back into service for our community, Regan told Historic City News.

The grant program is aimed for projects that include preservation, protection, restoration, rehabilitation and stabilization of historical and archaeological properties.

If you plan to attend, the City Commission Meeting will be held on Monday, June 10, 2013, beginning at 5:00 p.m. in the Alcazar Room of the City Hall Building located at 75 King Street in St Augustine. You can watch the meeting live on Comcast Government Television channel 3.

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