Monday, January 4, 2010

Maritime Park planning

The Community Maritime Park promises to be the single greatest legacy not just of this City Council but also of the civic-minded people living and working in Pensacola today. By developing this waterfront site, we have the unique opportunity to determine the shape of downtown Pensacola and the image of our community for many years to come. I am proud to serve as the council representative on the CMPA board.

The project recently passed a big milestone. The vast majority of our citizens indicated their support on moving forward by not participating in the petition drive. Bonds to underwrite the project were sold. We are now in a position to really push this project forward. And progress does continue to be made, with site work and planning.

When the concept of the Maritime Park was presented to the community, it was based on broad sketches that outlined a concept of the park. Ray Gindroz and Caldwell Associates developed the design criteria. The voters ratified the concept in a referendum. And many of us are eager to see this dream happen.

Having lived two blocks from Fenway Park in Boston, I can’t wait to take my kids to a ball game in the new stadium. And I look forward to Saturday afternoons with the kids at the maritime museum. I imagine the waterfront park could be a great place to fly kites. But I want it to happen while my kids are still kids….

But a good project will take time. Some of the most celebrated redevelopment projects in the country took many years. Fanueil Hall in Boston took 8 years to develop. Horton Plaza in San Diego opened 13 years after the City Council approved the original plan. Redevelopment of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor began in 1959, with Camden Yards stadium opening in 1998. And the plans for each of these projects changed on a regular basis, as the economy and participants shifted over time. We must remember that we are shaping one of this community’s most unique and valuable resources—the downtown waterfront—and we must do all that we can to ensure the long-term success of the design as well as economic viability of the project.

The overall price tag, the scale of the project, and the number of diverse groups with different interests working together as a team (the City, the CMPA board, UWF, the Studer Group, the Pelicans, the developer) make this project complex.

Recent CMPA meetings have focused on determining details of the site plan. At each stage of this project we have refined the plans, and we will continue to refine smaller and smaller details as we move forward. Now is the time in the project where we must finalize details such as where the roads and the building pads go, the site plan, etc. While the roads likely won’t move, we should still expect adjustments throughout this project, so this is not the last discussion on the site plan.

The discussions at this point are not a delay, and they are not covering things that have been decided before. Rather, they are the necessary refinements that must be made to make this a buildable, successful project.

At this point the various stakeholders are developing and refining their visions for site plans of their individual elements. And that is important. However, this project is more than the sum of its parts. We have come together as a team because we want to be part of and contribute to an exciting destination planned for the downtown waterfront as an asset to improve Pensacola. The success of each will be dependent on the success of the project as a whole.

I am eager to finalize the site plan so that this entire project can move forward and each member of the team can focus more on what they do best. The question we must ask ourselves as we look at the site plan is not what have we given up, but whether each element in the park will be successful in that plan. Can the individual and collective goals be met?

Recently many of the people involved in this project have been coming together to try and answer that question. I believe that the answer to that question can be yes, but only if we all remember that we are part of a team with a common, overarching goal. My hope is that in the next few weeks we will have a final site plan that embodies both the individual and collective goals of all participants in this project, particularly the goals of the citizens of Pensacola.

Many years from now the buildings we are currently dreaming of will still stand as a monument of our vision and perseverance. That is why it is critical that we work together and invest the extra time right now in fully vetting the site plan, so that this is a proud legacy for this generation of Pensacolians.