Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward is discussing improving downtown parking and the need for workforce housing. Both ideas were part of Inweekly’s Ballsy Plan II, which was published in May 2005.
The message of our Ballsy plans was the status quo was no longer an option. The prior year we published our first such plan that included a downtown ball park, a Deluna Park on site of old Bayfront Auditorium, Amphitheater and Corporate Center on Trillium property, and new downtown library.
Sort sounds familiar, right?
In 2005, we hatched Ballsy Plan 2 over Coronas at New York Nick’s. The 10 recommendations reemphasized some unique Ballsy Plan 1 ideas, recommended some new cutting-edge urban plans and offered up some ideas outside of downtown development that we felt needed to be done to jolt Pensacola out of its daze and into action for the future.
Here is what we wrote about parking and affordable housing 11 years ago:
DOWNTOWN PARKING GARAGES Downtown Pensacola is littered with blocks and blocks of flat parking lots, which are basically wastelands. Still, people who work or regularly come downtown can spend hours each week hunting for a parking space.
We suggest a series of parking garages built to allow retail and office spaces on the street level and to store vehicles behind them or on levels above them. Some of the public parking garages would need to go up on currently private land. The city should buy the property and give the former owners a fixed number of parking spots for their tenants.
The Independent News’ Ballsy Plan 2 calls for five garages. Surrounding businesses with huge, ugly, flat parking lots would be encouraged to redevelop them into residential, commercial or office space or some other better use. In return, they would be allowed to use the nearest public parking garages. Many of the following innovative ideas are dependent on adding more parking with the garages and shedding downtown of the many wastelands, known as parking lots.
AFFORDABLE DOWNTOWN HOUSING Housing developers have rediscovered downtown. Unfortunately, the condominiums being built start at $325,000. That might be slightly out of reach for the average Northwest Floridian. After talking it over with Charleston, S.C., Strong Mayor Joe Riley, the Ballsy Plan 2 calls for housing in the $80,000 to $175,000 range that the first-time buyer or younger folks and families can attain.
Affordable housing will be built if the city leaders set aside some of its vast public property holdings downtown or buy other sites. Then, the city can solicit bids to build townhomes, condos, apartments or houses.
If the almighty city powers accept parking garage proposal, then two likely places for affordable housing are the blocks on Intendencia and Reus streets, which is currently parking for City Hall and the Chappie James government building; and behind City Hall along Government Street.
Another flat, waste-of-space parking lot—used by the federal courthouse and AmSouth Bank—that Independent News urban planners would like to see become housing exists at the corner of Gregory and Palafox streets.
Obviously, we were ahead of our time. Read the entire Ballsy Plan 2.