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Floating homes: unique new housing concept proposed in Pensacola

Floating homes: unique new housing concept proposed in Pensacola. (Source: WEAR-TV)

Destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, Seville Harbor and Marina has stood vacant since 2004.

A unique business opportunity could soon change that, bringing with it a new housing concept to Pensacola.

The concept? Floating houses - available for rent.

The man behind the plan, Ray Russenberger, wants to build 47 units. He estimates rent would cost around $1500-$1600 per month.

"Hopefully it's going to be a vibrant marina community," said Russenberger.

Tied into the city's water and sewage systems, the floating homes would be different from houseboats.

"You don't have detergent going into the water, from people washing their boats down, you don't have the potential for a diesel spill, or one of them sinking," said Russenberger.

They would be the first floating houses in the area. Russenberger already has a floating office, located at the Palafox Pier and Yacht Harbour Marina. He says the homes would be similar, but slightly larger.

"They're about 650 to 700 square feet each," said Russenberger. "They're single-story, so they could be a large one-bedroom, or you could have a small office or a second bedroom."

Collier Merrill owns The Fish House and Atlas restaurants which overlook the harbor. He is on board with the floating house concept and says if it is approved, it could lead to major economic impacts.

"It just makes it a great area for all of Pensacola, it would be more of a tourist area, people will come down here, we'll still have transient slips for boats to pull up, come in and enjoy the waterfront, enjoy going downtown," said Merrill. "We're right in the middle of the Historic District, so we look forward to getting that activated again."

So, what is the hold up?

"We have the permit in hand," said Russenberger. "What we don't have in hand right now is the not in hand is the city council's approval."

Currently, Russenberger leases the land from the city. Right now, there is an ordinance in Pensacola that does not allow the sale of city owned property south of Main Street - except under special circumstances.

A declaration to be brought up Thursday at the city council meeting, recommends Seville Harbor become one of those special circumstances. District 3 Councilman, Andy Terhaar is sponsoring the declaration.

Russenberger is hopeful the rest of the board, can see the potential of the floating homes.

"It just adds to more people that are spending their money in and around downtown, which I think is a wonderful thing," said Russenberger.

If the city approves the plan, the next step Russenberger says is to build a breakwater to protect the harbor.

Russenberger estimates the breakwater will cost about $1.2 million. Due to the permit, construction would not begin until the beginning of next year.

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