Hayward on Downtown, MURAC

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.”