This spring, Justin Beck slipped into the hot seat. Maybe the hottest seat in town. The seat that had weeks earlier collapsed under the weight of the YMCA.
The president of Beck Property Company, LLC, was looking to move his family’s real estate operations to downtown Pensacola. He started eyeing parcel one at the Community Maritime Park—arguably one of the most cherry plots of land in town.
To be sure, Beck was warned. Friends and associates advised against the park property. They had watched the YMCA-meltdown and feared the realtor would suffer the same fate.
Such warnings only served to whet Beck’s appetite.
“Made me want to go after it,” he explained, “see if we could make something happen.”
Properties at the Community Maritime Park are a perilous prize. In order to secure one of the park parcels—clustered around the Blue Wahoos stadium and meant to collectively serve as a sort of centerpiece for downtown Pensacola—prospective projects must traverse a treacherous path lined with bureaucratic booby traps and plenty of opportunities for public floggings.
The YMCA had hoped to land a new, state-of-the-art facility on one of the park’s waterfront parcels. After getting snared in the process—languishing in the crossfire of the Community Maritime Park Associates, the Pensacola City Council and Mayor Ashton Hayward’s administration—the Y reluctantly walked away.
Into this landscape stepped Beck. And with surprisingly little drama, it appears the property company will most likely be claiming parcel one. There are plans to construct an 18,000-square foot, three-floor development; the project will be mixed-use, encompassing retail on the first floor, office space for Beck’s company on the second floor, and residential units on the top floor.
Beck’s success at the park has garnered the 31-year-old father of three a good bit of attention lately. He is getting a reputation as the tip of his generation’s spear.
Beck tends to view his success as part of a bigger movement. He feels that Pensacola as a whole is in the process—perhaps at the climax—of its renaissance.
“I think we are taking off,” Beck said. “I think you’ll look back in five years and say, ‘Wow, 2012, 2013, that’s when we really started to kick it into high gear.”
The area is certainly much different than it was when Beck returned home to join the family business after Hurricane Ivan. That revitalization—much of it centered in downtown—is in some part due to the drive of the younger generation.
Beck likes to think it’s also due to his generation’s attitude and outlook. He believes his contemporaries are shedding the us-versus-them, I-win-you-lose mentality.
“We’re much more collaborative then we’ve seen in the past,” Beck explained.
Such a collaborative spirit will be useful as his generation searches for solutions amidst a field of problems. For example, is the city’s stock of vacant properties a problem or opportunity?
“These are good problems to have,” Beck explained.