The Milton City Council unanimously passed the first readings of two ordinances on Tuesday night that will pave the way for the old Berryhill Elementary School to be turned into apartments geared toward military personnel.
The ordinances, which change the land use and amend the comprehensive plan for the city, will allow the 3-acre property in downtown Milton to be rezoned from single-family residential to multi-family residential.
The ordinances need to be passed at a second reading at the council’s Dec. 8 meeting to become effective.
The City Council so far has voiced support for the plan to convert the dilapidated building into new studio apartments, saying it would help breathe life into the downtown area while providing housing support for military personnel stationed at nearby Whiting Field.
“A diversity in housing actually makes housing more affordable and available to people,” said Councilwoman Shannon Rice, who represents the downtown ward where the Berryhill building is located. “It makes it more affordable to a larger portion of the population.”
More about the project: Old Berryhill school in downtown Milton could be revitalized into apartments for military students
Pensacola-area developer Rob Fabbro of Whitesell-Green Inc. purchased the property for $125,000 in March and wants to turn the building into studio apartments that would rent for $1,100 to $1,500 per month. The building was constructed in 1935 but has sat abandoned since 2018.
If the ordinances pass again at a second reading in December, that will clear a major hurdle for Fabbro to begin applying for permits and drawing more finite plans for the development.
Fabbro and his development team will present a more comprehensive development plan to the Milton planning board at its Nov. 17 meeting.
The studio apartments would be marketed toward Naval Air Station Whiting Field students, whose housing options in Santa Rosa County are currently limited. Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay, who said she has a sentimental connection to the old Berryhill school because she attended kindergarten through second grade there, has some concerns about the pricing of the apartments, but said she looks forward to learning more about the project.
“I don’t know how affordable the units will be, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about the overall development,” Lindsay said. “I’m also interested in how much of the Berryhill school facade he (the developer, Fabbro) can preserve.”