Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fate of LaVilla House Up to City

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fate of LaVilla House Up to City

Article excerpt

The most controversial house in LaVilla could be cleared for

demolition from the City Council tonight despite Mayor John

Delaney's earlier pledge to protect it and 37 other buildings

until he meets with community activists.

The house at 744 W. Monroe St., built before 1885 and thought

to be the oldest in the historic black neighborhood, is the last

building standing in the way of a proposed parking lot. The

three-block parking lot in the deteriorating area is part of the

city's $25 million urban renewal plan to make a more attractive

entryway to downtown from Interstate 95.

Phi Beta Sigma fraternity had considered moving the house and

renovating it but instead accepted another historic LaVilla

building from the city for its museum and youth center.

Fraternity spokesman Isiah Williams said the other building,

Genovar's Hall, is in better shape and will not have to be

moved.

Delaney is allowing the demolition process to progress on the

advice of Frank Nero, executive director of the Downtown

Development Authority, said mayoral aide Susan Wiles.

"Whatever historic significance it once had, it no longer has

because [some of] the architectural details have been removed,"

Wiles said. "We've afforded this fraternity every opportunity

and then some."

The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission nominated the

house as a local landmark and has denied an earlier request for

demolition. Activists also cite the historic significance of the

house and expressed disappointment at Delaney's decision.

However, many have accepted the destiny of the house.

"To make any of the properties viable for rehabilitation,

somebody has to step forward to do the work," said Wanda Lanier,

who helped draw up the list of 38 buildings -- including 744 W.

Monroe St. -- that Delaney said he would protect until meeting

with preservationists. "I'm disappointed the fraternity won't be

doing it."

Authority Chairwoman Audrey Moran agreed with criticism that

the authority should have worked more closely with the community

in developing its LaVilla plan. …

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