West Main Master Plan Chooses Developers

Press release: PENSACOLA, Fla. (August 5, 2020) — The owners of the Maritime and ECUA parcels in downtown Pensacola have chosen the three development teams that have been tasked with bringing the vision of the West Main Master Plan to life.

The City of Pensacola and Quint and Rishy Studer recently received the recommendations of an independent 8-person selection committee that was assembled to review the proposals. Of the six finalists, the committee recommended three teams to the City and the Studers that they believed would accomplish the goals and realize the original vision of the West Main Master Plan project. These teams are listed below:

The Dawson Company & EJ Smith Enterprises, LLC
Edwards Communities Development Company & Silver Hills
Valencia Hotel Group

As recommended by the West Main Master Plan created by DPZ Design and Speck and Associates in 2019, these developers’ plans include various residential and mixed-use developments.

The master developer of the site is a team made up of Emmitt Smith’s EJ Smith Enterprises and The Dawson Company, who was the development manager for Southtowne Apartments in downtown Pensacola and is currently developing Inspire Apartments across from Navy Federal Campus on Nine Mile Road. The Smith-Dawson team plans to build a mixed-use development that includes a range of residential units, community amenities, retail and entertainment space, a hotel, daycare facilities and ample parking to sustain those entities.

Edwards Communities Development Company & Silver Hills proposed a four to five story mixed-use project consisting of apartments, retail and a shared-use parking garage. Currently, Silver Hills has a $1.3 billion commercial real-estate portfolio that includes multifamily, office, and retail properties. The Edwards Companies is widely recognized for its creative approach to addressing the myriad challenges in real estate development and construction, and has built more than 50,000 residential housing units since 1959.

There will also be an “upper upscale” hotel coming to the former ECUA site, thanks to Valencia Hotel Group. The only area hotels with the “upper upscale” designation are the Hilton Pensacola Beach and the Margaritaville Beach Hotel. The Isabella Court Hotel will weave elements of Pensacola’s architectural and cultural history into its design.

Now that the Review Panel has made its developer recommendations, City staff and Studer Properties will work together with the 3 developers to negotiate formal development agreements.

These agreements contain the business terms under which the developers can perform their due diligence, design their projects, and begin to develop their properties.

The journey to today began 15 years ago when voters approved a referendum to develop the former Trillium property along Pensascola’s waterfront. Over the next few years, the site would see significant development including Blue Wahoos Stadium and Maritime Place, but the original vision of private development of the nine remaining acres was never realized.

After acquiring the former ECUA site in 2015, the Studers funded a marketability study and master plan that would create a roadmap for a successful activation of this prime, bayfront property. A master plan would also provide predictability for potential developers, while eliminating the question of what will be built next door or across the street. In 2018, Studer’s company, Studer Properties, was awarded a lease option agreement to develop a master plan for the remaining seven parcels in the park.

In 2019, Studer Properties hired DPZ Design and Speck and Associates to develop a master plan for both the former ECUA site and the maritime parcels. The plan included an in-depth marketability study for the parcels conducted by Weitzman Associates, outlining the types of residential, commercial, hotel and retail uses that would be successful there. More than 400 people participated in the week-long charrette, which resulted in the West Main Master Plan, eventually adopted by the City Council at the end of 2019.

The 8-person selection committee that made the developer recommendations to the City and the Studers included Tia Robbins, Mort O’Sullivan, Marina Khoury, Pastor Lonnie Wesley, Jeff Carrico, Michelle Snow, former mayor Ashton Hayward, and Andrew Rothfeder.