Since Don Tristan De Luna first discovered our shores hundreds of years ago, the Pensacola waterfront has been a source of inspiration and opportunity. For centuries, Pensacola’s proximity to the water has supported this community as a military outpost, a commercial and maritime center, and now as a destination for people to live, work, play and learn.
That progress has not been without challenge in the last decade or two, particularly along the waterfront just to the west of the Palafox commercial corridor. From the destruction of the former wastewater treatment plant in 2004, to the struggles of developing the Maritime Park since 2008, much of Pensacola’s west side has been removed from the waterfront – and the rest of Pensacola’s downtown.
But thanks to a community education brought by the CivicCon speaker series and a $500,000-plus investment by businessman Quint Studer, a plan is in the works to change that. And you can be part of that plan.
Studer Properties President Andrew Rothfeder says that the new Master Plan effort is the result of consistent themes from CivicCon speakers who emphasized the importance of communities having a clear plan for their future. The effort is also based on years of watching prospective investors at the Maritime Park fail or be rejected because there was no clear plan for its development.
“Almost every CivicCon speaker, in some way or another, told us that our community needed a plan to govern our future development. They also told us that our communities needed to be connected, walkable, and that our waterfront should be accessible,” said Rothfeder.
“Right now, we have entire neighborhoods separated from the waterfront and from the Palafox area because of these vacant 26 acres in the heart of our downtown. Our goal is for this Master Plan process to create an inclusive, intentional and community-focused guide for how we connect the community, build the tax base, create jobs and add value to the area, all while filling in these missing pieces along Main Street and our waterfront.”
In September of last year, Studer Properties negotiated an 18-month lease option for the vacant Maritime Park parcels, with a rent payment totaling $270k.
In keeping with the lessons of CivicCon, Studer Properties committed to the city that they would retain the best team of experts available to create the development plan for these sites, and committed to share that information and process with the City and citizens at every step of the way.
Included in this world-class team are: Jeff Speck, DPZ, and The Weitzman Group. Speck is a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for more walkable cities. With Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Speck is the co-author of “Suburban Nation,” which the Wall Street Journal calls “the urbanist’s bible.”
DPZ is a leader in form-based planning, urban design, coding and architecture with over 350 projects for new and existing communities across the world. Under the direction of Marina Khoury, DPZ has received worldwide acclaim for their ability to create actionable plans that can be implemented quickly.
The Weitzman Group is a nationally-known real estate advisory firm. Weitzman Principal Peter Bazeli will be conducting market research for the project, as well as a marketability study to determine what type of projects and uses would be most successful.
The Master Plan process will unfold in two general phases – a research phase and a design phase.
Bazeli has made a few trips to Pensacola already to conduct his research, with more to come in the future. While he is doing this, Speck and DPZ will be collecting data and evaluating the sites and surrounding areas.
To ensure that the community has the opportunity to give input, feedback, and to follow the process of creating the plan, the design team will hold two public meetings to share their process and hear suggestions. The first public events will be held on April 9 and 11, times and location yet to be determined.
“This waterfront and the Main Street corridor are such an important part of the history – and the future – of our city,” said Rothfeder. “Having the opportunity to work with the leading experts in the country to literally plan the next few decades of this downtown area is an incredible opportunity and responsibility, and we look forward to the community helping to design that future.”
Once the research and public input portion is complete, all of these findings will be used to create their plan. Speck and DPZ will develop early drafts of the plan, and will refine them throughout a week of intensive meetings here in Pensacola. We expect the final plan to be delivered this summer.
Meet the Team
Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for more walkable cities. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he presided over the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design. Prior to his federal appointment, Mr. Speck spent ten years as Director of Town Planning at DPZ & Co., the principal firm behind the New Urbanism movement. Since 2007, he has led Speck & Associates, a private design consultancy serving public officials and the real estate industry. With Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Mr. Speck is the co-author of Suburban Nation, which the Wall Street Journal calls “the urbanist’s bible.”
Marina Khoury is an expert in sustainable urban redevelopment, regional planning, transit-oriented developments, affordable housing and form-based codes. As a partner at DPZ Partners, she has been Director of its Washington D.C. office since 2007. A licensed architect and fluent in several languages, Khoury has worked on the design and implementation of projects in the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East including ground-breaking new codes around the world that mandate resilient urbanism. She speaks globally widely on issues related to Smart Growth and affordable, sustainable, and walkable communities.
Peter Bazeli is the Principal and Managing Director of Weitzman Associates, LLC, a leading national real estate development consulting and market research firm. Peter is one of the foremost experts in the country on market studies and market analysis. He joined Weitzman in 2004, and has since consulted on real estate assets and new developments valued at well over $50 billion. Peter has been actively consulting on new development initiatives in Pensacola since 2012, including Southtowne, where he performed the original market research to document the market support for the Southtowne apartments and retail space.