By Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly
The city of Pensacola may be preparing to finalize a longterm lease for its Pitt Slip property, and in doing so wrap up a lingering lawsuit from the Ashton Hayward mayoral era.
“I think at this point we’re very close,” said Mayor Grover Robinson Monday.
Robinson said that the city expects to soon lease the downtown, waterfront property — encompassing the site where the Fish House restaurant is located, as well as the nearby marina — to Seville Harbour Inc., which currently leases the property. The city previously suffered a legal defeat after Seville Harbour filed suit against the city over a lease dispute; the legal loss put the city on the hook for nearly half a million dollars worth of the plaintiff’s legal fees.
Under a proposed lease provided by the city on Monday, the $425,000 in legal fees the city owes to Seville Harbour will be waived in exchange for a 99-year lease and sharing the construction cost of a new breakwater to protect the marina. The city is slated to pay $350,000 on the breakwater construction, which, as per the lease, will run a total minimum of two million dollars and be completed by December 2021.
Mayor Robinson said he viewed the breakwater as a public improvement, as it would protect the marina, which would remain available to the public. He said a breakwater was necessary to protect the infrastructure of the marina.
“Otherwise, what we’ve seen is that people have put dock improvements in there and every time they’ve gotten washed away by whatever storm came in,” Robinson noted.
The mayor said he’s hoping the improvements, and any subsequent developments on the site will help spur overall activity near the waterfront. The lease also specifies that the adjoining Bartram Park shall remain openly accessible to the public.
“Obviously, we’d love to see marine activity there and the opportunity for the people to engage on the waterfront,” Robinson said.
According to the proposed lease, which the Pensacola City Council will be taking a look at next month, the city will lease the Pitt Slip property, as well as the 94-slip marina, for the same rate it’s currently leased for: $46,161 annually, paid in equal monthly installments. That base rate will remain the same for a while, until 2045. From then until 2118, the annual base rent will increase to $96,016.20, again paid in monthly installments. The lease also allows for some Consumer Price Index adjustments beginning in 2050.