Tonight’s public meeting concerning the opening of Government Street has been cancelled. City officials are apparently still studying the issue.
Travis Peterson, spokesman for Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, said the possibility of connecting Government Street—which currently dead-ends—to Ninth Avenue deserves more fleshing out.
“It’s an issue for which there are a host of different ideas and opinions,” Peterson said. “We decided we wanted to take a little bit harder look at some options.”
Mayor Hayward proposed opening up Government Street to allow for better access to the city’s historic district. A public meeting on the matter had been scheduled for this evening at Pensacola City Hall. That meeting is now off.
Peterson did not elaborate on what exactly city officials would be contemplating as they reassess the situation, other than to say that “new options” would be explored. He also said that the reassessment should not be viewed as related to recent announcements from the University of West Florida that the school intends to focus heavily on its historic district assets and the area’s heritage tourism potential in general, but at the same time city officials would need to take the university’s future ambitions into account when planning for the downtown area.
“Anything that the city does to increase access has to take into account UWF’s plans,” Peterson noted.
When the issue of opening up Government Street came before the Pensacola City Council in March, the board heard from a number of residents that lived along the street in question. They preferred the street to stay closed and complained that the city had not included them during the planning process.
Councilman Brian Spencer initially made a motion to go ahead with the access-opening project, but after hearing concerns from residents he withdrew the motion and presented a substitute motion which sent the plans back to the mayor’s drawing board with the intention that a public meeting be scheduled to gather input on the project. Councilman P.C. Wu—along with other council members—also said the public discontent had played into their decision.
“This was an awfully difficult decision in the beginning,” said Wu. “As I sat here and listened it became easier and easier … That was the trigger that made me completely change my mind.”