Saturday, February 28, 2009

CRA Plan update

The Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is undertaking a comprehensive master plan update. The CRA is a special district from 17th Av to A St, Cervantes to the waterfront. On Thursday the consultants working on the plan had a kick off, highlighting the process they will undertake and some initial observations. For two days they met with various groups including neighborhood associations, business owners in the CRA, and various governmental entities to begin understanding where we are and where we can go.

Scope of Work
This study will focus on the CRA area. In recent years we have had multiple studies for portions of this area. These include the Historic District Master Plan (Gindroz study), the Belmont DeVilliers plan, a residential market plan, and a retail market analysis. The consultants will include elements of these studies as well as their own observations to plan for the entire CRA. They will focus primarily on the waterfront west of Palafox Street and a few other urban infill demonstration areas. This plan will also address the site of the existing sewage treatment plant, which will be moved by the end of 2010.

The Process
This set of meetings was the lead trip, part of the first phase of the process. Over the next month, the team will review existing plans, analyze the real estate market, and gather as much information as possible to set the stage. The next phase will be a design workshop where they will work on overarching ideas. During this phase they will hold a series of public design workshops, and they will present a preliminary concept plan. After that, they will spend several weeks refining the plan to create specific recommendations, and, finally, they will present a final report in the fall.

The team
The plan is being created by a strong team, headed by Looney Ricks Kiss. They are supported by RKG Associates, Kubilins Transportation Group, Engineering and Planning Resources [local woman owned business], Wolf Riddle and Associates [local minority owned business], and EDSA (Waterfront Design).

Initial observations
Like many other urban planners, this team was very impressed with the assets we have in Pensacola, notably our wonderful waterfront and our strong sense of history. They were particularly surprised by the presence of the 5 main types of art organizations (ballet, theater, opera, symphony, and museum) and the support they receive. Too bad they had to leave Friday morning--they missed a great show at the Little Theater, Death of a Salesman. My husband and I were again amazed by the great talent we have in Pensacola. They still have tickets for this weekend and next....

They also sensed some weaknesses that they will address in their plans. Those weaknesses probably led to the homework they issued us as a community:
  • Go to work a different way.
  • Walk along the waterfront.
  • Ride a bike downtown.
  • Visit downtown for the day with no set agenda (no event to attend).
Perhaps if we all try those items, we will be able to come up with some great suggestions and ideas for the team when they return in a few weeks for the public design workshops. I will post the information about these as soon as I can so you can plan on participating. Also, feel free to contact me with any particular ideas you'd like to share with the design team.