Port of Pensacola: Next Big Issue

The future of the Port of Pensacola could be hotly debated this year. Mayor Ashton Hayward has appointed a Port Advisory Committee and City Council President Maren DeWeese is asking the Pensacola City Council to do so also. The makeup of Hayward’s group shows a leaning towards more mixed-use and moving away from the industrial:Blaise Adams – RBC Bank, member of Hayward Transition Team; Debbie Calder – President, Navy Federal Credit Union; Bill Greenhut – President, Greenhut Construction; Rick Harper – Director, UWF Office of Economic Development and Engagement; John Myslak – Suncoast Building Components; and Wes Reeder, attorney

The City Council committee will consist of five members: two from shipping or maritime industry, one city resident, one attorney and one council member.

The future of the Port has been debated for decades.

The most current council policy on the port was amended by resolution August 21, 2010 effective Noon, January 10, 2011

The City of Pensacola believes that waterfront development and the operation of a seaport are compatible land uses and functions.

Therefore, the City of Pensacola shall continue to own and operate a seaport. The City shall manage that seaport as a public service enterprise. The City shall seek diversification of waterside and landside activities of the seaport.

Further the city shall continue to operate a seaport so long as the seaport shall provide:

a) positive area wide economic impact
b) service to water transportation users
c) complementary land use with overall waterfront development
d) be within the public funding capacity of the area

In December 2009, the Pensacola City Council approved a plan by port staff to redevelop the port. The redevelopment plan involved the northern 10 acres of the port can converting it a mixed-use development for retail, restaurants, office space, a hotel/conference center, waterfront boardwalk/trail, a public plaza and a dinner cruise ship dock. The remainder of the 51-acre port would remain mostly industrial, considering the port has some long-term leases too expensive to buy out—the last one expires in about 10 yeas.

The plan came after Councilwoman Diane Mack had proposed in July 2009 to sell the port, which put the city staff into high gear to keep the facility.

Pre-2009 Council – Mayor John Fogg and Council: John Jerralds, Ronald Townsend, PC Wu, Jewel Cannada-Wynn, Mike Wiggins, Mike DeSorbo, Marty Donovan and Jack Nobles. Sam Hall was elected in 2006 to replace J.D. Smith.

In late 2008, the lame duck city council, led by Jack Nobles and Marty Donovan, tried to push through a lease extension for Pate Stevedore Co., for its frozen chicken operations. It eventually passed but only for five years not 12 years.

In December 2005, the city council passed a resolution confirming the port as an seaport enterprise and that any mixed-use would not interfere with the port operations. In February 2005, they had changed the policy to encourage mixed use.

In September 2004, a blue-ribbon committee released its report on the port. Unfortunately it was literally blown away by Hurricane Ivan. The report called for mixed-use.

I look forward to seeing the work of both committees. The debate should be healthy and maybe we can resolve what will be the future of the port and not have to revisit it every other year.