Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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Outtakes—Maybe This Time

By Rick Outzen

On June 17, SCAPE Landscape Architecture will present its plan for Pensacola’s waterfront at 6 p.m. in the Rex Theatre. The landscape architecture firm has checked the boxes for involving the public in the process, holding town hall meetings and interviewing elected officials and community leaders over the past five months.

In April, SCAPE revealed the proposed framework of its waterfront plan while explaining the reasoning behind its components. The project managers presented a vision that included many of the ideas that we heard from CivicCon speakers that would help connect Pensacola Bay with everyday residents and visitors, such as community plazas and streets with sidewalks, trees and bike lanes.

The firm also suggested two catalytic projects that we could undertake in the short term to create significant change—improving Bruce Beach and creating a “Hashtag connecter” at Palafox and Main streets.

The presentation created a great deal of excitement, and I’m sure the theatre will be packed when the final report is presented. But what will city leaders do with it once it’s handed over to them?

In 2004, the Strategic Business Analysis and Port Advisory Committee, chaired by former Mayor Jerry Maygarden, recommended more mixed-use at the port, no extension of industrial leases, the creation of “Heritage Harbor that would tie into the UWF’s Historic Pensacola Village” and the development of a master plan for other development at the port.

I’ll attach the report to the online version of this column. It’s impressive, but nothing was done with it.

The following year, the city held a series of town hall meetings about how to redevelop the west side of Pensacola. The West Side Neighborhood Plan called for the creation of West Side Neighborhood Town Center. The plan also called for a new elementary school, supermarket and public library to be built on Cervantes Street.

That plan also sits on a shelf at city hall. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas chose to build Global Learning Academy in a valley by his headquarters, and West Cervantes Street has become a death trap for cyclists and pedestrians. The grocery store is a Dollar General.

In 2010, the Pensacola City Council approved a two-volume Urban Core Community Redevelopment (CRA) Plan that detailed a mixed-use project for Bruce Beach that would preserve the beach, connect it with the rest of the city’s waterfront, provide access to the water and create residential and commercial development along Main Street. A year after the report was released, then-Mayor Ashton Hayward proposed the city lease the land for a fish hatchery. Fortunately, citizens fought the project and won.

Maybe this time the SCAPE report will get a better reception from city hall than previous city plans. Maybe.

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Links to Past Reports

Strategic Business Analysis and Port Advisory – 2004

West Pensacola Neighborhood Study – 2005

Urban Core CRA Plan – 2010