Nine years ago, we published our vision for downtown Pensacola in what we called our “ballsy plan.” It included a downtown baseball park, an entertainment district, new public library, a public plaza at the foot of Palafox Street, a marine research center, the removal of the Main Street Sewage Treatment Plant and corporate offices on the Trillium property.
There were a few other ideas, such as a maritime museum, a hotel and retail center on south Ninth Avenue and a residential development on the Port of Pensacola property, that didn’t get far, but the others did.
In 2008, we saw how the University of South Alabama was starting its own football program in Mobile, Ala. and thought why couldn’t the University of West Florida do the same thing. We joked that the games could be played at Community Maritime Park stadium. Last month, UWF President Judy Bense announced just that.
Now, we weren’t exactly perfect in our football prediction because we said the team’s first coach would be Mike Price, the former Alabama head coach fired after ordering room service for a Pensacola stripper with his university credit card, and the team’s first home game would be against Notre Dame.
We don’t claim to have special powers into seeing the future. There was a certain amount of luck in making these predictions, but logic also played a role. Each of these made sense for Pensacola. Some had been discussed for years and just needed a little push from us.
Life was somewhat simpler in 2004. Downtown Pensacola had so many needs and people were beginning to see the potential for its renaissance.
The next steps for Pensacola aren’t that easy. We must deal with our poverty, failing public education and lack of job opportunity. Racism is at the heart of many of these problems, but the bigger issue is none of these have simple solutions. They have developed over years and generations and will not be solved by one program, a building or ad campaign.
That’s why we haven’t published another “ballsy plan” since August 2011. These problems take multi-faceted approaches that can’t be outlined in a simple list. The solutions must involve our city and county governments, school board, law enforcement, chambers, non-profits and faith-based communities.
We need focus and coordination of efforts. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel in dealing with these issues, but we must find the best practices that are working elsewhere and adhere to them consistently.
And we must elect people willing to tackle them, which could be the hardest step of all.