Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plea Sounded for 38 LaVilla Homes Meeting Scheduled Tuesday to Air Demolition Concerns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Plea Sounded for 38 LaVilla Homes Meeting Scheduled Tuesday to Air Demolition Concerns

Article excerpt

In a last-gasp effort to save a residential part of the historic

LaVilla neighborhood, advocates pleaded yesterday to the

Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission to help save 38

homes not yet claimed by bulldozers.

Commission members said they were unable to intervene

immediately but called for a meeting with the Downtown

Development Authority on Tuesday.

The DDA is redeveloping the deteriorating 60-block area, which

was the bustling center of black life in the city before

integration, and has already torn down 99 structures. Another 80

are slated for demolition.

"While we've been talking for two years, many homes have been

destroyed," said Wanda Lanier, chairwoman of the LaVilla

committee of the Emergency Services and Homeless Coalition.

"We're asking you to take action."

Lanier, along with LaVilla residents, business owners, and

social service groups, wanted the commission to help designate a

12-block area as a historic district. Although much of the area

is being leveled by the DDA, none of the 38 houses targeted by

the advocates has had demolition permits pulled by the city.

But the area encompassing the houses, among which is the home

where Ray Charles lived early in his hcareer, is too spread out

and the demolitions too far along to constitute a historic

district, commissioners said.

"It looks like somebody from Serbia bought it up," said

Commissioner Thomas Purcell. "There's not enough there to call

it a district. I think we have lost the opportunity, if we ever

had one, to establish a district."

DDA staff has often turned a cold shoulder to the commission

and preservation advocates. Alternative LaVilla plans, developed

by an architect in association with residents more than a year

ago, never made it past the staff to its board.

A request by the commission last summer that demolition be

delayed on homes more than 50 years old was disregarded by DDA

staff and never presented to the board.

But DDA Chairwoman Audrey Moran, who has taken an increasingly

active role in the activity of the authority, said she is eager

for Tuesday's meeting. …

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