Thursday, April 20, 2017
Holy Thursday Agreement on Wisteria House Preservation
32 Grenada Street, forever declared a local landmark after LOUIS JOHN ARBIZZANI demanded demolition permit
Did you read interesting St. Augustine Record article, five (5) days after our successful mediation preserving 32 Grenada Street (Wisteria House)? Northern Ireland has its "Good Friday Agreement," making the peace among warring tribes of Catholics and Protestants. Will April 13, 2017 go down in history as St. Augustine's "Holy Thursday Agreement," freighted with meaning? Will the Holy Thursday agreement mark the beginning of true historic preservation, stopping the wrecking crews and demolition derby of our historic homes, nature and culture in the Nation's Oldest City?
Each of the 63+ public interest victories here since June 2005 represents a tribute to the character of our community, and the cooperation of people who love St. Augustine. Like any good diplomats, we will not take "no" as if it were an answer.
From this day forward, our citizens and City officials know they are empowered to declare buildings local landmarks, and halt the damn demolition derby perpetrated by the likes of FLAGLER COLLEGE, FLORIDA SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF AND BLIND, and assorted sordid "developers" (read: speculators).
What do you reckon?
Posted April 18, 2017 12:02 am
By SHELDON GARDNER email@example.com
Local landmark in St. Augustine to be restored under agreement
The house at 32 Granada St. in St. Augustine, recently named a local landmark, appears to have been saved from destruction.
Attorneys for both the city and John Arbizzani, property owner, met recently to resolve the building’s future. The plan now is for the building to be restored, said Denise May, assistant city attorney.
The main issue had been whether the late 19th century building is historically significant. Some have pointed to its Victorian style and former residents as reasons to keep it.
Arbizzani, whose team contested the building’s significance, wanted to demolish it so he could develop the property, but residents pushed back.
The Historic Architectural Review Board named the building a local landmark in September, which gave board members the option of denying demolition. The City Commission upheld the landmark designation in January.
After that, the city and Arbizzani went into dispute resolution, which avoids a potentially costly court battle.
“The city’s position was to save the structure,” May said. “That was our goal and we met that goal.”
May said complete details about the agreement will be available in a couple of weeks from the special magistrate who oversaw the case, but she shared some highlights. Once the language is fine-tuned, the agreement will go to the City Commission for a vote, she said.
Under the agreement, the house will not only be saved, but also will be restored, she said. The building will be moved to the lot just south so more parking can be developed. Arbizzani will pay for moving the house, May said.
The city plans to create and manage the added parking spaces and take in revenue to cover the cost, she said. The city already leases land from Arbizzani for the parking lot just north of 32 Granada St.
Arbizzani could develop 32 Granada St. into a commercial venture under its zoning of Commercial Low-One. Under the agreement, the city will also defer the cost of utility connection for 10 years, she said.
Spanish Colonial-style townhomes are another option discussed for the site, said Lee Geanuleas, a city resident who attended the dispute resolution meeting.
He voiced concern about the possibility of townhomes and their compatibility with that slice of town. And while he’s also worried about the stability of the house when it is moved, Geanuleas called the agreement a “reasonably good outcome.”
Neither Arbizzani nor his attorney responded to a request for comment.
Of the history that people touted when trying to save the building, artist Antonio Vedovelli was one of the main figures.
Vedovelli retired in St. Augustine and starting painting in the 1920s, developing “a highly personal folk style often described as primitive or naive,” according to a book on Florida paintings called “Reflections” by Garry Libby. His paintings include one of the Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) in the 1940s.
An army sergeant who was on his honeymoon bought one of Vedovelli’s paintings, and that connection led Vedovelli to show his work at the Perls Galleries in New York, according to the book.
“Antonio Vedovelli’s reputation soared after the exhibition, allowing him to purchase a large house at 32 Granada Street in St. Augustine,” according to the book.
Melinda Rakoncay, a city resident who also went to the meeting, said she was happy to see the city stand up for the property and its status as a landmark.
“To see our city staff going to bat for [the property], that made me feel really good about the city,” she said.