Article By: Jim Little
Pensacola residents want the city to have a port, but the question remains whether it will remain a traditional port or become focused on marine research.
Moffatt & Nichol, an international infrastructure advisory firm hired by the city to chart the future of the Port of Pensacola, presented three “concepts” of what the future port could look like this week, based on a citizen survey conducted in June and case studies of similar ports.
Scott Lagueux, director of waterfront planning for Moffatt & Nichol, made two presentations Monday night and Tuesday to present the survey results and the future concepts of the port.
A survey put out by the firm after its first round of meetings in June had 655 people participate, with 53 percent of the responses coming from a City of Pensacola ZIP code.
The survey showed 53 percent of people thought the port is a regional asset or a tool for economic growth, while 22 percent thought the port’s “best days had passed.”
Lagueux said Moffatt & Nichol first began the study looking at three possible options for the port: a “balanced” approach giving equal focus to downtown, the port and the rest of the waterfront; an “unbalanced but complementary” approach that retained some of the port’s functions but found new uses for the remainder of the space; or “dissolving” the port as it exists today to allow the port to “morph into part of the broader downtown and waterfront.”
But after the first round of meetings and the survey, Lagueux said the dissolve option is out.
“There isn’t really a scenario where there is no port,” Lagueux said Tuesday.
The first of the three concepts developed by the firm have the port essentially remaining as it is today with the security gate moved farther south, the addition of a dry marina boat storage area; a parcel reserve for a potential site for the Gulf Coast Environmental Center and Fish Hatchery, which will no longer be built at Bruce Beach; and two current port buildings becoming marine research buildings.
The second concept makes more of the port property open to the public with the creation of a “campus” for businesses and research buildings and adds a commercial area west of the railroad track leading into the port.
The third concept opens the most land to the public with more commercial space, research and education buildings. It also adds a new access road to the port with a bridge connecting the east part of the port to Alcaniz Street.
All three concepts also call for the creation of a parking garage outside of the port property south of East Cedar Street between Commendencia and Jefferson streets.
Lagueux said the concepts are broad ideas, and after the survey, his firm will develop a more detailed plan that he hopes the city can use as a “playbook” for future development at the port.
Moffit and Nichol will have an open house Wednesday at Pensacola City Hall beginning at 1 p.m. with a two-hour presentation on the concepts at 5 p.m.
The company is also conducting another survey on the three concepts at the project’s website, PortsidePensacola.com.
A final proposal will be presented to the Pensacola City Council in October.