Milton clears first hurdle toward renovation of old Berryhill school

Annie Blanks, Pensacola News Journal
Published 6:00 a.m. CT Nov. 11, 2020

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Robert Fabbro, president of Whitesell-Green Inc., stands in the auditorium that may be converted into a common area while talking about plans for the old Berryhill School in Milton on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. His company plans on converting the building into studio apartments with military personnel stationed at Whiting Field in mind. (Photo: Gregg Pachkowski/[email protected])

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 three-acre property in downtown Milton to be rezoned from single-family residential to multi-family residential. The ordinances need need to be passed at a second reading at the council’s Dec. 8 meeting to become effective. 

The city council has so far 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 of 2020 and wants to turn the building, which was first constructed in 1935 but has sat abandoned since 2018, into studio apartments that would cost between $1,100 and $1,500.

If the ordinances pass again at a second reading in December, that will clear a major hurdle for Fabbro to be able 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 their 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 since 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,” she said. “I’m also interested in how much of the Berryhill school facade he (the developer, Fabbro) can preserve.” 

The next Milton City Council meeting will take place Nov. 30.

Annie Blanks can be reached at 850-480-6403 or at [email protected]  

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