At the Committee of the Whole on Thursday, Feb. 11, Escambia County Commission Chairman Robert Bender introduced a new compromise that DPZ CoDesign had drawn for Outlying Landing Field 8 (OLF-8).
“After last week’s discussion, I decided to try and pull together some stakeholders that were part of the overall master plan,” opened Commission Chairman Robert Bender. “So yesterday morning, I asked for Navy Federal, who was represented by Keith Hoskins, DPZ, and then FloridaWest with Scott Luth and the PEDC chair, Lewis Bear.”
He continued, “We had a meeting to discuss the plan that was presented last Thursday and how we could move forward. I think we were able to have a good discussion. I think some of the why things were where they were, and we got to hear from everybody involved.”
The chairman apologized for discussing the new layout for OLF-8 without much notice and praised DPZ for working up until minutes before the COW to get the ideas on a slide for the board to review.
“This is literally fresh off the press,” said Bender. “This is based on the hybrid plan that was discussed last week, but it also lays out some timelines, some phases to give a better understanding of how not just we proceed forward but how the site would move forward.”
Bender described the plan displayed on the chamber’s screen.
- “I want to start off with we have just over a hundred acres that are towards the mixed-used center and some residential (108 acres, 25.4% of developable land).”
- “One of the things that we thought would be beneficial was that instead of having commerce on that far southeast corner.”
- “We looked at the mixed-use center that could be a better gateway to the Navy Federal property that would have amenities for the residents of Beulah is the plan. “
- “Then you have the residential that would support that retail. Again, that’s the multi-use and not the single-family homes detached and things like that.”
The commerce has 271 acres, 64% of developable land. Two Flex areas were set up on the west side of OLF-8.
Flex 1 is in the middle portion of the west side. Bender said, “That’s one that, if something comes along in the near future where it’s needed for commerce, it can be used. If not, then we discuss maybe in a number of years that we decide if we want to continue with this. Or, based on how developments currently going, do we release it to something else? Then again, that’s about 10 years from now.”
According to the slide, Flex 1 (46 acres) would be developed within 10 years; Flex 2 (100 acres) in 15-20 years. Both phases are 5-10 years after Beulah-Interstate 10 interchange is expected to be completed.
“If an entity comes along that wants to build something there that needs all this land, they have it, but right now Scott Luth and FloridaWest would be focusing on Phase C2 (74 acres) and Phase C1 (51 acres),” said Bender. “So depending on what type of commercial entity, if it wants to be closer to the town center mixed-use area, like a tech job, or they need to be further back in the property, he can develop those.”
The slide showed the mixed-use center (47 acres) and the multi-family residential (61 acres) would be developed in phases.
“These three phases of residential laid out over the one immediately adjacent to the mixed-use center, we’d expect it to be done in the next five years,” said Bender. “The second phase would be an additional three years after that. Then the Phase 3 an additional three years after that.”
He added, “Then in terms of public amenities, you have 45 acres which would include a post office, school, daycare, community garden, and then we were looking in that 10 to 15 range for a school. I think it’s also worth noting that we’re developing 424 acres here. We’re actually closer to 540. So this number’s actually much bigger, and there would be some of those low lands and parts that are not quite as developable that would be able to be used still for the residents and allow access to those.”
DPZ partner Marina Khoury addressed the plan’s flexibility.
“I’ll just reinforce the point you made, which is that there is the ability to shift phases around,” she said. “Of course, part of Phase 3 now would really dig into the conditions under which the phasing would happen to ensure that there’s adequate development controls for the commerce types to make sure that it’s not only the low-value warehouses that the residents may not want to see here but recognizing the fact that there may be some as well but trying to limit it.”
Khoury continued. “So we’d be looking at development control for the commerce types and f development control for the residential.”
She added the controls would be done to ensure the goals of the RFP and the community’s goals were met.
Bender closed his presentation, “ I hope that this is something that I think is a win for the residents of Beulah in terms of over a hundred acres of live/work/residential/office and their amenities, the parks, the services that they need. I think also we see this pink on the northwest side. That is what we were looking at, which could be a greenway to help separate some of the contrast from the neighbors to what’s the potential use on the site.”
“First, Robert, I want to commend you for doing this,” said Commissioner Jeff Bergosh. “I mean, this is moving the ball forward.”
Bergosh expressed his displeasure in what he read in the DPZ emails that were released earlier in the week, but he said, “We will save that discussion for when I’ve had the opportunity to go through all of the public records, the text messages and the substantial number of public records that they have not turned over yet.”
“With respect to what we’re looking at here, this is moving it in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree with where everything is here, and I’d like to know a lot more about why we’d put the apartments on the frontage in the prime retail locations.”
However, Bergosh liked how the amenities were handled, even though he admitted that he wanted to see more commerce on the site.
“This is where I wanted to get at the last meeting before the bombshell of all the emails and all the things that we found out since then,” he said. “But this is where the rubber hits the road. This is the compromise that I’ve been talking about for two years. This is where I think we’re going to eventually land, something similar to this.”
Commissioner Lumon May said, “I think what we’ll hear from DPZ is its flexibility, and I like that… I think this was a win as they present, Jeff, and I’m going to be supportive. Still, it’s an economic development project as well, and that’s how it was labeled.”
“I still see the mixed-use area, and I understand that it would be defined as mixed-use because there’d be potentially some residential over the retail or office over retail,” said Commissioner Steven Barry. “But I think the focus and I think the majority of the board discussion or what the majority of the board supported last time we discussed– this is really to have focus on commercial and retail.”
He continued, “That amount of square footage on 47 acres doesn’t seem like a lot of commercial retail square footage. Again, as long as we have flexibility going forward, I think that it’s closer to something that maybe can gather some support.”
“That was what I was trying to get started,” said Bender. “As I said, if we’re moving around a piece here and a piece there, I think they think that’s a win if somewhat conceptually that we think this is about where we like, the percentage of the acreage is at the top, and things like that.”
“I would much rather have seen some of the residents as equity holders on there, but to make that criticism is to let perfect be the enemy of good,” said Commissioner Doug Underhill. “And this is really good governance for you to be able to pull that together, come up with something that works as a little bit of a whiteboard from which we can spring the rest of the conversation, so hats off to you for having done that.”
He added, “As far as any opinions about whether or not this is good or not, the only thing really that’s in my mind right now is I’m concerned about trying to minimize the number of curb cuts on Nine Mile, so to have our high-density commercial and office should really have just one curb cut coming off of Nine Mile more of a town center than strip mall-type of an approach. Again, it’s not my neighborhood. So I look forward to seeing what the citizens talk about when they now have this in front of them as a launching point for the public discussion.”
DPZ offered to host a town hall meeting to garner public input on the revised hybrid plan. The OLF-8 master plan will be on the agenda on March 11, after commissioners have had a chance to analyze the hybrid proposal.