News Pensacola Politics

Hayward on Downtown, MURAC

December 7, 2012

Mayor Ashton Hayward said this morning during a windblown press conference at Pensacola’s Plaza De Luna, that the city’s downtown core was vital to the entire municipalities’ overall success.

“A dead downtown means a dead city,” Hayward addressed a crowd of around 50 people at the bay-front park.

The mayor scheduled the press conference to speak about the recently released report from the Mayor’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee (MURAC). The committee was formed early this year and tasked with providing Hayward with recommendations for growing the downtown area.

“Our process,” said committee Chairman Brian Hooper, “was thorough, deliberate, open. It was fair, it was lengthy—we did our homework.”

The advisory committee recently outlined more than 75 recommendations concerning downtown. Hayward today called some of the recommendations “common sense suggestions” and he said others would require further consideration.

The MURAC committee has recommended the city do such things as make downtown more pedestrian friendly, and better utilizing currently vacant public parcels of land. It has stressed the need for more affordable housing and jobs.

Hayward called the report “strong” and said he would be considering which recommendations to move forward in an effort to continue downtown’s growth. The mayor said area was currently “at a tipping point.”

“Downtown is thriving,” he said, “but I believe this is the beginning, not the end.”

One notable recommendation contained within the MURAC report is the overhaul of the Downtown Improvement Board. The committee has suggested the DIB—which currently has a staff, including an executive director, as well as other overhead costs—be whittled down to a clerical position contained within the mayor’s office.

“Any decision at this point is premature,” Hayward said of that recommendation.

The mayor did note that the community needed to “rally around a common goal” and that government must “do more with less” due to the current economic climate— “I think in 2008, everyone got hit upside the head with the economy.”

Hayward said he expected the city would begin acting on some of the advisory committee’s recommendations within the next quarter. He did not specify which recommendations.

After the press conference, Pensacola City Councilman Brian Spencer said that the mayor’s advisory committee’s report was “an abundant amount of material to study.” Spencer is also currently head of the Community Redevelopment Agency, the boarders of which encompass downtown.

“Most importantly,” he said, “they have provided an action list.”

  • RT December 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    simplestuff, I detect some hostility, which seems a bit over-reaching. There is, I think, a difference between (1) aiming high or low, and (2) being realistic. Realists are slightly cynical pragmatists (e.g., yours truly), and idealistic dreamers who aim high are–well, they are often unrealistic, idealistic dreamers. Nevertheless, I wish good luck to everyone who seeks to make Pensacola a magnet for history-loving tourists. Perhaps, though, there are higher priorities in the strategies for revitalizing downtown Pensacola, and I think city planners and managers need to remain realistic and pragmatic in devising and implementing strategies that involve low-risk and high-return.

  • Simple stuff December 9, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    Certainly RT – set your sights low and you get what you play for. Carry on my friend.

  • RT December 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    But, simplestuff, this ain’t Williamsburg, Charleston, or St. Augustine. Sure, there are some things and places with historical significance, but those folks who want to make Pensacola a tourist magnet based on historical connections are almost certainly under the influence of whatever substances cause the condition known by psychiatrists as “delusions of grandeur.” Sometimes a sow’s ear is simply as sow’s ear, and wishing it were a silk purse is just wishful thinking.

  • simple stuff December 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Amen RT. Did you know that there are at least historic boards/groups operating in the city? Each has a little piece (with the exception of WFHP, Inc) of our historic assets, its own board, staff, etc. Might make sense for some consolidation there and then maybe we can bring our historic district up to par with Williamsburg, Charleston and St. Augustine.

  • RT December 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Here is a thought: one of the problems with local government is the proliferation of alphabet soup boards, committees, and agencies. The larger and more diffused the bureaucracy, the less efficient and more opaque it becomes.

  • whoopee December 9, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    whoa there Rick – the biggest weight around the CRA’s neck is the CMP debt service and other associated expenses. The $19 million blank check to ECUA sure does not help either. All of that is water under the bridge. Will be interesting to see what the Board of the CRA has to say about the redevelopment of the urban core. Any new projects will require a private sector partner with deep pockets who has the intestinal fortitude for the politics of Pensacola. Good luck!

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