Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Outtakes—Fix The Wheel

By Rick Outzen

Pensacola continues to boom. The downtown YMCA, Daily Convo apartments, and Holiday Inn Express are all under construction. The renovation of the Brent and Blount buildings is underway, and McMahon-Hadder Insurance has moved into its new digs. Bubba’s Sweat Spot should open soon in the SoGo district.

A new Publix on Cervantes Street is under construction and should be completed by the end of the year. The former Landry’s Seafood on Bayfront Parkway is being remodeled as a Saltgrass Steakhouse, and two new restaurants, Longhorn Steakhouse and BJ’s Brewhouse, have opened in stand-alone buildings at Cordova Mall.

Baptist Health Care broke ground near Pensacola’s airport on a $6-million medical park. Sacred Heart held a groundbreaking on The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, estimated cost $125 million.

That’s the good news for the first half of 2016.

The wobbly wheel on the economic “shopping cart” continues to be Pensacola City Hall, where the biggest accomplishments this year appear to be hosting food trucks in the parking lot and six EV charging stations installed at Pensacola International Airport.

The construction of the VT-MAE hangar at the airport and the DeepFlex facility at the Port of Pensacola are both on hold. The fish hatchery is slowly plodding along and has stalled development on the west side of Pensacola as developers try to figure its potential impact on housing and businesses in nearby neighborhoods. City Administrator Eric Olson didn’t mention any of these projects in his June report to the Pensacola City Council.

The Community Maritime Park has no takers for its eight remaining parcels. A year ago, the Studers and the University of West Florida wanted to build the UWF Center for Entrepreneurship and a conference center at the park, but Mayor Hayward and Council President Andy Terhaar rejected the lease approved by the CMPA board.

Since January, the biggest news story has been the firing of Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover after a three-month investigation, at a cost of $65,000. The citizens didn’t learn of the charges being investigated and the report’s findings until after the mayor made his decision to terminate the two men. Mayor Hayward has yet to explain the report and his decision to the public.

The public is happy with the revitalization of Pensacola but is puzzled at the steady stream of operational miscues coming from city hall. If Mayor Hayward can fix his administration’s “wobbly wheel,” the city’s renaissance could be even greater for the second half of 2016.