Preserving Our History: Application to Save 900 Central
900 Central is one of the most important historic structures in the EDGE District, and played a pivotal role in the larger development of St. Petersburg. It is the district’s oldest building (1918) and a cornerstone and flagship of the EDGE District’s westward development along its central corridor. Please read more about 900 Central and its key role in our development in the History sections below.

Recently, the building's owner submitted a development proposal to the City to tear down 900 Central along with the southern trailing buildings, 9 MLK–25 MLK S., and replace them with a 12-story apartment building. (See rendering below.) Because of the huge implications of that proposal, our Design Committee, our Economic Vitality Committee, and members of our Board reviewed the proposal and met with the owner's development team and the City Manager of Urban Planning & Historic Preservation, to discuss options to preserve the building, like that of ICON Central's preservation of the Union Trust Bank at 855 Central. (See image below.) However, the developer did not agree that saving the building would be feasible because it would mean loss of ground floor retail space, parking, and rental units on the upper floors in the new development. So the developer chose to proceed with its development proposal calling for demolition of the existing buildings.

To ensure that options to preserve 900 Central were adequately considered, we (EBDA) filed an application with the City for Local Landmark Designation on the building. (Click here for the application.) That application will be reviewed by the St. Petersburg Community Planning and Preservation Commission at a date as yet to be determined. If the application is granted, the building will be protected from demolition, and options to create a development around the building can be proposed.

We will announce the hearing date on our application when it is set. We encourage those who wish to participate via public comment at the hearing to do so, and/or submit letters to voice your input.
History, Part I: EDGE District is Origin of St. Pete
Booker Creek, which runs through the west end of our district, attracted the first settlements in the whole area, by the Tocobaga Indians from 900-1500 A.D. 
The next significant phase of settlement in the area was in the late 1800s, when African American farmers settled to cultivate the land, and African American workers built a railway in from the north for Peter Demens. In fact, the southeast corner of the EDGE District was the genesis for the town of St. Petersburg, because the terminus for the railway was at that corner. [Note: the railroad terminus was near the site where 900 Central would later be built.] 

When the first train on the Orange Belt Rail Way rolled into that terminus in June of 1888, the entire population of the town was just 30 people. [Photo above: first Orange Belt train to arrive in the area.] Eyeing an opportunity at that time, an enterprising shopkeeper, E.R. Ward, bought a hastily-constructed building at the railway terminus on the 1st Avenue South side (then “Railroad Avenue”) and opened the first general store. He and another entrepreneur, Jacob Baum, then partnered to build a commercial and residential core in what is now the EDGE District. By the first official census in 1890, the town had burgeoned to 273, most living around that southeast corner of the EDGE District. The city of St. Petersburg would not be incorporated until 1903.
History, Part II: 900 Central Becomes District Cornerstone
In 1918, 900 Central was built on the southwest corner of 9th St. and Central Avenue. The three-story brick building, featuring bands of corbelling and masonry window sills, housed the “Western Hotel” upon opening, and by 1920 became the “St. Petersburg Hotel.” It was the first of several hotels in the EDGE District, each three stories tall and collectively representing more modest accommodations in contrast to the large, luxury, high style hotels in other parts of the City. 900 Central was an important anchor to the district, marking the onset of westward development and at a critical time of rapid growth, encompassing both the City’s industrial core but also embracing workforce housing and tourism.  

Apart from housing the St. Petersburg Hotel, in 1923 900 Central also accommodated a Post Office sub station and a drug store, as well as a variety of other businesses in its early years, including grocers, lenders, realty, insurance, clothing, and shoe retail. Also notably, adjacent to 900 Central on Baum Avenue, the first lot buyer in the Ward & Baum Plat subdivision was W.A. Sloan, the first town marshal in 1903, and then the first postmaster general in the city.  
1915: Mayor Bradshaw presiding over extension of Central Avenue westward from 9th Street (now MLK).
December 1918 newspaper ad, Tampa Bay Times.
1946: Central Avenue and 9th St. (now MLK). 900 Central building shown in upper left.
July 1918: Sanborn map showing 900 Central (then, the Western Hotel) along with buildings to south, with fruit & juice store, hay & feed store, and citrus packing co.
Tampa Bay Times, Oct. 1919.
Though in 2008 the storefront windows and door were altered on the first story, the building retains its brick exterior with bands of corbelling and masonry window sills. In 2015, we (EBDA) conducted historic research on the building (click here to read report) and in 2016, we hired a consultant to do the district's first official Historic Structure Survey. The survey determined that 900 Central was in “Excellent” condition as an overall historic resource, it appeared to meet both the criteria for National Register listing individually and as part of a district, and it: “Retains much integrity of original historic design, fabric & use. Represents the early era of significant commercial development of the district & hotels that once flourished in the district supporting the local tourism industry.”

Today, the building continues to house many business tenants, including Anytime Fitness on the first floor, and it continues to anchor our district and provide a beautiful example of our early City and district architecture.
ICON Central at 855 Central Avenue, incorporating and preserving the historic Union Trust Bank building at the southwest corner of the development.
Rendering of development proposal to replace 900 Central and 9 MLK–25 MLK buildings with 12-story residential with retail on ground floor.
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