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9th Annual Downtown Issue


Palafox Market • Ever’man Expansion • Downtown Q & A

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from the

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This past year has been an exciting one for Downtown Pensacola. The city seems to have successfully emerged from the recession, and citizens and business owners are now looking toward a bright new future, full of development, expansion and growth. As a business owner in Downtown, I have watched with interest the changing dynamics and evolving industry sectors and their impact on my business and many others. As Downtown continues to improve, internal and external investors have an increased confidence, leading to even more exciting projects, more visitors and greater economic diversity. This successful revitalization, and all proof thereof, serves as a reminder that Pensacola is not only a city of great potential, but of realized potential. Be it national recognition of our markets and streets, the economic impact of special events, local business expansion, or greater talent retention, the city's Downtown is finally becoming what many have proclaimed for years that it could be. It is with pleasure that I introduce the ninth annual Downtown Edition of Northwest Florida’s Business Climate Magazine. There is so much to say about Downtown, and the rapid growth of the area ensures there is never a shortage of good news. In this issue, we capture several snapshots from the past year and look forward to the years ahead, bringing you the highlights, the issues, and the impact of Downtown. For an overall picture of the economic impact of Downtown and related statistics, we turn to Ron Butlin, the Downtown Improvement Board's new executive director. As you'll see on page 12, all the numbers point in a positive direction toward continued, sustainable growth. We also look at a project near and dear to many Pensacola citizens' hearts: the Saenger Theatre. Through a vast and complex upgrade, the theatre's organ is receiving a much-needed makeover and will soon rival Radio City Music Hall's. Find out more about the process on page 14. Two recent developments have occurred in Downtown that coincide with the growing interest in slow food and local products. The Palafox Market, a local, weekly farmer's market, has gained national attention and positively impacts the wellbeing and economy of the area. Additionally, the Ever'man expansion is nearing a close, and it will soon be able to provide more local goods and health-related seminars to Pensacola's health-conscious citizens. John Appleyard contributes his vast historical knowledge of the city to a piece on the story behind many Downtown street names. Join John on a journey through the American Revolution and discover the role that each of Pensacola's five governments played in the naming of streets you and I may traverse everyday. Read more on page 20. It seems there is a festival or special event every other week in Downtown, and while these events are fun and culturally important, the economic impact of these festivities is nothing short of amazing. Discover some encouraging statistics and learn more about the business side of these events on page 23. Our main feature this year is an expose of Downtown visionaries and innovators. Four industry sectors were selected--dining, entertainment, technology, and real estate--and we examine the brains behind each operation. We peek into the past while looking toward the future, appreciating the role each of these people and organizations have played in the continued growth and positive change Downtown. Read more on page 32. We also asked other movers and shakers in the city for their opinion on some pressing Downtown issues. Our mayor, the president of the chamber, a city councilman, and the Downtown Improvement Board executive director all weigh in on the tough questions on page 27. I hope you enjoy this issue, and that it informs you of our past and encourages you concerning our future. The best years are yet to come for Pensacola, and the features in this issue are just a couple of reasons why.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


Malcolm Ballinger Publisher

Reader’s Services Subscriptions If you have questions about your subscriptions, call Kassie McLean at (850) 433-1166 ext. 30 or email Gift Certificates NW FL’s Business Climate Magazine makes a great gift! Contact Malcolm Ballinger at (850)433-1166 ext. 27 or to arrange a gift certificate for your friend, business associate or loved one. Back Issues Is there an issue of one of our magazines that you just have to have? Were you featured in a recent issue? Give us a call at 850-433-1166 ext. 30. Back Issues are $5.00/issue. Letters We welcome your letters and comments. Send letters to Ballinger Publishing P.O. Box 12665 Pensacola, FL 32591, or contact specific staff members under the “Contact us: Staff info” link on Change of Address When calling or emailing us your change of address, please provide us with both the old and new addresses to expedite the change. Writing Opportunities We are always willing to consider freelance writers and article ideas. Please send queries and/or suggestions to Kelly Oden, executive editor, at, or care of Kelly to the above postal address. Subscription Expiration Date is printed on the address label. Renew your subscription now online at One year $14.95 and two years $22.75.

12. Downtown by the Numbers

Downtown Pensacola has enjoyed several years of growth and success, and 2013 is no exception. Downtown restaurants, bars, hotels, and entertainment venues are continuing to thrive despite economic challenges the past few years. No doubt Downtown is growing at a remarkable rate.


14. Restoring the Heartbeat of the Saenger The Saenger Theatre, affectionately known as the Grand Dame of Palafox, has long been the epicenter of Pensacola arts and culture, but sadly, the theatre’s own heartbeat has been silent for decades.

16. Keeping the Local Economy Growing at the Palafox Market After a few years of a suffering economy we have started to see an upturn in many communities in the nation and a growing trend of eating healthier and supporting small agri-business.

18. Ever’man Expansion and Renovation In the 2011-2012 edition of the Northwest Florida Business Climate, the Pensacola community got the first glimpse into the plans for an extensive expansion and renovation project at Ever’man. Since that time, the project evolved into an even greater undertaking and now, two years later, the vision for the future of Ever’man is becoming a reality.


20. History in the Streets Pensacola’s role in the American Revolution was unique, yet one of the results which residents enjoy in the twenty-first century did not take form until 20 years later, a spinoff from still another conflict. History buffs periodically celebrate the Siege of 1781; but every day many take note of a score of unusual Spanish-sounding names which identify Downtown streets.

23. Special Events Make Huge Impact in Downtown Pensacola Downtown has continued to grow by leaps and bounds in its entertainment and retail sectors, but it’s special events like festivals, Gallery Nights, races and parades that drive people to come to the area and stay there for extended periods of time.

27. Downtown Questions & Answers Seven questions answered by four of our Downtown leaders

32. Visionaries & Innovators As Downtown Pensacola becomes an increasingly important hub of business in Northwest Florida, certain industry sectors are emerging as the face of the city’s recent success. These industry sectors, ranging from food and entertainment, to commercial real estate and technology, have respective visionaries and innovators responsible for each sector’s introduction and subsequent success in Pensacola.

43. Palafox Wins National Attention The American Planning Association, a professional institute of planners and officials dedicated to community excellence, recently awarded Palafox Street in Downtown with a national honor. The APA recognized qualities that locals have known about and appreciated for years.

Cover photo by Guy Stevens II 8

>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue




> Inside this issue 9th Annual Downtown Issue

October/November 2013 Downtown Issue PUBLISHER

























Member of:

NW Florida’s Business Climate Magazine and Pensacola Magazine is locally owned and operated. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction or use of the contents herein is prohibited without written permission from the publisher. Comments and opinions expressed in this magazine represent the personal views of the individuals to whom they are attributed and/or the person identified as the author of the article, and they are not necessarily those of the publisher. This magazine accepts no responsibility for these opinions. The publisher reserves the right to edit all manuscripts. All advertising information is the responsibility of the individual advertiser. Appearance in this magazine does not necessarily reflect endorsement of any products or services by Ballinger Publishing. © 2013








By Ron Butlin

Downtown Pensacola has enjoyed several years of growth and success, and 2013 is no exception. Downtown restaurants, bars, hotels, and entertainment venues are continuing to thrive despite economic challenges the past few years. No doubt Downtown is growing at a remarkable rate.

Business & Jobs In just the last year, Downtown has added 13 new businesses. This significant increase continues an eight-year trend that generated a net gain of 188 additional businesses operating in Downtown today. Downtown Pensacola is now home to 674 businesses with at least one employee. Of those businesses that have been in Downtown for a year or more, 55 percent experienced an improvement in the health of their business, up from 52 percent in 2012, and 44 percent in 2011. Equally important is that only eight percent of businesses experienced a decline in business vitality. The positive experience by so many Downtown businesses is fueling 28 percent of them for expansion plans. Expansions involve either additional space and/or more employees during the coming year. While the overall number of businesses continues to improve in Downtown, the size of businesses remain relatively intimate. Seventy-one percent of businesses continue to be enterprises with less than ten employees. The number of female employees account for the largest 12

>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


percentage of the Downtown workforce (55 percent). Fiftyfive percent of all Downtown employees are the under the age of 46. Positive changes for Downtown business include new business practices in order to take full advantage of recent market opportunities. Recent market opportunities have prompted changes for some Downtown business owners. Seventy-two percent of all Downtown retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues stay open on Saturdays. Consequently, Saturdays are now the second best sales day of the week, only behind Fridays. With the majority of the Downtown customer base comprised of people under the age of 45, 63 percent of Downtown businesses have chosen to extend their hours to stay open past 5 pm on weekdays. The upside: extended hours equals more customers and a more vital Downtown. With the growth of Downtown, the use of alternative modes of transportation is becoming more popular. Those riding the bus to work rose by 50 percent from 2012. The number of employees who walk and bike to work remains

unchanged from 2012. Unfortunately, the number of employees who carpool fell by 55 percent in the last year. Those employees who drive alone to work Downtown rose slightly to 91 percent, but fewer employees park in the curbside parking spaces and instead, park in a garage or parking lot (86 percent). Opportunities for improvement are also growing; Downtown businesses agree, the most important concerns for improvement include: managing panhandlers, creating retail variety, additional attractions and events, and expanding affordable parking.

Residential Living At year end 2012, Downtown had 1,294 total residential dwelling units with 1,212, or 94 percent, of them occupied. The total number of Downtown residents is now 2,295, up from 2012. Sixty-three percent of these residents own their Downtown home and the average household size is 1.89. Educational attainment for Downtown residents continues to be higher than the entire city, the county, or the region as a whole. Fifty-eight percent of Downtown residents now have at least a college degree, while 28 percent possess at least one advanced degree. Of the households that call Downtown home, 60 percent now have combined household incomes above $60,000 per year. Thirty-seven percent of all Downtown households now have combined household incomes in excess of $100,000 per year. General business and government/non-profits job sectors are the largest employment fields for working Downtown residents. More people living Downtown now classify themselves as retired than in prior years, halting a four-year trend of fewer retirees living in the Downtown area. Thirty-seven percent of Downtown residents now fall into the category of semi-retired. Forty percent of all Downtown residents also work in Downtown. Eight percent of Downtown residents work outside of Florida or Alabama. This percentage continues a growing five year statistic. The results are encouraging, and further reinforce existing positive trends. More residents, more businesses, and more things to do are driving the growth and vibrancy of Downtown Pensacola.

Advertise in the Gosport and over 25,000 potential customers will see your ad every week. Call Simone Sands at 433-1166 ext. 21 <



Restoring the


of the Saenger By Kelly Oden


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


day. Few, however, know that it was actually the organ housed within the walls of the theatre that kept this illustrious landmark from the wrecking ball. Local organ enthusiasts petitioned for the theatre to be added to the national register of historic places and they succeeded. Tom Helms remembers the time well, saying, “When the theatre was about to be torn down in the 70s, we fixed up the old organ and made it play. I did six concerts in 1975, one per month. We invited the public to come in for free and hear the organ and to see the building and we said, ‘Guys, we can’t let this be torn down,’ and they fell in love with the place just like I did. It was the original organ that saved this building. The city had plans to turn it into a parking lot.” When Helms recently returned to Pensacola after many years of touring as an organist and working as an organ restorer, he was both pleased with the Saenger’s most recent renovation and a bit perplexed. Sherri Hemminghaus Weeks, President of Friends of the Saenger, remembers Helms’ response, saying, “When Tom got back in town and saw what a beautiful job had been done on the theatre renovation, he said,

Photos courtesy of

The Saenger Theatre, affectionately known as the Grand Dame of Palafox, has long been the epicenter of Pensacola arts and culture, but sadly, the theatre’s own heartbeat has been silent for decades. All that will soon change thanks to the hard work of Friends of the Saenger and local organist and organ restorer Tom Helms, who are both working hard to repair the original pipe organ housed in the walls of the theatre. The gorgeous Spanish Baroque theatre was built in 1925 as a vaudeville and silent film house and the stunning Robert Morton pipe organ was installed during construction. At that time, only the largest theatres had orchestras that would play with films. An organist accompanied most silent films and the music and special effects produced by the organs and players were considered an integral part of the filmgoer’s experience. One of the benefits of having an organist rather than orchestra during a silent film was that the organist would play while watching the film and was able to compensate for any jumps or splices in the movie. Most Pensacolians know that the Saenger was nearly bulldozed in 1975, but a group of citizens stepped in to save the

‘It’s absolutely fabulous, but you’re not done. How about the organ?’” Weeks credits the restoration of the organ largely to Helms. “There was not enough money to restore it and there would still not be enough if it were not for Tom. He is doing it for pennies on the dollar and when we are finished, we will have an instrument that will rival any in the country and it will be worth nearly three million dollars. It’s a gift from Tom Helms and Friends of the Saenger to the community,” explains Weeks. Helms first fell in love with organ music here in Pensacola at the First United Methodist Church. “When I heard it,” Helms says, “I just went ‘You people stop singing, I want to hear the organ!’ I was just fascinated.” From that fascination came years of self-teaching followed by a degree in organ performance. Helms also studied in The pipes are situated in rows called ranks. Each rank contains many pipes. Europe and apprenticed with a variety of For instance, the violins have 146 individual pipes. These photos show people to learn how to build organs. Helms several ranks of pipes located at the Saenger. worked at the Saenger for many years and was also the house organist at the Saenger difficult process and very few people know how to do it. Luckily Theatre from 1973-1975. for Pensacola, Helms is an expert. The restoration involves both the organ console and the Everything in the organ is based on wind blown pipes or a pipes within the walls. The original organ console was built in pneumatic system that would play the xylophone or the bells or California by the Robert Morton Company, a firm that built the chimes. There are little bellows that blow up when a key is many organs for theatres, but it was destroyed by flooding and pressed. It all starts in the basement with a huge turbine subsequently fell apart. Tom rebuilt the console from a Robert compressor that pumps air up behind the walls into the organ Morton design to look like a sunken treasure chest from a chamber. The console is just a control desk, the brain system. Spanish Galleon. The grand console is hand carved from basswood, poplar, rock maple, ebony and birch and is decorated “Many people call the console the organ, but it’s not,” explains Helms. “The organ is in the walls.” The console sends an with gold leaf and faux jewels. As for the 4,000 organ pipes, electrical signal up to the computers and the computer tells Helms is hand restoring each one, a process that involves what which pipes when to play. All sounds are made with the pipes he calls “a lot of body and fender work.” First, the tin, zinc and (except the grand piano), which are “voiced” to sound like lead pipes, which range from the size of a pencil to over 16 feet instruments. In this way, the organ can create an entire long, must be stripped down to remove corrosion and debris, symphony of sound entirely from the pipes within the walls. then they are straightened and sealed inside and out to prevent When finished, Helms says the Great Saenger Pipe Organ will further corrosion. Those pipes that are missing or un-restorable, rival any of the great theatre organs in the country. The organ Helms replaces with antique pipes pulled from organs around will be larger than the organ at the Fox Theater-Atlanta and only the country. Once the pipes are restored, they must be “voiced” to make sure that each pipe sounds exactly as it should. This is a slightly smaller the organ at Radio City Music Hall. Helms expects the public to be amazed at the sound the organ can produce, saying, “It is capable of creating a big thrilling sound that will shake you to the bones.” The organ could be utilized in a multitude of ways. Arts organizations like the symphony, ballet, opera and children’s chorus can use the organ to enhance their performances. Organ concerts, silent movies screenings and other unique performances will also likely come when the project is complete. So far, donations from private citizens and a grant from Impact 100 have kept the restoration going. Completion of the project is expected in 2014 and Weeks says she hopes to hold a number of organ concerts so the public can hear the sounds of this local treasure. If you’d like to help with the organ restoration and other Saenger projects, please visit Friends of the Saenger at

Tom Helms and crew work on the organ restoration.




Keeping the Local Economy Growing at the

Palafox Market

By Hilary Gilles

After a few years of a suffering economy we have started to see an upturn in many communities in the nation and a growing trend of eating healthier and supporting small agri-business. An integral part of this recovery has been the national movement in cities and towns across America to “Shop Local,” and farmers’ markets play a pivotal role in this “Shop Local” movement. Farmers’ markets positively impact local economies, improve community health, and bring diverse groups of people together through a shared social space. Farmers’ markets create a phenomenon known as “sticky” dollars. Money spent at the market then gets re-spent locally and “sticks” to the local economy. Studies show that up to 70 percent of farmers’ markets patrons will also shop at other local businesses. Downtown Pensacola is following this trend with its very own farmers’ market, the Palafox Market. Farmers markets have been in existence for many years, but the last ten-plus years have seen an unprecedented nationwide growth. According to the USDA, the number of


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


farmers markets has grown over 250 percent, from 2,863 markets in 2000 to 7,864 in 2012. As farmers’ markets continue to be fresh food mainstays, these numbers continue to rise. Farmers’ markets provide access for shoppers across all socio-economic, political, and ethnic ranges. The Palafox Market is an exciting part of this growing movement and all the positive benefits it brings to Downtown Pensacola and the surrounding community. The Palafox Market was started in 2008 as a joint venture between the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB), and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) in order to increase additional economic development in the Downtown area. All items offered for sale are made or grown within 100 miles of Downtown Pensacola. Now in its sixth season, the market has expanded to become a year round event and a Saturday staple in Downtown Pensacola. The most recent Downtown Business Census indicates that Saturdays are now the second busiest day for Downtown businesses and on any given Saturday, the Palafox Market, which is now

located in all three medians of the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, hosts over 95 vendors and thousands of customers. The scope of positive benefits is far reaching. In 2012, a study funded by the Surdna Foundation showed the impressive economic impact of a local farmers’ market. Depending on the size of the market (small, medium, large) the numbers are as follows: • Annual Economic Impact on Vendors: $52,000–$40,594,000 per market • Annual Economic Impact on Nearby Businesses: $19,900–$15,765,700 per market • Annual Economic Impact on the Community: $72,000–$56,360,000 per market In addition, market vendors have seen this positive impact and experienced amazing growth. Roger Elliott, owner of Green Cedars Farm, explains, “Production on products have tripled and in some instances quadrupled! We also continue to add new items every market season.” Hainds Hardy Hardwood & Herbs (HHHH) has also grown over the past market seasons. Owner Mark Hainds says, “This year, 2013, marks the fourth season HHHH has attended the Palafox Farmers’ Market as vendors, and each year our sales have grown by approximately 40 percent over the previous year. It’s been incredibly exciting to build our customer base and sales at the Palafox Farmers’ Market and we can’t wait to see how much better it will be next season!” Additional positive economic impact can be attributed to the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) at the Palafox Market. The program, sponsored by the State Of Florida, provides WIC recipients with fresh produce checks to be used at local farmers markets. Not only does this ensure more access to fresh and local foods; it also increases both the revenues of the local farmers and market attendance. This season that trend continues to grow through a partnership with Slow Food Gulf Coast and the Double Value Coupon Program (DVCP). The DVCP provides the customer with coupons that match the value of their FMNP benefits when used to purchase fresh, local produce at the Palafox Market. 2012 DVCP statistics, from Wholesome Wave, show just how important the program is for local farmers markets and the surrounding community: • $2.4 million in revenue was generated by DVCP and federal nutrition benefits at 306 farmers’ markets in 24 states. • An average of 27 percent of total market sales come from federal benefits and DVCP. • 30 percent of DVCP consumers reported they planned to spend an average of $28.95 at nearby businesses on market day. • Due to DVCP farmers reported expansion - 23 percent diversified their product offering, 15 percent added greenhouses and 12 percent increased production or acreage.

• 90 percent of DVCP consumers reported increasing their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Lindsey Rae Myers of Slow Food Gulf Coast, notes, “This summer we were able to partner with our friends at the Palafox Market to invest several thousand dollars into our local food system through a matching grant for WIC recipients as well as enabling access to high quality nutritious food. We will continue to do this by allowing and encouraging SNAP users to purchase at the market. Markets like the Palafox Market are vital to our food system and our local community economy. Being able to provide a direct connection with your farmers and food producers is priceless.” Palafox Market customers come from all over the region to shop for fresh local seasonal produce, meats, and plants. Shoppers also love the delicious homemade foods, jams, sauces, and honey available at the market. You might even see the chef from your favorite local restaurant buying the ingredients to use in his or her next culinary masterpiece. Chef and owner of Carmen’s Lunch Bar, MariCarmen Josephs uses market fresh produce in many of her creations, “I shop the Palafox Market every Saturday to stock up on local ingredients that will inspire my specials at Carmen’s Lunch Bar for the following week. About 80 percent of our special soups and salads are made using local ingredients from the Palafox Market. I love working directly with the farmers to source fresh, unique and cost effective produce. In the last few months I have bought over 100 pounds of butternut squash from Stewart Farms to make soups, salads, desserts and pepper jelly. Other farmers have harvested their poblano peppers early and small so that I can make them into stuffed, roasted baby peppers. I am so grateful to the farmers and everyone who supports and organizes the Palafox Market,” says Josephs, who is an excellent example of market reinvestment in the Downtown community! The local shopping and positive economic impact continues with the Art and Antique section of the market. A Saturday shopping trip will reveal the award winning fine art, pottery, jewelry, an amazing variety of soaps and candles, custom textiles, unique antiques, and more. The market offers local artists a chance to increase both their local and national exposure as the Palafox Market is also considered a “must see and shop” destination for tourists visiting the Pensacola area. Local artist and market vendor Eric Schmitz says, “Giving local artisans the ability to exhibit and sell year round benefits every business in the community and keeps our most talented artists from going elsewhere.” The Palafox Market, which is located at Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, on North Palafox Street, between Garden and Wright Streets, is open every Saturday, 8 am-2 pm. For more information visit or call 850-434-5371.




In the 2011-2012 edition

of the Northwest Florida Business Climate, the Pensacola community got the first glimpse in to the plans for an extensive expansion and renovation project at Ever’man. Since that time, the project evolved into an even greater undertaking and now, two years later, the vision for the future of Ever’man is becoming a reality. In 2010, Ever’man commissioned a market study that concluded with two recommendations: open a satellite store or expand the current location at 315 W. Garden Street. After careful consideration, the Board of Directors at Ever’man decided that expanding the current store in Downtown Pensacola would best serve the community because it would allow the team at Ever’man to meet the mission of the organization (internally referred to as the “Ends Statement.”) Because of Ever’man, the community WILL HAVE:

By August 2012, Ever’man received approval from the Architectural Review Board to move forward with plans for the project. Following this approval Biggs Construction won the contract for the job and work on the expansion site, comprising one city block, began with a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 25, 2013. Today, anyone who visits Ever’man or simply drives by can see the remarkable transformation taking place. The former T-Square building at the far corner of the block (at the intersection of Garden and De Villiers Streets) has been transformed into the Ever’man Community Education Center where cooking classes, yoga, seminars, and discussion groups meet on a weekly basis. The Community Education Center also offers an outdoor staging area where people can base outdoor gatherings and special events. A lush green space, recently planted with fruit trees, connects the Community Education Center to

Photos courtesy of Ever’man




By Kate Scanlan

• Education about health, nutrition, and environmental issues. • Access to healthy, natural foods and products at the lowest possible price. • Support for responsible, local agriculture and small business. • An example of green business practices. In 2011, work began on the project. The leadership team at Ever’man acquired the building ajoining the store at 301 W. Garden Street to house the administrative staff and partnered with local architects, Bullock Tice Associates, Inc. (BTA). Working together, BTA and Ever’man developed a comprehensive community-friendly design that would enlarge the current building at 315 W. Garden Street, create an outdoor green space, and transform the vacant building just south of the store on Garden Street into a modern educational community center.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


the store, and community garden space will become available in the future. Perhaps the most notable change brought on by the project thus far is the western-facing façade of the store itself. In the near future, two-story windows will capture natural light, illuminating the new entry and inviting shoppers into the store. In total, the new construction will add an additional 5,800 square feet to the existing Ever’man grocery store; approximately 3,000 square feet will be new retail space and the rest will add new kitchens, coolers, food preparation, offices and backstock areas. In an effort to continue enhancing Ever’man’s green business practices, the entire project was also designed with the environment in mind. BTA’s team shared some of the many environmentally-friendly features included in the plans:

There will be skylights throughout the sales area that will bring daylight to the main sales floor, helping to eliminate the need for lighting via fixtures during the daytime hours. Energy efficient lighting fixtures will be spread throughout the interior, reducing the energy load on the building. Light pollution reduction has been accounted for by providing exterior lighting that will help reduce the impact on nocturnal environments and reduce sky-glow. New insulation will be added to the exterior walls and roof to form a continuous thermal envelope to meet and exceed current energy requirements. High efficiency package rooftop heat pumps (15 SEER) are planned, surpassing the building code requirements of equipment rated for 13 SEER. Bi-polar ionization is used to promote air filtration and the supply and return ductwork is routed in the conditioned space to prevent energy loss to an unconditioned space. Any materials used were specified to have a high recycled content value. Any paints, adhesives, and sealants would feature low chemical emissions and any composite wood products would contain no added urea-formaldehyde. The new green space and an elongated bioswale at the project’s southern boundary collectively enforce good stormwater management practices. Pavers are used throughout the parking lot rather than more conventional, less environmentally friendly materials. Other elements include parking for lowemitting and fuel efficient vehicles, complete with an electric car charging station. As the construction and renovation project at Ever’man continues to advance, it is important to remain grounded in the values on which Ever’man founded this project. By creating the Community Education Center and green space, the community now has a functional place to become empowered about health, nutrition, and environmental issues. Once the retail area expands, the community will have greater access to healthy, natural foods and products at the lowest possible price. Also, more retail space means that Ever’man will be able to carry a wider selection of products from responsible, local producers. And of course, the green business practices espoused by the Ever’man Ends Statement are well-represented too. Utlimately, a project like this in the heart of Downtown Pensacola is possible because of our community. Yes, Ever’man is investing substantially in Downtown. Yes, this project will add new job opportunities and enhance West Garden Street. However, more importantly, this project offers Pensacola a full-service Downtown grocer and provides the greater Gulf Coast with a communitybased resource for healthy living.




History in the Streets

By John Appleyard

Pensacola’s role in the American Revolution was unique, yet one of the results which residents enjoy in the twenty-first century did not take form until 20 years later, a spinoff from still another conflict. History buffs periodically celebrate the Siege of 1781; but every day many take note of a score of unusual Spanish-sounding names which identify Downtown streets. The total story evolved like this: When the International Seven Years War ended in 1763, Spain was a loser at the peace table, giving to Britain all of Florida to regain the City of Havana, captured late in the conflict. However, as the 18-year British Period proceeded, Spanish leaders never gave up the hope that La Florida might be regained. That was realized beginning in 1777, as America’s independence forces gained a victory at Saratoga. From that victory, the war for independence gained a tangible alliance with France. Spanish leaders also began to provide money and supplies. By 1780, with General Bernardo de Galvez as commander, a task force was readied at New Orleans, and Spain declared war on Britain. The plan was to seize small British settlements along the lower Mississippi, and then to attack and capture Mobile and Pensacola. However, as all of this proceeded, Spain did not become a formal ally of General Washington’s forces. General De Galvez’s army laid siege to Pensacola and its recently completed Ft. George between February and May 1781. The stalemate ended May 9th. Most British military were transported to New York City. The majority of the British citizenry chose to depart, and did so over a brief period. 20

>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


From that point, Gen. De Galvez and his local aide, Arturo O’Neill, had to literally rebuild the city’s population. The format of the city itself had been prepared in 1764 by British engineer Elias Durnford. That format remains basically what is enjoyed in 2013, from the waterfront to Garden Street, and east to west between the two bayous. The British settlers had established a modest village with streets named for leaders of their country. King George Street was the principal artery. Other streets were named for Queen Charlotte, Lord Bute, Lord North and other dignitaries of the 1760s and 70s. King George Street was the business hub. Shops and homes generally followed the design employed in the Atlantic settlements, though they were not of the level one might see in the recreation of Colonial Williamsburg. What Gov. O’Neill and those recruited occupied was a simple, pleasant community, and it saw only modest improvement in the years to come for economic reasons. The British street names were removed, with Spanish titles substituted. Overall, with Spanish national interests heavily focused in Latin America, the county’s leaders had only modest support to provide for Pensacola. Then, in 1789 the French Revolution began. That eruption would bring unending violence to much of western Europe for over two decades. Spain became involved in those wars, changing alliances several times. In 1800, Louisiana, which had been ceded to Spain by France at the 1763 peace table, was returned to Gen. Bonaparte’s government in 1800. Three years later the vast western territory was sold to the United States. Year after year, Pensacola remained at best a stepchild. Then, 1808, Napoleon’s French forces invaded Spain,

gaining possession of much of the land, even deposing King Ferdinand. However, with new alliances in place, British forces moved into the Iberian Peninsula, step by step pushing back the French. As the struggle proceeded, Spanish resistance units developed. One was led by professional soldier Jose Palafox, whose force recaptured Zaragossa and more. Palafox was heralded and was named governor of that territory. In weeks and months that followed, additional Spanish victories were achieved. Back in Pensacola, Gov. Juan Folch and community leaders followed these events as news arrived by sea. One can almost feel the excitement the men and women enjoyed! As event followed event, someone we’ll never know who— suggested that the community honor the good news from the mother country, by renaming streets to highlight men or events. And so it came to be. Palafox and Romana were generals. Barcelona was won following a lengthy siege. The city of Reus, below Barcelona, was the site of a significant battle. Then came Baylen, Taragonna, Alcaniz, and Granada, and with the coming of peace the Count FloridaBlanca was praised for his work at the peace table on Spain’s behalf. The names Intendencia, Commendencia and Government were maintained because they indicated where local functions had been established. Florida was transferred to the United States in 1821, and thereafter city councils chose street names for men whose works had benefitted the area. Jefferson recognized the third president for the national purchase of Louisiana. Adams Street noted John Quincy Adams, whose skills as Secretary of State had led to the American acquisition of Florida. William Chase was the builder of the area’s protective forts; Walter Gregory was the city’s first banker; Benjamin Drake Wright was an attorney, newspaper publisher and a member of the convention delegation which drafted Florida’s first constitution. James Gadsden was an officer in Andrew Jackson’s force, and later a successful diplomat. Historical events generate many changes. Had Spain not played its role unofficially assisting the American revolutionary forces, she might never have regained Florida, and had that been the case Pensacola would not have its array of unusual street and place names. Today, as one drives through the city, he passes early street names which honored men whose civic contributions merited recognition. Should one doubt that, consider the sources of such titles as Mallory, Perry, Brent, Blount and Warrington. Each had his time in the sun.




Photo courtesy of Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival

Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival

By Emily Lullo

Downtown has continued to grow by leaps and bounds in its entertainment and retail sectors, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s special events like festivals, Gallery Nights, races and parades that drive people to come to the area and stay there for extended periods of time. While a Gallery Night might prompt a local to drive Downtown after work and head home when the event ends, a visitor from a nearby city might use it as an excuse for a weekend trip, booking a hotel in the area, shopping and eating out multiple times over the course of a few days. These expenditures quickly add up to make a huge impact on Downtownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy. As the calendar continues to fill with new and unique events along with the mainstays, different demographics throughout the region and nation are finding new ways to discover all that this growing historic area has to offer, while greatly benefiting Downtown Pensacola in the process. The variety of events in the Downtown area are organized by a multitude of groups ranging from private organizations, nonprofit groups, the Downtown Improvement Board, and many others. Annual festivals celebrate local delicacies like seafood as well as arts and culture in the many historic parks, while Gallery Night events have continually grown to accommodate massive crowds and enhanced participation from local retailers, restaurants and other businesses. Other events include large road races that bring thousands from other regions to race through this picturesque city. Visit Pensacola commissions independent marketing research to measure the impact of festivals and events in Escambia County. At each event, interviewers are on site to interview attendees about the event, their experience in Pensacola and their spending in Pensacola. Since this research began in April 2013, five events held in the Downtown Pensacola area have been surveyed, including the Estevanico Festival, Pensacola Crawfish Festival, Art in the Park, productions of A Midsummer

Special Events Make Huge Impact in Downtown Pensacola




Night’s Dream produced by the Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre, and the Pensacola Seafood Festival. These special events varied in their demographics and event focus and took place over the course of six months. The Crawfish and Seafood Festivals are both established annual events organized by Fiesta of Five Flags. Art in the Park is an art festival sponsored by the Pensacola Museum of Art, and Midsummer Night’s Dream was a theatre production by the Pensacola Shakespeare Theatre. The Estevanico Festival was an inaugural event celebrating the mix of cultures that make up the Gulf Coast. Attendance was recorded at 128,360, with 20 percent of those in attendance being visitors from out of town. Of those visitors, about 42 percent, or about 10,780 people, said the event they attended was the main reason for the visit. Just these five events generated 3,194 nights spent in hotels, and attendees spent about $8,226,027. Especially during the summer months when most of these events took place, special events help to drive visitors away from the beach and into the unique events of the Downtown area. Taking into consideration the visitors who came to town mostly to attend these events, the direct boost to the local economy from these five events is estimated to be $5,287,672. One of the flagship events for Downtown Pensacola is Gallery Night. Started in 1991, Gallery Night events were originally held three times a year as a way to showcase local artists, musicians and performers as well as Downtown merchants and restaurants. Soon the event expanded to five events per year and then to seven. As Downtown has grown, more participating venues have signed on to open their doors and display local artwork, and Gallery Night manager Hilary Gilles says participation has remained at a steady average of 40-50 participating businesses for the last three years. As the event gained popularity, main thoroughfares like S. Palafox and Government streets were closed to traffic during and after the

Seville Quarter’s Artist Row, Gallery Night


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


event to safely accommodate the huge number of attendees. “Crowds now range 15,000-18,000 attendees,” says Gilles. “Someone made the comment that in the past those numbers applied to attendance for a whole Gallery Night season.” Often Gallery Nights have a loose theme or coordinating event that further builds the audience for the event, like October’s event which features CANstruction, a competition that lets local architecture firms build structures from canned goods that are then donated along with funds to Manna Food Bank. In April this year, Gallery Night was held on the same weekend as Pensacola’s Jazz Fest and featured many jazz musicians at various venues that bolstered both events and was a huge success. Races are another huge draw for out of town guests and locals alike. Many athletes travel to compete in longer races and Pensacola’s status as both a historic city with a bustling urban center as well as a beautiful beach have made it a popular destination for runners and cyclists as well as other athletes. “During a calendar year, running events like the Double Bridge Run, McGuire’s Prediction Run, Fiesta 10K and Pensacola Marathon will bring 4,000 visitors, generate over 2,400 room nights in hotels and have a direct economic impact of $1.2 million,” says Pensacola Sports Association special event coordinator Sally Garst. The 2013 Double Bridge Run sold out with 2,500 participants lining up at the Maritime Park to participate in the 15K race that winded through Downtown before crossing the three mile bridge and the Bob Sikes Bridge to end on the beach. Garst says that race alone generated $474,610 for the local economy. Other special events include the US Finals Cheer competition held at the Pensacola Bay Center in April. With over 2,000 athletes and even more family and friends, it had a direct economic impact of over $775,000. Sailing events at the Pensacola Yacht Club and fishing tournaments also bring participants and spectators into Downtown. For the last four years, the Pensacola Cycling Classic, a two-day Stage Race, has held its criterium race on a Sunday morning through the streets of Downtown Pensacola, which brought over 400 people from out of town to the area. Pensacola’s Mardi Gras celebration also offers a distinctive event for locals and visitors alike. While Mardi Gras is known as a unique celebration in many Southern cities with French heritage, Pensacola’s celebration is more family-friendly than similar ones in nearby New Orleans. In the last three years the celebration has progressed from two parades to a full season of celebration and ceremony that draws thousands to the Downtown area to partake. It now includes a 12th Night Celebration and blessing, a Mardi Gras themed Run With Color, as well as a Fat Tuesday street party. Each event grows from the previous year bringing yet more revelers to the area. The number of special events held in Downtown Pensacola continues to grow, and new events are likewise bringing new demographics to the area with them. Festivals celebrating different cultures like the Estevanico Festival and 2013’s inaugural Cinco de Mayo Latino Festival are offering yet more diverse options for Downtown visitors. Special events like local festivals and celebrations give visitors a unique perspective on this historic city and show off its rich culture that goes well beyond the pristine beaches. Locals see the best of their region in these events and newcomers see a city that is festive, vibrant, and ever changing. As the calendar for Downtown special events fills up, so too do area hotels, restaurants, and retailers, making a huge impact on the local economy and contributing to a stable and growing city center.





>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue



Q & A


nswers By Kelly Oden





Mayor Ashton Hayward City of Pensacola

Q: While South Palafox is thriving, investors seem to be hesitant about developing the North Palafox corridor above Garden Street (as well as the South corridor below Main Street). We’ve seen some development recently, but do you have any plans to encourage more development and an overall sense of connectivity to those areas and other outlying areas? A: We are absolutely committed to encouraging additional development throughout the City of Pensacola. A thriving Downtown is essential, but a great City also must have connectivity as a uniting factor. We are moving forward with identifying and establishing City “gateways” that contribute to the overall sense of place one has when entering the City of Pensacola. Through the City’s Sidewalk Program, the creation of linear parks where feasible and the utilization of Complete Street design concepts, we will continue to improve connectivity citywide. Q: What do you see as the number one challenge and the biggest recent boon to continuing Downtown’s growth? A: Years ago, the term “Pensacola Parking Syndrome” was coined to describe cities that tear down their old buildings in an effort to add more parking spaces in the hope that additional parking opportunities will entice people to visit Downtown, but then discover that people no longer wish to visit Downtown because it has transitioned into an empty parking lot. Although the issue of off-street parking remains a challenge in a dense urban environment, Pensacola today is the antithesis of that term. Parking maximums (versus the traditional minimum standard) were created to discourage over-parking, and we are currently proposing a more progressive and modernized standard by which to evaluate the required minimum number of parking spaces. The corresponding benefit to these actions is a reduction in storm water runoff from massive parking areas that have been required by code, and the potential for increased density when developments don’t have to devote so much of their site area to parking. The biggest recent boon to Downtown’s growth has been a combination of several factors. The completion of Community Maritime Park and the relocation of the ECUA Wastewater Treatment Plant have been and will continue to be significant catalysts to encourage private investment and development in the Downtown as a whole. The City’s aesthetic regulations, design standards, and historic preservation also play an important role in attracting growth to our various Downtown districts, as they provide prospective business owners the assurance that their financial investment in our community will not be damaged by poor quality development going in next-door. Predictable development outcomes that still allow for design creativity make our Downtown an attractive and desirable place for businesses to locate. Q: We are seeing some interesting development and stadium use coming out of the Maritime Park, yet there are still questions about the financial viability of the park. When and how do you foresee the park becoming self-sufficient? A: We are very excited to see the Community Maritime Park come to life. The Studer building and the Beck project will bring hundreds of jobs to Downtown and the University of West Florida’s football team, coming in the near future, will bring more entertainment to the Downtown area. With the lease of a few more development parcels, the CMPA brings enough revenue to not need a supplement from the City. Q: How do you feel about the intense growth of entertainment and bars Downtown? How do we encourage more retail growth?


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue



A: Bringing more entertainment Downtown turns Downtown into a destination spot. By turning Downtown into a destination, that in turn will attract more patrons. If we can offer more amenities for patrons to shop and dine Downtown, that can show other interested retailers that Downtown has a lot to offer and is full of people looking for goods and entertainment. If we continue to collect market research data, create additional marketing materials to attract more interest Downtown, and continue to advocate to current Downtown retailers to extend hours, we can gain more retail growth. Q: In an ideal world, what specifically would you like to see happen to the ECUA property? A: We would like to see the reintroduction of the street grid to restore connectivity between the area to the north of the site and the waterfront, coupled with high-density, mixed-use development The creation of multi-family residential that includes affordable units to provide workforce housing would serve not only to increase the 24-hour Downtown population, but also benefit the economic viability of businesses such as retail, personal service, and restaurants that would ideally be located on the site. Both the CRA Plan, and the Mayor’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee recommended this mix of uses as well, and we envision a lively and active interaction of private development and the public realm that ultimately reconnects the City’s western neighborhoods to the Downtown. Q: What is being done to help streamline governmental processes for potential investors or developers so that bureaucracy does not become a roadblock to innovation? A: In the last two years, we have undertaken an effort to simplify the approval processes required by the Land Development Code, by codifying specific standards and allowing for administrative stafflevel approvals. The City’s Planning Board and City Council agreed with the implementation of these standards, which effectively replace the need for business owners and developers to attend multiple meetings seeking approval. Approvals that previously took months to complete can now be processed in a matter of days. Additionally, we have created a link on the City’s webpage to promote our “One-Stop” permitting process. Anyone seeking information as to what is required to develop in the City of Pensacola is now directed to a page that houses information on all the divisions and departments involved in the development review and permitting process. Weekly development review meetings are held every Wednesday morning at which anyone seeking information on moving forward with a potential development can attend and ask questions of the city engineer, building official, and planning services administrator along with members of their staff. From the most basic questions regarding zoning and land development regulations, to detailed plan review and troubleshooting, this no-cost option is available to everyone and requires no application or official submittal to participate. Q: Do you agree that Downtown needs more residential opportunities? If so, how do you think we can achieve that? A: This plays a huge part with question number 4. Yes, Downtown needs more residential opportunities. We can achieve more residential opportunities Downtown by developing more large scale mixed-use and mixed-income housing and by continue to conduct Downtown Residential Census each year. Rooftops support retail. So if we can create more affordable quality spaces for people to live, that can in turn create more foot traffic Downtown and will help with our retail growth and make Downtown Pensacola a better place to live, work and play.


Jerry Maygarden President and CEO, Greater Pensacola Chamber

Q: While South Palafox is thriving, investors seem to be hesitant about developing the North Palafox corridor above Garden Street (as well as the South corridor below Main Street). We’ve seen some development recently, but do you have any plans to encourage more development and an overall sense of connectivity to those areas and other outlying areas? A: The Chamber spends most of its time and resources developing primary jobs for the community, and in turn creating secondary or indirect jobs, which drive the retail and commercial development we would want to see in this region.


A: You’re going to see more retail growth occur when you see more residential growth Downtown; the two coincide with each other. When people live Downtown, it will drive more shopping options. Also, an initiative to promote our historic Downtown community will lead to new and expanded retail options. Q: In an ideal world, what would you specifically

Q: What do you see as the number one challenge in

like to see done to the ECUA property? A: For our community, at the appropriate time, we would see a truly mixed-use master plan development on that property, which would include a hotel conference facility, some housing, some retail and some commercial projects.

the biggest recent boon to the continuing of Downtown’s growth? A: I think the biggest challenge to Downtown development is that outside developers are making investments in markets that are seeing a faster growth in recovery than what ours is right now. One of the challenges that we face is that we are not seeing recovery growth that other regions are seeing, and they are getting the first wave of development and redevelopment dollars. On the flip side, we are seeing local investors and developers stepping up, such as Studer Group, Beck Property, Tehaar & Cronley and many others, taking advantage of current market property values and being really creative in structuring deals to help push our growth.

Q: What is being done to help streamline governmental processes for potential investors or developers so that bureaucracy does not become a roadblock for innovation? A: The City and County have already taken great steps in providing their own Fast Track program and Free Development Conferences – where developers come in and ask specific questions about their project to all government department heads. They have done great things in making that process easier for growth. It would never hurt to look at high-level master plans and consider some pre-approved zoning opportunities, in which some processes are already pre-approved, allowing development to occur faster.

Q: We are seeing some interesting development in stadium use coming out of the Maritime Park. Yet, there are still questions about the financial viability of the park. When and how do you foresee the Park being self-sufficient? A: The recent partnership with UWF is a great step toward allowing additional development in the park to occur. Reaching out and creating new opportunities will help allow the community to grow and to catch up with the Park, which will eventually lead to its self-sufficiency.

Q: Do you agree that Downtown needs more residential opportunities? If so, how do you think we can achieve that? A: Yes, as residential opportunities would give way to retail opportunities. An assessment of parking in the Downtown area would help facilitate that. Also, by looking at an overall master parking plan, as well as looking into density studies, we will get a better sense of how residential areas can improve Downtown Pensacola’s growth.

Q: How do you feel about the intense growth of entertainment and bars Downtown? How do we increase retail growth?





Ron Butlin Executive Director, DIB

Q: While South Palafox is thriving, investors seem to be hesitant about developing the North Palafox corridor above Garden Street (as well as the South corridor below Main Street). We’ve seen some development recently, but do you have any plans to encourage more development and an overall sense of connectivity to those areas and other outlying areas? A: As Downtown continues to grow, that will happen naturally; however, Garden Street is a meaningful barrier. We need to evaluate the pedestrian aspect of the intersection to see if there are physical ways to make the crossing easier. We will continue to encourage businesses north of Garden to participate in Gallery Nights to help visitors realize there is activity in this area. During the past two Gallery Nights, the Harvest Church—owners of the Rex Theater—have been setting up a band in the MLK Jr. parkway and definitely pulling people across Garden to listen. The first roof top patio and also the Palafox Market are both located north of Garden Street. So there is quite a bit of activity already and we will continue to promote business growth wherever possible. Q: What do you see as the number one challenge and the biggest recent boon to continuing Downtown’s growth? A: Many of the challenges are somewhat tied to the successes. The incorrect perception that parking is a problem and the overall cleanliness of Downtown as more and more people use Downtown remain issues to be addressed. Q: We are seeing some interesting development and stadium use coming out of the Maritime Park, yet there are still questions about the financial viability of the park. When and how do you foresee the park becoming self-sufficient? A:The Maritime Park is a huge regional asset and a boon to Downtown. Pensacola has, as of yet, a relatively undeveloped water front and the Maritime Park is the first major step towards jump starting this area. As the stadium gets more usage, like UWF football, etc., and there is development on the surrounding parcels of land, the Maritime Park will take off. I believe we will look back in 10 years and wonder how we could have ever been concerned about its success. Q: How do you feel about the intense growth of entertainment and bars Downtown? How do we encourage more retail growth? A: I do not share some of the sentiment that there are too many bars and restaurants Downtown. We are, in fact, very fortunate that the majority of our establishments are open during the day for lunch. The entertainment category as an economic generator is significant and important to the region.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue



We do need to continue to encourage retail growth; however, that is largely done by making Downtown desirable and having lots of people in Downtown. Retail follows people, so as we see Downtown getting busier and busier, we will see more retail. We will encourage retail through providing demographic information and hosting events targeting retail exposure which we plan to lead this year. We will also review the current retail mix and target a sector or two, for direct recruiting. Q: In an ideal world, what specifically would you like to see happen to the ECUA property? A: Lots of density, this site is not a fringe site. I would love to see true vertical mixed use with residential, office and retail. I get worried when I hear people thinking small for this site, like one-story retail. This site could support 500+ residential units, 300,000 to 500,000 square feet of office and ground floor retail, all within walking distance to City, County and State offices, the Maritime Park and the all the other opportunities and activities of Downtown. Q: What is being done to help streamline governmental processes for potential investors or developers so that bureaucracy does not become a roadblock to innovation? A: I can’t specifically address changes but I will say that the Mayor and key City staff have a terrific “want to get it done” attitude. Q: Do you agree that Downtown needs more residential opportunities? If so, how do you think we can achieve that? A: Residents living Downtown is what ultimately gives you a 24/7 active Downtown, so yes, residential opportunities are and will continue to be important. Again, we all work together to make Downtown appealing to a wide cross section of people, create activities that attract people, work to keep Downtown safe and clean and cooperate with all levels of government to facilitate development requests for Downtown. We already have a wonderful mix of housing opportunities that I think sometimes get overlooked, from single family homes on the west side, executive homes in North Hill, family homes in East Hill, and urban living in Aragon. The PNJ property is positioned for an amazing opportunity for more mixed-use development. We need to keep telling the story and rolling out the red carpet to those interested in developing Downtown and to those desiring to live Downtown. The current residents are our best ambassadors – they absolutely would not live any other place in the area.


Brian Spencer City Council Member, District 6

Q: While South Palafox is thriving, investors seem to be hesitant about developing the North Palafox corridor above Garden Street (as well as the South corridor below Main Street). We’ve seen some development recently, but do you have any plans to encourage more development and an overall sense of connectivity to those areas and other outlying areas? A: The North Palafox corridor between Garden and Wright has some obstacles to redevelopment that are not easily removed. They are in the form of two large Federal government buildings that do not deliver the same vibrancy that is associated with retail and restaurant occupancies. The good news is that the obstacles are not impossible to overcome and that North Palafox is proving to be an attractive candidate for real estate investors. An impressive contribution to the corridor’s goal to introduce more vibrancy is the boutique hip hotel, Sole. Some of the original North Palafox stakeholders such as Rock Hard Jewelers and A&J Mugs have weathered the recession storm and have witnessed the Saturday Palafox Market grow from a sparsely attended event to a “must see and do” weekly signature event with national recognition. Because the Market has become so popular and regularly attended, I believe it gives credibility to exploring how the North Palafox promenade may be used more frequently than on a weekly basis. Q: What do you see as the number one challenge and the biggest recent boon to continuing Downtown’s growth? A: There are numerous challenges that adversely affect the impressive growth our Downtown has been experiencing. They include the construction and insurance costs associated with renovating and constructing new buildings and the requirements associated with stormwater management. Our area’s commercial and residential rental rates are among the lowest in the state of Florida, yet our construction and insurance expenses are similar to Florida cities such as Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. This disparity is good news for the commercial and residential tenants; however, it translates to a lower return on investment without a reduction of risk for the investor. I believe that is why Pensacola has not seen the introduction of new office buildings or rental residential projects in the Downtown core. More infrastructure projects similar to Admiral Mason Park, a stormwater facility that was recently completed adjacent to the Veteran’s Memorial Park, are needed throughout Downtown to incentivize future Downtown growth. Q: We are seeing some interesting development and stadium use coming out of the Maritime Park, yet there are still questions about the financial viability of the park. When and how do you foresee the park becoming self-sufficient? A: The Maritime Park is similar to a start-up business venture that required significant upfront capital investment prior to opening the doors for customers. To put this into its proper context, this is a 30-acre business venture that includes public amenities and nine parcels (totaling more than nine acres) designated for long term ground leases, all of which are intended to produce revenue and share maintenance expenses. The stadium and waterfront public park have proven to be catalysts for development. Parcels one and two have been leased for private development and will begin to fulfill the goal of generating lease and tax revenue. Thus, the measurable financial return on one of Downtown’s largest public investments has started. Q: How do you feel about the intense growth of entertainment and bars Downtown? How do we encourage more retail growth? A: The cities that are retaining and attracting the young workforce are winning the competition of growing businesses. There is no disputing the power of socialization. Places become desirable for many reasons. If


enough good things start occurring regularly or simultaneously within the same neighborhood, town or city, the area can earn the reputation as a great place. I want Pensacola to be at the top of the list of great places as one of America’s great cities, and I believe we are heading in that direction. In order to achieve a top position on the list, we have to recognize the importance and economic value of mixed-use neighborhoods or districts that includes a high-density residential component. There are no better stewards of neighborhoods than residents. They are stakeholders that care about the crime level and cleanliness that defines their immediate surroundings. If we fail to recognize what is necessary to promote and preserve the incorporation of residences (referred to as rooftops in the retail world) within a retail, commercial and entertainment district, we will not deliver the ingredients necessary to grow and support a Downtown retail environment.

Q: In an ideal world, what specifically would you like to see happen to the ECUA property? A: The prospect of using a sizeable portion of the 19 acre parcel currently owned by ECUA for addressing stormwater retention needs for redevelopment within and beyond the parcel boundaries deserves further investigation by environmental and civil engineers, urban planners, and economists. I admittedly get frustrated when I hear or read references to the property as being prime, waterfront property. Yes, it is located on the west perimeter of our city’s Downtown core, but it is at a precariously low elevation that is vulnerable to rising floods due to rain. It literally is the bottom of the bowl, if you draw a wide circle encompassing the area west to Barrancas, east to Palafox, and north to Garden Street. I believe there is a huge potential for redeveloping the site with a lake size feature that accommodates stormwater needs within and outside the 19-acre site. Q: What is being done to help streamline governmental processes for potential investors or developers so that bureaucracy does not become a roadblock to innovation? A: Mayor Hayward’s creation of a new city position administered by Clark Merritt, Economic Opportunity and Sustainability Administrator, has helped streamline the process that involves dialogue between a developer and a bureaucracy. Mr. Merritt is positioned within the department of Planning Services, so his direct access to staff members within Planning helps expedite the questions or identified hurdles that can discourage development. I also believe that the Mayor’s insistence for expeditious results has been adopted throughout the Administration and departments within City Hall. The private sector has noticed the improvement in timely responses and feels more confident about engaging in the process that leads to new development, rehabilitation, and job growth. Q: Do you agree that Downtown needs more residential opportunities? If so, how do you think we can achieve that? A: The number one priority for Downtown Pensacola is addressing the unmet demand for residential options. For more than 15 years, professional consultants and urban planners have provided conclusive evidence that our Downtown provides more amenities than larger cities yet lacks the depth and variety of price choices that typically exist in a thriving downtown. I believe the City needs to identify all surplus property and issue solicitations (in the form of Requests For Proposals) to the development community with requirements that responses assure high-density residential projects with a high percentage of intermediate to small dwelling units.




VISIONARIES & I NN NNOVAT OVATORS RS As Downtown Pensacola becomes an increasingly

organizations. Out of two visionaries selected for each sector, the first important hub of business in Northwest represents the introduction of that industry in the area, and the second Florida, certain industry sectors are emerging as the face of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s recent represents that industryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s evolution and success. These industry sectors, ranging future. While the visionaries might be the from food and entertainment, to commercial real estate and technology, most noticeable and have the largest impact, it is often the innovators that have respective visionaries and work on the ground-level, creating a innovators who have contributed culture and sustainable environment for greatly to each sectorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s introduction their businesses to thrive. Each of the and subsequent success in Pensacola. following industry sections contains Business Climate magazine set out to recognitions of these innovators, learn the history, current economic providing a snapshot of the methods impact and future development plans utilized to keep passions alive and for each of these visionaries and profitable in Downtown. innovators, be they entrepreneurs or 32

>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


By Josh Newby

T HE ORIGINAL V I SI ONA RY Downtown Improvement Board Long before Downtown’s recent resurgence, before there was a single Gallery Night or Pelican Drop or shop-lined Palafox corner, there was the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB), the original visionary organization that started it all. The DIB is charged with Ron Butlin, fostering an Executive Director environment where businesses can of the DIB grow, where outsiders want to visit, and where citizens are proud to call home. Formed in 1972 by the Florida Legislature as a quasigovernmental organization with the purpose of developing, improving and marketing the 44-block core of Downtown, the DIB serves as a united advocate for business owners, residents and tourists who enjoy the area. Governed by a five-member board and managed by an executive director, the DIB represents a variety of interests in Downtown, facilitates events, works in tandem with city and county government to affect change, and serves as a driving force forward for Downtown as a whole. Many of the industry sectors and their representative visionaries and innovators would not be nearly as successful without the macro advocacy the DIB offers. With projects ranging from parking and retail strategy to

various expansion efforts, the organization’s mark on Downtown is noticeable and positive. Before the DIB took over parking, the average car would remain parked for more than five hours, leading to a shortage of spaces and decreased patronage for retail destinations and restaurants. Since the DIB assumed control, average time is now less than one hour and the increased parking turnover has led to a more bustling, diverse area. “We want what is best for the entire Downtown,” said Ron Butlin, executive director of the DIB. “Having people Downtown is what makes Downtown successful. You can have the best retail and beautification strategies in place, but if there’s no people, then there’s no sales, no tax, and no economy.” The DIB was also instrumental in changing Palafox, considered the main corridor of Downtown, from a oneway street to a two-way. Businesses have also been encouraged to remain open later, with more consistent hours of operation, and weekend markets can now be found on the north portion of Palafox. “As a result of these improvements, we’ve seen a broader base of tourism, which means the word is getting out and our marketing is working,” said Butlin. “Eventually, I think you’ll see a more diverse economy with retail shops and residential spaces, and a gradual move toward the south near the water.” New businesses can also take advantage of the DIB, which helps facilitate conversations with the city and county on various code regulations and zoning requirements. “Everything we do feeds into economic development,” said Butlin. “From improving the pedestrian experience Downtown to creating memorable events, everything we do is for the businesses that operate here and those who rely on the economy of the area.” Without the DIB either directly or indirectly involved with various industries and policy decisions, other nongovernment visionaries and innovators would not have a unified voice of advocacy and a medium between the public and private sectors.




R EA L ES T AT E V I SI ONA RI ES Deborah Dunlap Perhaps best known as a Pensacola author and historian with a famously expansive trove of 50,000 historic Pensacola pictures dating as far back as 1860, Deborah Dunlap was also one of the first commercial real estate developers in Downtown who took a risk to transform the district into a place with something for everyone. She has continued to be active in Downtown property development through her involvement with Fiesta of Five Flags, the Downtown Board (DIB), Deborah Dunlap Improvement Friends of the Saenger Theatre, and more. Now working with commercial leases and residential lofts in the heart of Downtown with her company Deborah Dunlap Properties, she first became involved in area locations in 1993 when she purchased 112 and 114 Palafox St., which thanks to renovations now has two large loft apartments and an office upstairs, as well as Belle Ame’ and Adonna’s Bakery downstairs. She has also had a hand in the entire Saenger block of Downtown, 100, 102 and 104 Palafox St. (now Subway and the Tin Cow), and the full renovation of six retail spaces and five loft apartments between 120 and 130 Palafox St.

Quint Studer Mentioning commercial real estate and land development in Downtown Pensacola is almost impossible without talking about Quint and Rishy Studer. Though Quint’s experience is in health care and organizational consultation, having served as president of Baptist Hospital and founder of the Studer Group, the past 10 years have seen the couple become titans of business development in Downtown. “It started for me in 2003 and 2004,” said Quint about his initial foray into commercial real Quint and Rishy estate. “I discovered the Soul of the City study, which examines Studer why some cities grow and some don’t, and I asked why Pensacola wasn’t growing.” Quint discovered that there are many tactics necessary to work towards the goal of a vibrant, attractive Downtown, and began setting out to accomplish those. “We are not real estate people, we are community development people,” said Quint. “We need to create jobs and living spaces for young people and keep them here. We need more multi-purpose businesses and of course we need an initial reason for people to come Downtown, which was the reason for the Maritime Park and Blue Wahoos.”


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


“Revitalization does not happen overnight or because one sexy business opens,” said Dunlap. “It happens because of all the behind-the-scenes work that little by little made Downtown more attractive and vibrant to make that sexy business want to be here. Most people see only what is here today.” Dunlap attributes much of that key behind-the-scenes work to Kim Kimbrough, former executive director of the DIB. Reimagining the structure of parking and traffic was the single biggest catalyst to Downtown’s revitalization, according to Dunlap. “After careful study, it was determined that one-way streets were a deterrent to revitalization,” said Dunlap. “Making Palafox a two-way street made a huge difference.” Subsequent efforts to make the city more walkable with stop signs instead of traffic lights and fair parking management that removed the stigma of a hard-to-park Downtown are all achievements praised by Dunlap. It is because of those changes that Downtown continues to transform itself and become a place that Dunlap loves even more. “I love a clean urban environment where I can walk to shops, restaurants, events and festivals,” said Dunlap. As for the future of this quickly growing sector of the city, Dunlap, along with other movers and shakers in the area, warn against pigeonholing Downtown into one particular business sector. Business diversity is essential to any budding city district, especially one that has so many willing and potential investors. “[We can’t] be too quick to label Downtown an ‘entertainment district’ and we have to enforce the laws equally for everyone,” said Dunlap. “Start with an enforceable noise ordinance—if you would not tolerate it in the daytime, it should not be tolerated at night. We need a greater variety of retail stores and we need more people living in housing Downtown. I hope to see a high-rise condominium down here in the near future.”

His plans to make Downtown more vibrant and sustainable have been 10 years in the making, ever since he purchased the Rhodes Building. Upcoming real estate projects for the Studers include moving the Studer Group headquarters to the Maritime—a task that should be completed between June and September of 2014— completing the Artisan retail space on the corner of Palafox and Main with residential space above, and the purchase of the current Pensacola News Journal property. “A big part of Downtown development is controlling the space around you,” said Quint. “When we developed the Bodacious Olive and Bodacious Brew, we weren’t sure what would end up going around it, so we put the Artisan plans into action. These types of amenities attract residents, which attract retail, which of course brings more money and more opportunity.” The Studers have been saying for years that Pensacola needs more diverse businesses, better infrastructure and a Downtown that many different age groups can enjoy. An older couple would enjoy the same type of Downtown as a younger, single professional, according to Quint. Ideal traits include walkability, shared space, recreation offerings, wellness services, and small retail options. “You also have to be willing to go vertical,” said Quint. “New construction is very expensive, so if we can expand or repurpose current locations, that would be ideal to push Pensacola past the tipping point of a truly successful Downtown. For that, you need residents.” And in order to promote Downtown residency, the Studers have tried to hire local, contract local and collaborate local. Having been in Pensacola since 1996, the Studers have certainly made their mark on Downtown and continue to improve options for companies and residents with innovative ideas and support of small businesses and students through a variety of grants and scholarships with the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College.

I NNOVATORS Justin Beck Pensacola is well established in Northwest Florida as an area with extensive and immersive history, award-winning beaches, and a recently revitalized Downtown. In Downtown and Justin Beck building design. Rendering by Homer Jolly Design beyond, Beck Property Company is also well established—for its position as Northwest Florida’s premier commercial real estate firm. Since their start in 1981, they have been responsible for transforming much of Downtown and the city of Pensacola. As president as one of the most successful property companies in the region, Justin Beck has also become an expert in the nuances of real estate, property value and renovating the city’s Downtown corridor. Beck Properties is currently working on a new three-story mixed-use

development on parcel No. 1 at the Maritime Park. The project will include approximately 7,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, Beck Property Company’s office on the second floor, and four luxury residential condominiums on the third. “We have also been fortunate to be involved in the sale of the Pensacola News Journal property, which is currently under contract,” said Beck. “This will be one of the largest and most significant transactions Downtown. Our firm represents a few high profile, large office tenants Downtown and we are currently working with them to determine where and how much space they need in Downtown Pensacola.” Beck believes that Downtown real estate is growing, thriving and active in a fantastic way. Rental rates have risen as much as 25 percent in some areas since 2009, and vacancy rates have dropped significantly. The Downtown office market is extremely tight, and Beck anticipates rates jumping very soon for buildings that are well-managed and maintained. The trick now, according to Beck, is to connect the nodes of activity so that the entire market is vibrant. As much of Downtown hopefully moves to more mixed-use and higher density projects, Beck is optimistic about the government’s role in fostering change and allowing businesses to grow and flourish.

Brian Spencer

Brian Spencer

Justin Beck is not the only real estate innovator in the city. Brian Spencer, who has owned SMP Architecture since 1989 and works as a city councilman, seems to be everywhere at all times, improving Downtown and lending his expertise to various commercial locations. Spencer has had a hand in some of the highlights of Downtown Pensacola, including Jackson’s Steakhouse, which was purchased 15 years ago as Peaden’s Office Supply, and in Spencer’s opinion, served as the catalyst for redevelopment south of Government Street. Other high-profile locations include 17 E. Main St., purchased for redevelopment 14 years ago and now the professional office building of a law firm and plastic eye surgeon; and the Beggs & Lane Building, once a place for county facilities and operations maintenance, it is now proof that Pensacola’s waterfront can be more than just industrial sites. That, coupled with the historic conversion of the former county courthouse and jail facility to the current Pensacola Cultural Center, helped set a more diverse tone for today’s Downtown real estate. “Pensacola should explore and identify successful formulas (from other cities) that translate to successful high density mixed-use and residential redevelopment projects in their downtowns,” said Spencer. “We should not be bashful about creating incentives that ensure long term growth that is necessary to sustain and replenish our tax base.”



One opportunity for change and growth is the Escambia County Utilities Authority (ECUA). The ECUA was created in 1981 and took ownership of city and county water and wastewater treatment assets, including the now famously vacant Main Street plant lot. In 2004, when Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola, the plant was crippled. As a result, the ECUA and FEMA worked together and constructed a new water reclamation facility in northern Escambia County, leaving the Main Street operation in progress throughout the project. That Downtown location ceased operations in March 2011, followed by a ground water sampling under the direction of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “After demolition, the ECUA conducted soil sampling to determine if there were contaminants in the soil,” said Lois Benson, board member of the ECUA. “Three shallow wells were created at the site and we began sampling the ground water. After two consecutive quarters were found to have no contamination issues at all, FDEP okayed the end of sampling activities. FDEP issued an official clearance of the site in January 2013.” Foundational structures still exist in portions of the underground land, which may be beneficial for new construction on site. However, an underground stream that runs through the property is of concern, as it may

have an impact on the stability of the land. With appraisal estimates currently between $4 and $8 million, the Main Street plant site belongs to the ratepayers of the ECUA, and any revenues from the sale of that property are pledged to repayment of the debt for construction of the new North Escambia plant. “I believe the board is interested in selling the property to the highest bidder,” said Benson. “It is my hope that anyone who purchases the property will have a vision for its use that will enhance downtown and help make Pensacola one of the great cities of the Southeast.”

The REX Another location with a history of ups and downs and a promising future is the Rex Theatre. With its old-school, vintage look, the theatre was in operation from 1937 through the mid-1970s, but has remained mostly unused since its original owners donated the location to the City of Pensacola. There were various owners, renovations and repurposings over the subsequent years. In 1984, the property was purchased for $95,000 and then repossessed in 1987. In 1997, the Rex was bought again, this time for just $25,000, to Michelle and John MacNeil, who put a great deal of work into the building, including the addition of an apartment above the entrance. With no plans reaching full maturation, however, Harvest Church acquired the Rex in 2012 for $425,000 and plans to restore the theatre once again, with a 1930s art-deco façade, renovated interior that will include a large main theatre, a second floor café, and even a rooftop patio-style space for special events. Harvest Church also plans to use the theatre as their venue to reach out to the community and fulfill their missions. The REX Pensacola’s Downtown real estate story is certainly a long one, with many investors, spurts of growth, drawbacks, and increasing potential. For several years, Downtown offerings and property quality has increased dramatically, leading to renewed interest among current visionaries and opportunity for future innovators. It is no surprise, then, that area experts seem convinced that the future of Downtown property and real estate is positive and that conditions and quality will continue to improve.




ENT ERT A I NM ENT V I SI ONA RI ES Seville Quarter Since 1967, when Rosie O’Grady’s opened as a simple bar with picnic tables and good music, Seville Quarter has been Downtown Pensacola’s entertainment destination. Now, with seven rooms, multiple restaurants, countless beers and live music every night, the complex is doing better than ever by attracting all ages and giving right back to the community and various non-profits. Originally opened by Bob Snow, who went on to start Seville Quarter clubs in Orlando and Las Vegas, the Mitchell family has owned the company since 1988, and they have been faithful to the original vision of homegrown employment, local investments, and a good time. With 125 employees, the one-stop entertainment complex services needs as varied as a classy venue for weddings and business parties (Heritage Hall, formerly a sheet metal shop), a place to kick back with a few beers and friends and watch the ever-entertaining dueling piano show (Rosie O’Grady’s), and a dance floor to let loose and jam to the latest tunes (Phineas Phogg’s). The location also doubles as the home to many sports organizations that come and watch their favorite teams. Gator and Seminole games alike can be seen on one of their countless high-definition televisions,

Vinyl Music Hall Opening a major music venue, entertainment complex and bar in the middle of a recession may seem like a bad idea to most people, but that is exactly what the Levin Group, made up of Harry, Evan and Sherrod Levin, did when they opened Vinyl Music Hall in 2009 in the Masonic Lodge building. Although the building was originally envisioned as a multiuse space with residential condominiums on the top floor and retail businesses on the bottom, the Levin team decided to get creative and go into the concert business. Vinyl Music Hall Able to accommodate about 500 people, Vinyl filled a niche need in Pensacola, and helped host musical and entertainment acts that were too big for area favorites like Sluggo’s and the Handlebar, but not big enough for the Pensacola Bay Center. “We had attended concerts at mid sized venues like Vinyl in other cities and knew that Pensacola was starving for this level of entertainment,” said Harry. The concert venue has become a fixture in Downtown life ever since, attracting multitudes of different audiences through its doors each week.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


as well as MMA fights. The complex spends an estimated $600,000 a year on live entertainment for its guests. “We have something for everyone,” said Buck Mitchell, who is in charge of special events and marketing for the facility. “We have some of the best food, the best local bands, and everything from beer from Pensacola Bay Brewery to cheese from Sweet Home Farms.” This local allegiance is one of the reasons for Seville’s success, even in the face of economic difficulty, according to Buck. “What kept us alive through the recession was that piano bar that people love and our local fan base,” said Buck. “They know that Seville is a fun, safe place. When other locations Downtown start closing down around 11 or midnight and they want somewhere to go and dance or just sit down with friends, they come to us.” Seville is also active in many charities and fund-raising partnerships, helping organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and ARC Gateway raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. “We have something every week,” said Buck. “We are always helping not only new and emerging businesses Downtown, but also charities and those who do well for others.” The annual Crab Cake Cook-off for ARC Gateway and an annual turkey cook-out for the disadvantaged every Thanksgiving are just some of the activities beyond entertainment that Seville prides itself on. Seville is also planning to expand to a building just across the road from the complex and create a restaurant in the near future. “The wheels are spinning on that, so it should be coming online soon,” said Buck. Until then, Seville will continue to serve as the entertainment destination of the Gulf Coast, ranked as one of top 100 nightclubs for the past four consecutive years.

Vinyl has made a name for itself as an entertainment destination in Pensacola that is also a social hotspot. With all of the options and array of bars and entertainment venues Downtown, Vinyl Music Hall has managed to stand out from the increasingly bustling Palafox nighttime district. “We pride ourselves on the diversity of the touring artists we bring to Vinyl,” said Harry. “We offer something for just about any type of music fan: from bluegrass to heavy metal, reggae to electronic music, country to punk rock and everything in between. That variety is also what keeps our staff engaged, interested and enthusiastic. Every night at Vinyl Music Hall truly is its own unique experience.” The venue hosts between 150 and 200 events a year, attracting between 100 and 500 people per event, keeping the dedicated staff busy and the street-corner location a frequent hub of eclectic entertainment options. Vinyl also does its part for community non-profit organizations, including the Council on Aging, Covenant Hospice, Gulf Coast Kids House, and others. Having a mid-size concert location in Downtown has helped benefit other businesses, too. “A large percentage of the folks that come down to the shows often stop at nearby Downtown restaurants before the shows and stop in at other nearby bars for a nightcap after the shows,” said Harry. “Because our customers are different for every show, we know there is a positive economic and cultural impact on Downtown.” Harry and other visionaries at Vinyl remain committed to providing unique entertainment options to the people of Pensacola, and they have recently branched out into hosting comedy and even burlesque shows— two events they have had great success with. “We definitely plan on doing more of these in the future, as well as always looking out for unique forms of entertainment that we think the venue is a solid forum for,” said Harry.

I NNOVATORS The Pensacola Bay Center has been attracting big name performers and countless locals and tourists for nearly 30 years now. Formerly the Pensacola Civic Center, the complex underwent a name change and marketing makeover to establish itself as a high-demand national facility. The Bay Center consistently ranks on top 10 lists of comparable locations for numbers of tickets sold, bringing its estimated annual economic impact to $4.8 million. Pensacola Bay KISS performed in 1985 at the Center then brand-new concert venue, which has since attracted names like Michael Jackson, Shania Twain and Michael Buble; political

Pensacola Little Theatre

fixtures like George W. Bush, Michelle Obama and Mitt Romney; and a variety of sporting and competitive events. The Bay Center also serves as the location for many area high school and university graduations for a total of nearly 600 events a year, boosting outside revenue. It is estimated that about 40 percent of Bay Center ticket-buyers come from outside the area and bring with them money to spend on dining, hotels, and other tourist attractions. The venue buys local whenever possible, and allows regional groups and schools to fundraise, receiving a percentage of concession stand funds when they work. “We have a large local and regional economic impact,” said Cyndee Pennington, general manager of the Bay Center. “We have 22 full-time employees and 250 to 300 part-timers, such as ticket sellers for events. We have a capacity of 10,000, and if it wasn’t for that large number, people would be going elsewhere to receive the services we provide.” Bay Center leadership is currently in talks with county commissioners to complete three phases of a $10 million renovation/enhancement plan that Pennington hopes will be underway soon. Smaller-number venues are a big hit in Pensacola as well, and just as economically and culturally important.

The Pensacola Little Theatre (PLT), a cultural fixture in the city since 1936, is a nonprofit community organization that provides experiences that entertain, enrich, and educate adults and children who live in or visit Northwest Florida. Their facility, the Pensacola Cultural Center, houses musicals, comedies, dramas, and children’s shows; adult and youth classes in acting and other theatre skills; a variety of volunteer opportunities; exciting fundraisers; and a family atmosphere that brings out the best in everyone who walks through the doors. As the leader in Pensacola community theatre, the PLT is consistently evolving and growing. Over the next four years, the company plans to increase volunteer support, improve and grow sponsorships, produce better performance quality,

The Saenger Theatre In 1981, the Saenger reopened with its former 1925 glory thanks to combined funds of $1.6 million from the newlyformed “Friends of the Saenger” and a city loan. In 2007, it closed again briefly for a complete expansion and renovation project, included a stage The Saenger which extension, a covered Theatre loading dock, wider seats, and enhanced acoustics. In 2011, the entrance received a $14,275 makeover and in early 2013 it ranked number two nationwide for ticket sales for venues with 2,000 seats or less. Today, the Saenger hosts the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Pensacola Opera, Pensacola Children’s Chorus, and other local, regional and national acts. Big names recently have included Kevin James and Daniel Tosh, and the Theatre company recently began its much-loved Summer Classic Movie Series, in which movies from the golden age of cinema are shown on the big screen as they were intended.

place greater emphasis on energy efficiencies and savings, complete refurbishments, and more. An integral and vital component of Downtown Pensacola life and business, the PLT receives much of its patronage and funds from the area. In fact, 50 percent of all PLT revenue comes from sponsorship, with 30 percent from ticket sales and 20 percent from fund-raising. Dependent on area theatergoers for its livelihood, the organization is careful to invest right back into the local community, using regional talent, supplies, staff, and marketing opportunities. In just the past year, the PLT was responsible for pumping over $630,000 of its revenue back into the local economy, according to the company’s treasurer, and as the organization continues to grow and expand, that number is likely to increase.

The Blue Wahoos One of the biggest recent developments to Downtown entertainment is undoubtedly the Blue Wahoos, Pensacola’s very own minor league baseball team that plays regularly in Main Street’s Community Maritime Park. The team is not only a boon for the quality and diversity of Downtown entertainment; it has also served as a positive force to bring citizens The Blue Wahoos and tourists alike to neighborhood businesses. More than 300,000 people are estimated to visit Downtown during the five-month baseball season as a result of the Wahoos. The Blue Wahoos also host non-baseball activities during the year to keep excitement high, such as Winter Wonderland, which transforms Maritime Park into a cold-weather holiday destination with ice-skating and games, and Pensacola’s Got Talent, a regional event based on the hit TV show that recruits people to entertain guests during games. A brainchild and investment of Quint and Rishy Studer, the Maritime Park property also serves various other functions, and developers like Justin Beck are creating multiuse buildings for the location. Money that the team and facility make is also put right back into the community, as food items and beverages are purchased from local vendors. The Wahoos are also no stranger to awards, with groundskeeper Ray Sayer appointed Groundskeeper of the Year for the Southern Minor League and Charles Leddon named Athletic Trainer of the year by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society. Entertainment in Pensacola is both award winning and captivating for its citizens and those who visit its venues. A fun, vibrant Downtown is a healthy Downtown and these visionaries and innovators are certainly doing their part to incentivize and reward those who visit their entertainment establishments.





IHMC Institute for Human and Machine Cognition Pensacola is rich in culture, history and entertainment options, attracting tourists year-round to its simple city streets and charming shops. It may seem unlikely, therefore, that the same city is home to one of the highest-tech research organizations in the state. Building robots, exploring sensory stimulation, and partnering with companies like Microsoft, Honda and Boeing, the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) was created by the Florida state legislature in 2003. Since then, the non-profit organization has led the state in cutting-edge technological discovery and procures almost $30 million in grants and funding. Though their main funder is the Department of Defense and NASA, they work in collaboration with state universities and find methods of applying their federal and academic findings to commercial purposes. IHMC also has a major impact economically, estimated at $130 million annually, mainly because of high-wage salaries that exceed $100,000 a year and research expenditures. With 85 dedicated scientists and engineers at the Pensacola location, IHMC’s focus is on basic research, applied research and prototype development, and writing the complex software for innovations like bi-pedal humanoid robots for

disaster relief. The organization also has a machine shop in-house and has actually built technology like exo-skeletal robots that specialize in appendage assistance for paraplegics. “We also work to improve cognition for seniors and children with learning disabilities,” said Sharon Heise, associate director of the IHMC. “We work with natural dialogue systems to help humans and computers better communicate and we tap into alternate neural pathways for people with physical disabilities.” One recent IHMC project involves the integrating of computers into the lives of veterans who have suffered psychological trauma. These computers can carry on a conversation with the patients and help them improve memory and social skills. “The patient can orally tell the robot that they have recently been to Morocco, for example,” said Heise. “The robot will then go on Wikipedia, look up information on Morocco and ask questions related to its findings. We want to take the robots out of the lab and put them in the real world.” Beyond the technology, the IHMC also strives to be a habitat for innovators, community partnerships and the entrepreneurial spirit. The organization is active in the community with its Evening Lecture Series that provides a community forum where individuals gather to hear engaging and enlightening conversation. Additionally, IHMC hosts Science Saturdays (Jan. 26, Feb. 23, March 16, and April 20), a science enrichment program for kids in grades 3-5. IHMC adopts a market-driven philosophy, creating intellectual property spinoffs with everyday life applications. One recent spin-off has been the CMapTools knowledge modeling software that IHMC and UWF developed jointly. CMapTools, at its most basic, is a computer program that allows users to create, discover and share knowledge intuitively, promoting an easier understanding of complex data. A commercial version of this program, “Insight,” is in the works. As a result of IHMC’s high standards for excellence, the organization has attracted skilled and highly sought-after technological and scientific talent to the area, people who may never consider a career in Pensacola otherwise. Those who work at IHMC, half of whom hold PhDs, understand their goal is to build technology that improves people’s lives. Hosting national competitions and fine-tuning robotic responses to gait-walking and push-recovery are just some of the ways this team of does that.

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship A concept since the 1980s, the Pensacola Chamber’s and Pensacola State College’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) began in 2006 as a place where business-savvy hopefuls could rent reduced-price office space, receive mentorship and tutoring from on-site professionals, and bring outside money to Pensacola through technology and innovation. With 11 current tenants, some of whom are onsite Downtown and some of whom are remotely connected, the CIE has brought together some of the best ideas and brightest individuals. An economic development initiative, the CIE has been credited with contributing to the success of Vision 2015, connecting professionals in unique ways, and creating a hub of unique and technological companies to promote real growth in Pensacola’s economy. By helping these young businesses gain traction and get past the often-confusing baby stages of a company, the Chamber and PSC are also helping the region become a bigger player on the growing stage of technological innovation. Office space at the CIE is offered at a reduced rate to tenants who qualify. Whereas usual ClassA office space in Downtown goes for about $16 to $22 per square-foot, first-year businesses can rent space at the CIE from $10 a square-foot. Based on a system of eventual successful graduation, CIE the fees increase each year, with a $13-per-square-foot fee the second year and $16 the third year, until companies can stand on their own, move out and become real, viable players in Downtown business. Utilities such as phone, internet, and electricity are also provided to these startup companies. In order to qualify for this assistance, companies must be beyond the concept stage and show real chances for success and growth. They must also offer unique solutions or be technologically based. “We want these companies to bring in money from the outside to grow their businesses and our economy,” said Kelly Reeser director of entrepreneurial development at the Chamber and manager of the CIE. “We want them to be able to compete in high-growth sectors and have scalable ideas.” Companies at the CIE range from PayCell Systems, which offers solutions that allow wireless stores to maximize airtime sales by offering several distribution platforms, and CollegeFrog, a campus recruiting tool for the accounting industry. “Everyone here, from all the different companies, helps each other out,” said Andrew Myers, whose company Motto Creative specializes in web design and development, and mobile application development. “That synergy and cooperation are what make the CIE a great place for a young company, beyond just the financial advantages offered. We are all in this together.” The CIE is a hot commodity Downtown, frequently at full capacity and churning out successful ideas and startups. “In the next several years, we would like to increase the CIE’s visibility in the community, and possibly even expand our creative, collaborative space,” said Reeser. The CIE also hopes to one day collaborate with research institutions in the area such as the University of West Florida and the Institute of Human and Machine Cognition.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


I NNOVATORS The facility itself is also a testament to technological achievements as construction practices used the LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) program to maximize environmentally friendly concepts. Every chair, carpet, desk and rug is made with recyclable materials, encouraging kids to take care of the planet they are learning about. Natural light is used extensively, allowing children to feel comfortable and at peace while receiving foundational knowledge that will guide them through the rest of their lives. Nearby nature trails and a creek provide a truly holistic educational approach, so that students can understand the environmental and biological sciences, while discovering how textbook knowledge applies in the real world. The GLA, a $20 million investment, provides curriculum from all corners of the globe, as well. Each grade is given a colorThe Global Learning Academy coded, designated continent that follows their curriculum for the entire year. Themed rooms also help transport students’ minds to The Global Learning Academy distant locales and understand difficult-to-grasp concepts. The combination of three short-listed schools including Allie The attendance zone for GLA spans North and East Hill, NAS Yniestra, Hallmark and Spencer Bibbs Elementary, the Global Pensacola, and the Downtown area. By focusing on students and Learning Academy (GLA) was created as a high-tech, state-of-the-art the youngest in the community, the GLA helps ensure a bright learning facility. The 200,000 square foot facility provides students future for the city, raising the visionaries and innovators of with high-tech SMART Boards and wired microphones in each tomorrow. classroom.

Hixardt Technologies Hixardt Technologies On the more adult and business-oriented side of Pensacola’s technological spectrum is Hixardt Technologies. With information technology and cutting-edge business solutions for both governmental and private purposes, Hixardt began in 2001 offering technology services for county, state and

federal institutions. After branching out to the commercial field with their revolutionary VerumVi device, their private sector business grew so much that it is now splitting to have its own identity. VerumVi is a cloud computing software that supports a variety of operating systems, not just Microsoft Windows or Apple’s iOS. The virtualization technology can be used to create private or hybrid clouds that easily integrate local network resources and cloud technologies to create a completely customized software experience. With governmental, educational, health care and other business uses, VerumVi has quickly become a strong competitor to Microsoft’s cloud services. With their success, Hixardt has had to expand to Georgia and Louisiana and even partners with Azure for more secure and certified data centers. Hixardt is a regular fixture on technology best-of lists, such as the Inc. 5,000 and was ranked in the top 100 data centers in the country. Pensacola has a strong technology and entrepreneurial backbone, and with businesses and programs that value scientific and engineering skill sets, the city is set to become an innovative hub in Northwest Florida.




DINING V I SI ONA RI ES Collier Merrill In 1998, a new bayside seafood restaurant opened that ushered in a new era of great cuisine, local ingredients and affordable upscale dining. That restaurant is of course the Fish House, one arm of the Great Southern Restaurant Group (GSRG) that Pensacola real estate developer Collier Merrill opened with his brothers, Will and Burney, and chef Jim Shirley. With Collier’s extensive ties to arts, culture and government in Florida, and Shirley’s renowned culinary Collier Merrill skills, it was not long until the Fish House gained notoriety and expanded into nearby spaces to create Atlas Oyster House. In 2006, the now-famous $1 million deck was built and the location began attracting not only Pensacolian and visiting foodies, but also seekers of entertainment and meeting space. The 3,500-square-foot addendum complemented the existing upper-level 3,400-square-foot deck that the Fish House shares with Atlas Oyster House. The Deck Bar has become a great Downtown venue for casual relaxation and live music. After the GSRG acquired Jackson’s Steakhouse in 2008, the organization became known as the new face of Pensacola fine dining and entertainment. Today, the group employs between 250 and 300 people and contributes tens of thousands of dollars regularly to area non-profit organizations.

Joe Abston

Joe Abston

When people who once lived in Pensacola years ago come back, they are often surprised by the bustling, burgeoning Downtown that the city now features. A once-desolate Palafox has been transformed into a bar, restaurant, shopping and entertainment destination. While many movers and shakers in the area are to thank for this recent explosion of culture, one visionary seems to represent the future of Downtown fun and food. Joe Abston, owner of local food staples such as Hopjacks, Tin Cow, Pot Roast & Pinot and more, settled down in Pensacola eight years ago with a singular vision: use his restaurant experience to help

transform the area. Part of Pensacola State College’s second graduating culinary class and with a history in restaurants and resorts, Abston moved from Philadelphia for a simpler way of life. Two years after arriving in the city, he opened Hopjacks in the heart of Downtown. The immediate success of the bar and restaurant took many by surprise. “I looked at what Pensacola needed,” said Abston. “It needed late-night food, it needed a great pizza joint, and it needed craft beer. I combined


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


“The Merrill family is from here, and we love the city,” said Collier. “We show that by supporting groups that we can, fostering music and the arts, and always buying local whenever possible.” Chef Irv Miller of Jackson’s Steakhouse often hosts classes that introduce aspiring chefs to local growers and groceries. “We get ingredients from companies like East Hill Honey and Coldwater Creek Gardens,” said Maria Goldberg, director of marketing for GSRG. The group also tries to promote from within and help grow its own talent. Fish House general manager Jean Pierre, Jackson’s general manager Steve Ooms, and other upper-level staff at GSRG started out as servers and wait staff. GSRG is looking to expand their catering offerings, with all menu options created and made by their chefs. Over the years, the restaurants have won numerous awards, including the Independent News Best of the Coast and the Pensacola News Journal’s Best Seafood awards, several of Florida Trend’s Golden Spoon awards, Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, WSRE’s Best Entrée, among others, and Jackson’s is particularly distinguished by securing the DiRoNA Award of Excellence. Collier attributes the roaring success of the restaurant group to an allegiance to quality and a generational fan base. “We get more than 10,000 customers a week to the Fish House alone,” said Collier. “If we’re 99 percent accurate, that may sound pretty good, but it means we’ve upset 100 people, which is unacceptable. We consistently strive to be on our game. It’s encouraging when you see people who were once kids here become parents and bring their kids here.” With a variety of famous guests, a history of quality service, and a strong commitment to local arts and culture, the GSRG and its various offshoots are a strong and stable fixture in advancing the landscape of Pensacola cuisine.

those elements into Hopjacks, and the community responded.” In the years to come, Abston would open a number of other restaurants, in Downtown, in the outer edges of the city, and even in other towns. He credits the recent expansion of Downtown possibilities to Pensacola people’s willingness to let the city realize its full potential. “For years in Pensacola all you’d hear about was its potential,” said Abston. “Well, I thought it was time to capitalize on that potential. A lot of factors, including perfect timing, an increasing national interest in food, and heightened awareness of local products, have made us successful.” Like most successful restaurants in the area, Abston strives to buy local whenever possible. From East Hill Honey to Gulf Breeze Farms, Abston and his restaurants will often plan specials and dishes around what is in season locally. With more than 200 employees spread across his many ventures, Abston gives much of the credit for his success to his team. “I couldn’t do all of this if I wasn’t for the talented people aligned with me,” said Abston. “I’m a creative force, but they get things done.” Abston is also active in the future of Downtown, participating in Downtown Improvement Board and City Council discussions about the city. In fact, Abston was a driving force behind the recent implementation of bollards for Gallery Night and other special events. In the future, he hopes to transform Palafox into a section of Downtown that is occasionally closed from Friday at 5 pm to Sunday at 5 pm. “Families could stroll through the streets, shop at Jeweler’s Trade Shop, eat at Tin Cow, have fun at the museums,” said Abston. “If we remain just bars and restaurants, we will die. We need a family- and retail-friendly atmosphere.” As for the future of his own dining concepts, another non-Downtown Tin Cow location is in the works, and Abston said that a new Downtown restaurant concept is not off the table.

I NNOVATORS Mackey’s Mudhouse and Grille

Al Fresco Al Fresco In April 2013, a truly inventive outdoor dining option opened in the heart of Downtown: Al Fresco. Combining a variety of different food styles, from Cajun to vegetarian to Mexican, each with its own service section but with a shared dining area, the street corner dining location has become a quick favorite for lunchtime, a casual dinner, a bite to eat during Gallery Night or before a Blue Wahoos game, or really any time. Al Fresco boasts the reopened and relocated Jerry’s Cajun Café, after the location on Ninth Avenue closed after almost 20 years. With breezes from the bay drifting in, high-top tables, and local musicians supplying background music, Al Fresco has become the quintessentially diverse location for even the pickiest foodie. Adults can enjoy a variety of alcoholic drinks, and families can appreciate kid-friendly menus like Gouda Stuff’s and more health-conscious options like Green House. “Al Fresco encourages an entrepreneurial spirit from those who want to branch out on their own, but want to do it in an affordable way,” said Michael Carro, a lead coordinator for the project. “There’s a lot of foot traffic and energy in that area of Downtown, and it’s so walkable Downtown now that it is really a great opportunity. Al Fresco is extremely well-received and a way people can do new things.”

Another dining option and concept new to Pensacola is Mackey’s Mudhouse and Grille. The brainchild of Missouri native Kevin Mackey, the rooftop bar and grill promises to be the next great Pensacola party and classy cuisine hotspot. In construction for almost a year, the restaurant caters to many different demographics, both with their menu and atmosphere. “The menu is the combination of my past eight projects,” said Mackey. “I took the best options and combined them for Mackey’s. I hope our location attracts a lot of different people: Mackey’s families, young people, business people, and so on.” Mudhouse and Everything each of those groups Grille could possibly want is certainly available at Mackey’s. The casual dining atmosphere of the first floor is sure to delight families and their children. The second-story loft is ideal for rehearsal dinners or business meetings, with PowerPoint hookups and other presentation options. And finally, the third floor, or rooftop, is great for game day partiers, parade-watchers, or students and young professionals looking to have a cold one while taking in one of the best views in town, overlooking the north portion of Palafox. With currently 40 employees, the location boasts local ingredients—in the food and the building itself. Soups and sauces are made on-site and many menu options are derived from items purchased at the Palafox Market. Mackey also specified that all contractors working on the construction of the restaurant be locally based, and local vendors will be given first option on all service and supply-side contracts. When he first came to Pensacola in mid-2012, Mackey was warned to not venture north of Garden street. Based on a previous experience with his restaurant company in Missouri, Mackey trusted his instinct and ignored the naysayers. “The only way for Downtown to grow is for it to expand,” said Mackey. “Palafox is a great street, and can be just as great north of Garden.” With help from the mayor’s office and other city officials, Mackey persevered through the red tape prevalent in rooftop establishments and opened just after Labor Day 2013. “The city has been great and very welcoming,” said Mackey. “We support the growth in Downtown and look forward to continuing on that track.”

Blake Rushing A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy in Orlando, Blake Rushing has fostered other upscale, cosmopolitan dining options in Pensacola. After graduating magna cum laude from the academy, Rushing began a threemonth internship in London at the famous Savoy Grill. After a brief stint in Pensacola at Jackson’s Steakhouse, Rushing returned to London to work at the Savoy Grill once more. Afterward, upon returning to Pensacola to Blake Rushing make a real impression in the culinary culture of the city, Rushing opened Elise, Coastal Dining, which was nominated Best

New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Although that option is now closed, Rushing is setting his sights on a new restaurant, Type, which is a part of boutique furniture store Duh!, on Ninth Avenue, in addition to his famous catering business, R&R Fine Catering. “Duh! has such an amazing reputation and clientele, and it is just another great expansion of Downtown,” said Rushing. “Also, the interior design of the restaurant is spectacular.” With a steadfast commitment to regional ingredients whenever possible, many of Rushing’s dishes have a distinctly Northwest Florida taste and that makes all the difference to him and his devoted clientele. “I always use local ingredients when I can,” said Rushing. “It is important to not only support the local businesses, but eating local also has so many great benefits. Think of a peach ripened on the tree— the sun cooks it everyday and that develops sweetness and background flavors just like slow cooking in a pan. Now think of a peach picked green off a tree and ripened in a crate, traveling to get to you. Big difference.” As a general rule, new restaurants are among the businesses most vulnerable to bankruptcy in the country. Labor and food costs continue rising and growing competition from national chains makes local cuisine identity a challenge. However, with these entrepreneurs and their creative concepts, in addition to a city and customer base that appreciates regional talent, Pensacola is fast becoming a Mecca for foodies everywhere.




Palafox Wins National Attention By Josh Newby

The American Planning Association, a professional institute of planners and officials dedicated to community excellence, recently awarded Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola with a national honor. The APA recognized qualities that locals have known about and appreciated for years. Designated as one of ten Great Streets in America for 2013, Palafox was recognized for its European influences, eclectic mix of Spanish Colonial architecture, expansive medians and sidewalks, and all the planning that has helped transform the street into a successful and exciting getaway in Downtown.




Each year during National Community Planning Month, APA’s Great Places in America program names 30 exemplary streets, neighborhoods and public spaces to highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs. Of all the major positive elements of Palafox that were recognized, the street’s historic preservation and the role of the Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) were especially important. The City of Pensacola has always placed a high value on its history and sharing that history with others. Preservation accomplishments recognized by the APA include the 1932 decision to remove street car tracks, the Community Redevelopment Agency that was created in 1980, the installation of Crepe Myrtle trees along Palafox to help designate Pensacola as a Tree City USA in 1990, and the 2013 decision between the City and County to install bollards at the entrance of the entertainment district. The DIB, which was formed in 1972 to support and improve economic activity for businesses located along the street, helps bring tourism and commerce to the area with soon to be monthly Gallery Nights, a New Year’s Eve Pelican Drop in Plaza Ferdinand that draws crowds of more than 50,000 people, and other special events involving street closures, portable restrooms, additional police and EMTs, and cleanup. Furthermore, the City’s 2010 comprehensive plan for extending the street’s ambience to the southern blocks impressed the APA and helps ensure that the street’s best years are yet to come. The Palafox Market, one of the country’s most celebrated weekly farmers markets, was noticed by the APA and included in their report, as was the recently revitalized waterfront. The Saenger Theatre, Andrew Jackson Monument in Plaza Ferdinand, and seven-story Blount Building were all recognized


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


as significant architectural achievements on the street, utilizing Spanish Baroque and Chicago School style influences. “For hundreds of years, Palafox Street has been at the center of life in our city,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward in a news release. “Over the past three decades, our community has reinvested in Palafox Street and, as a result, Palafox has once again become the anchor to a thriving, vibrant Downtown and a city in renaissance. I believe that a great Downtown is the heart of any great city. Palafox Street is a big part of why Pensacola is such a great place in which to live, work, and play, and we are excited to see it recognized as a Great Street.” The street’s historic character, its role in various pivotal battles in Pensacola’s storied history, its commercial and tourism-friendly qualities, and the ever-increasing vision of area movers and shakers helped gain Palafox this prestigious national recognition and guarantees that the heart of Downtown will only improve with age.


>Ninth Annual Downtown Business Climate Issue


Northwest Florida Business Climate October/November 2013  

In this special ninth annual Downtown Issue of Business Climate, we look to the past and future with our special expose of visionaries and i...