MILTON — The Santa Rosa County courthouse has been a fixture of downtown Milton since 1927. Yet after 20-plus years of attempting to maintain the aging structure, the county decided two years ago to build a new courthouse on Avalon Boulevard.
Now officials are considering what to do with the old courthouse, which includes either demolishing or restoring the current building.
Youth recreation, an outdoor communal space and a retail business center were the three broad categories locals said the historic property should serve.
“I’d like to see the old courthouse torn down and in its place a green space with public restrooms," Blackwater Bistro manager Glenn Hill said. "We have continued to expand the green space park through the Riverfront Redevelopment team. ... The deal is if we keep any portion of the old building, it is going to be a burden to someone on the tax rolls no matter who carries it."
Mickey Rij, owner of Santa Rosa Jewelers, echoed Hill’s thoughts of a communal space with public facilities.
“I’d like to see something oriented around families, kids,” he said, “something to make people come downtown.”
Doc’s Package Liquors co-owner Mary Lou Maloney said, “It’ll be nice if we brought some life to Milton. It’s such a ghost town.”
Maloney said he would like to see a business there that would employ youth, as well as an easier approval process for new businesses.
“The city council steps on a lot of toes,” she said. “It makes it difficult for a business to open.”
Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay did not offer a suggestion for the space, deferring instead to the county and the public.
“The future use of the (old) courthouse is up to the county commissioners,” she said in an email. “I hope they will solicit input from the public and from the city as they consider alternatives. I trust they will work in a collaborative fashion with the city of Milton as changes are made.”
Ashley Jernigan, co-owner of Honeycomb Hair Design, did not have a specific idea for what should occupy the space.
“I just want what’s best for Milton,” she said.
Followers of the Press Gazette’s Facebook page left 38 comments on the column, “Make history at the old courthouse.”
Chris Helms suggested an “outside mall.”
Tammie Helton said, “public restrooms needed somewhere in this new plan.”
Kim Fagan echoed Helms’ suggestion in 200-plus words starting with a “storefront … in a circle around a fountain.”
Robbie Leggett said the county should “incorporate the historic building, while giving it a modern update.”
A number of comments received multiple positive reactions, but Felicia-Phillip Smith received seven, which ended with “If you want business and commerce, then get rid of the old and bring in the new!”