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East Garden District: Looking Back, Pushing Forward | 200 W. Garden: Blighted Block, Bright Future

15th Annual Downtown Issue


Who Mean

A new generation of women business owners are forging their futures at Southtowne

2019 / 2020 nwflbusinessclimate.com


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A New Hospital A Reimagined E Street Campus Baptist is building a new main hospital at the intersection of Brent Lane and I-110 in Pensacola. We plan to open in summer 2023. This new facility will keep us close to our current main hospital location and will offer greater access, enhanced technology and a concentration of related services, making it easier and more convenient to deliver better care to those we serve. More good news— Baptist will maintain a significant presence at our E Street Pensacola location. We look forward to working with community partners to ensure that the new version of this campus is designed to best serve local needs.


A reactivation project inspired by unique placemaking, community growth, and the City of Pensacola’s great history.

Connectivity Connectivity Located in the heart of downtown Pensacola at Palafox Street, Garden Street, Jefferson Street, and Chase Street, the East Garden District is inspired by inimitable place making, community, and the historic activation of a historic block.

History History Over 250 years ago, a city plan was developed for Pensacola by Elias Durnford that still inspires today! The EGD project will showcase a landscaping, streetscaping, and planting plan unique to the City of Pensacola, and befitting of the garden lots originally planned by Durnford for Garden Street.

Community Community

Elias Durnford’s city plan for Pensacola featured a large public square. The Urban Plaza is the EGD’s own public square, and pays tribute to Durnford’s vision for Pensacola and the importance of outdoor spaces in urban planning.

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Will Isern

With each passing year, Pensacola becomes a more interesting and desirable place to live. The spark that was born a decade ago with the creation of Maritime Park has since been fanned into a flame that continues to burn bright, a beacon to those seeking the quality of life at a price point that few places can provide. It’s a sentiment that’s born out in the market. The Pensacola International Airport is breaking records for the number of passengers passing through its gates and new homes, condos and apartments are going up in every direction. The epicenter of the city’s transformation is, of course, downtown. It is not lost on anyone who has watched the city change over the last decade that the transformational energy has emanated from Palafox Place. As someone who has tried to document each incremental step of downtown’s progression, I can tell you it’s been hard to keep up. This time last year, we were writing about how the Southtowne apartment complex had reached full capacity and similar developments were underway throughout the downtown core. Today, Southtowne is not just full of residents, but of businesses too, all of which are helmed by women. Those developments that one year ago were under construction are today home to a new cohort of residents that see value in being close to downtown, and their ranks are growing every day.

8 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

This, our 15th annual downtown issue of Northwest Florida’s Business Climate, examines the many changes that have happened downtown in the last year and many more that are on the horizon. While the downtown renaissance may have been kickstarted by visionaries like Quint Studer, a new generation of young entrepreneurs have taken up the torch and invested their energy to shape downtown into the place they want to live. Meanwhile, Studer and others like him continue to invest in downtown’s future in ways that few others can. Projects like the East Garden District and SCAPE waterfront plan which are in the works today stand to be as transformational for the future of downtown as the Maritime Park was a decade ago. As the decade comes to a close, its clear there is still room for downtown to grow and improve. Had you asked anyone living here 10 years ago what the city would look like today, it’s likely that the improvements we’ve achieved would have seemed beyond our reach. It will be the efforts and vision of those who are passionate about how far we’ve come that will carry us beyond what we can imagine 10 years from now. May we all share in that passion and, looking back, find ourselves surprised at our progress.

Owners Malcolm & Glenys Ballinger Publisher Malcolm Ballinger malcolm@ballingerpublishing.com Executive Editor Kelly Oden kelly@ballingerpublishing.com Art Director Guy Stevens guy@ballingerpublishing.com Graphic Designer / Ad Coordinator Bara’ah Jaraiseh baraah@ballingerpublishing.com Editor Will Isern will@ballingerpublishing.com Assistant Editor Kaitlyn Peacock kaitlyn@ballingerpublishing.com Editorial Intern Dakota Parks Contributing Writer Heidi Travis Sales & Marketing Paula Rode, Account Executive ext. 28 paula@ballingerpublishing.com Geneva Strange, Account Executive ext. 21 geneva@ballingerpublishing.com Becky Hildebrand, Account Executive ext. 31 becky@ballingerpublishing.com

314 N. SPRING ST. | PENSACOLA, FL 32501 850.433.1166 | FAX: 850.435.9174 BALLINGERPUBLISHING.COM 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. © 2019

Business ClimateTable of Contents

Women Who Mean Business


Southtowne boasts a number of retail spaces open for business. Eight of those businesses have a woman at their lead. This small but strong community of women may have come together by coincidence, but they are setting the precedent for what a woman business owner can do in Downtown Pensacola.

Cover Photographed by Guy Stevens 10 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

EGD: Looking Back, Pushing Forward




Building a Pensacola Landmark

24 Building Belmont

Blighted Block, Bright Future








Sitton Sets Sights Downtown

Townhomes on the Rise

Underground Upgrades



On the Waterfront


Keep Pensacola Beautiful

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 11

Looking Back, Pushing Forward by Will Isern

12 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

The story of downtown Pensacola’s rebirth has been authored by hundreds of entrepreneurs large and small, but a few names loom larger than others. Whereas Quint Studer’s vision for a waterfront baseball stadium galvanized a nascent interest in downtown as an entertainment hub, a new project is aiming to elevate that vision to a lasting reality. The vision is that of healthcare real estate developer Chad Henderson. Henderson, a Pensacola native, plans to transform a neglected two-block area just off Palafox Street into an upscale entertainment district featuring shops, restaurants, residences and a hotel with rooftop bar.

We should be thankful that we have all these old storylines to play off of, because that’s really what creates the character and soul of a place.”

and human connectivity and walkability. So if you think about the spirit in which Elias Dunford laid out Pensacola to make it better, we want to continue that same mindset of connectivity and walkability. We think this ties in really nicely with what we’re all trying to do to create a more walkable, livable city,”

Taking inspiration from Pensacola’s historic streetscape, Henderson is calling the project the East Garden District. Henderson unveiled the project in May and has been working to bring it to life ever since. He estimates the project will cost about $50 million.

House building at the corner of Jefferson and Garden streets converted into a destination restaurant, a three-story mixed use building added to Jefferson Street, new shops and restaurants along Garden Street and, a 100-plus-room hotel on Chase Street.

The East Garden District is bounded by Palafox, Chase, Tarragona and Garden streets and spans Jefferson Street. Over the years, Henderson has acquired most of the property in both blocks.

At every step in the design process, Henderson has looked to the past for inspiration. The East Garden District takes its name from the historic streetscape laid out by British officer and engineer Elias Dunford, whose 18th century grid plan for the city’s streets

The project will see the former Reynold’s Music

established many of our modern roadways. And like Dunford’s street plan, Henderson’s vision for the East Garden District is one of walkability, community and connectivity. “We’ve seen that the past several decades has mostly been made up of suburban sprawl and what we would frame as vehicularcentric development,” said Henderson. “Now in many areas and markets we’re seeing a movement of development back to the core and this is more around people-oriented development that would create a sense of vibrancy

Henderson’s healthcare real estate business regularly takes him all over the country. His vision for the East Garden District is based partly on other urban living districts that he’s seen in other places. Henderson said he’s seen how cities have become more connected, livable and people-centric, but often lack the kind of origin stories that create an authentic sense of place. That’s where Pensacola has an edge, he said. “What sets Pensacola apart is the ability to have these stories,” he said. “There are a lot of developments that are occurring that don’t really have the opportunity to draw back to the character and the soul of an old city, and we have that opportunity. So we nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 13

should be thankful that we have all these old storylines to play off of, because that’s really what creates the character and soul of a place. That’s what I’m most excited about.” Henderson began acquiring the properties that will comprise the East Garden District before conceiving the idea for the project. As his healthcare real estate company, Catalyst HRE, was growing by leaps and bounds, Henderson purchased the Rhodes Building at 41 N. Jefferson St. from Quint Studer in 2015. Not long after, he bought the 2 South Palafox Building next door. Henderson completed his acquisition of most of the two-block area

purchasing the Reynold’s Music House building as well the former Irby Engineering and Razor’s Edge Fitness buildings. “At that point I thought it was a really unique opportunity to create a district, so not to redevelop around one building but more about the opportunity to redevelop the whole block and turn it into a district,” he said. The first sign of progress will be the demolition of the rear half of the former Reynold’s Music building at the corner of Garden and Jefferson Streets to make way for a place-making restaurant. More critical, though, will be the

14 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

work that commences next to reimagine Jefferson Street as a pedestrian-friendly streetscape from the drab thoroughfare that it is today. As part of that connectivity plan, the East Garden District will see a “road diet” on Jefferson Street to create wider sidewalks, a pedestrian crosswalk and greenscaping similar to that on Intendencia Street between Southtowne and the YMCA. Landscape architect Steve Dana is working with Henderson on the project and said he expects to see a 30 percent reduction in total surface area of the road to

make way for wider sidewalks. Dana also said 20 to 30 trees will be plated along Jefferson street, creating a canopy to provide shade and attenuate stormwater runoff. The vision will be similar to that of the streetscape between Southtowne and the Bear Levin Studer YMCA a few blocks to the south, Dana said. With the addition of pervious pavers in the parking lanes, Dana said he hopes the Jeffeson Street portion of the East Garden District can serve as a model for green development in Pensacola. “Every study we’ve done says you need to be putting in green infrastructure and we haven’t

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The East Garden District plan calls for shops, condos, restaurants and a hotel opening to a landscaped Jefferson Street.

done it yet,” said Dana. “We want this to be a pilot project for the city and community to show the benefits of it so hopefully it can become the new norm.” Henderson said he hopes the East Garden District will help spread the renaissance of downtown Pensacola beyond Palafox Street.

Rebuilding a

Pensacola Landmark

by Kaitlyn Peacock

The way from Gulf Breeze to Pensacola has always been one of the busiest stretches of road in the area. From commuters to beachgoers to tourists and everyone in between, the bridge over Pensacola Bay has seen millions of vehicles and pedestrians cross its roadway since it was opened in 1960. Now, the old Three Mile Bridge is a thing of the past. The plan to replace the old Pensacola Bay Bridge, a more than $400 million project, has reached a significant milestone with the opening of the first span of the new bridge to east and westbound traffic. With completion of the bridge coming mid-2021, expectations are high for this historic Pensacola landmark. 16 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

It will change the overall signature appeal of Pensacola over the years to come.”

Photo by Bara'ah Jaraiseh

After being deemed in need of replacement in 2010 by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), the old colloquially-named Three Mile Bridge faced an uncertain future. Plans to strengthen and widen the bridge were insufficient, leaving the only feasible plan to build a replacement. Plans were drawn, the project was set and in 2017, construction began on the first span of a brand new bridge. The bridge project was estimated to bring in around 4,000 construction jobs to the area and

includes contractors from all over the Gulf Coast. The project includes two bridge spans, one for eastbound traffic and one for westbound, a new interchange for 17th Avenue traffic and improved roadways onto and off the spans. Each span will include three 12-foot lanes, 10-foot inside and outside shoulders and a 10-foot walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists. The walking paths will feature rests stops and observation areas along the nearly three mile route.

Along with the overall structure of the bridge, dynamic lighting will be installed on both spans. The lighting will serve in two aspects; one to light the road and walking path, but the second will be for aesthetic appeal. The aesthetic lighting will allow the bridge to be lit up in multiple colors in celebration of an event or simply as a visual spectacle. While the old Three Mile Bridge accommodated marine traffic with a 125-foot horizontal clearance, the new bridge is overall 15 feet higher and has a top horizontal clearance of 150 feet. The added clearance will allow for taller and larger ships to more easily access the Port of Pensacola, located within Pensacola Bay in downtown Pensacola. While the old bridge was replaced due to structural concerns and the fact it had reach its 50-year design life, the new bridge is being built to alleviate congestion that has been growing over the years and to improve overall safety while driving or walking over the bridge. By widening the bridges to accommodate three lanes of traffic, more motorists will be able to move along the bridge at any given time and it will release pressure on traffic backups during accidents and other incidents that may occur. To further alleviate traffic, an overpass is being built for traffic coming from 17th Avenue. The overpass will more seamlessly merge traffic from Main Street and 17th Avenue than the current stoplights in place. “The new interchange, in conjunction with the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, will

improve safety and reduce congestion for the approximately 58,000 drivers who pass through the intersection daily,” Ian Satter, the FDOT district three public information officer, said in a press release from FDOT. Currently, construction is still underway for the walking paths on the first span of the bridge, with the expectation they will be completed and opened by the end of the year. While motor vehicles are allowed onto the span, it is still closed to pedestrians and bicyclists. The old Three Mile Bridge is being dismantled in preparation of the second span to be built over its current location. The second span is scheduled to be completed in late 2020 or early 2021. The 17th Avenue interchange has not been started. Overall, the project is set to be completed by summer 2021. The largest construction piece of the project are the four arches that support the bridge’s walkways and add an aesthetic appeal to the overall structure. The first two were installed June 27, just prior to the first span opening to traffic. The white arches now rise over the Pensacola Bay and provide a significant landmark to the bridge. Once the lights are installed, it will become a focal point of color and interest at night. “Today was a significant event for the construction team and for Pensacola as we set the 375-foot long, 83-foot high arch in the main span of the bridge,” Brett Pielstick, the construction engineering and inspection program manager for the project, reported in a

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 17

FDOT press release. “This is a structural member that supports the shared-use path. It will change the overall signature appeal of Pensacola over the years to come.” During construction of the first span, questions over the naming of the new bridge sprang up in the community. While the old Three Mile Bridge was officially named after Philip Beal Sr., suggestions were made to name the bridge after local hero and Pensacola native Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. The Chappie James Memorial Bridge Foundation was formed, with Chairman Cris Dosev taking the lead on the naming project. Among the many reasons, he said, to name the bridge was the fact that James was first and foremost a Pensacola hero. “The paramount reason, more than any other reason, is that he is a hometown hero,” Dosev said. “Here you have a gentleman who was born I want to say a little over a mile away from the landing of the bridge. He was raised here, his mother and father raised him in a time of segregation and yet he achieved one of the ultimate military achievements. He became a four-star general, the first black four-star general.” Many in the community argued that the name should revert to the colloquial name of Three Mile Bridge, however it was decided by a committee of representatives from the City of Pensacola, the City of Gulf Breeze and Escambia and Santa Rosa counties that the bridge should be named after James. Legislation was brought up to make it official, however the

Photo by Bara'ah Jaraiseh

Florida legislature will not vote on the issue until January 2020. Dosev and the Chappie James Memorial Bridge Foundation are currently seeking funds to build a memorial park to James at the food of the bridge in celebration of the name. With a name soon to be finalized and construction continuing on the first span, concerns have arisen that the bridge is not adequate for the travel needs of the more than 55,000 daily motorists going over the bridge. Currently, the bridge has two lanes for both east and westbound traffic and a center emergency lane cordoned off by traffic cones. The narrow lanes have some in the community complaining about the safety of the bridge. The new bridge has an 11-foot inside land and a 10-foot outside lane. Clearance on the old bridge was 11 feet for both lanes. According to FDOT, what makes the bridge feel more claustrophobic is the lack of a shoulder. “The big difference (with the new bridge) is that it doesn’t have the six-foot shoulders or the

18 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

Escambia County is sinking portions of the old Three Mile Bridge to create artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.

center barrier wall like the old bridge, but you have the 12-foot (wide) emergency lane,” Satter said. “It will take some time for drivers to get used to the temporary configuration.” Once the second span is built and operational, traffic patterns will shift to the three lanes planned for each span. The focus in construction right now is the dismantling of the old Three Mile Bridge. Once the old bridge has been taken down, construction can begin on the second span. Overall, the goal for the old bridge is to recycle the materials in the

use of artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. About 90 percent of materials are expected to be used in this project. The bridge and all its underwater structures must be completely removed before construction can continue. Construction will be ongoing for the next year and a half at least as the new bridge is brought through the next phases of the project. Overall progress on the bridge can be tracked via the FDOT website and on pensacolabaybridge.com. •

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Blighted Block, O Bright Future

ne of the last blighted blocks in downtown Pensacola will soon make way for hundreds of new apartments and, potentially, housing for University of West Florida students.

by Will Isern

20 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

Developers have been working for more than three years to conceive and propose a plan to transform the long-abandoned property at 200 West Garden Street in a way that will carry the redevelopment of downtown west of Palafox Street. Ideas about what that transformation would look like have shifted over time, but now developers behind the project think they’ve landed on the right fit.

The 200 West Garden Street property is home to several dilapidated buildings, most notably the former Escambia County School District administration building built in 1941. A development group called 200 Garden West, Inc. comprised of local developers Jim Reeves, Quint Studer, Ed Carson, Adrian Lovell, Rob Fabbro, Bill Whitesell, and Stephen Simpson purchased the property for $3.4 million in 2016. The idea the developers have landed on is to demolish most of what’s on the block, build two new, ten-story apartment buildings and transform the school district building into student housing for UWF students. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity is located in the Studer Community Institute tower across the street from the 200 West Garden property, making the site a convenient location for UWF’s cybersecurity students. The trick for the 200 Garden West, Inc. developers has been figuring out how to develop the property in a way that is both financially feasible and preserves the old school district building. Because of the size and condition of the building, saving it creates a financial challenge for the rest of the project as it prevents adding additional density to the site. Early plans would have seen the school building demolished, but the developers

agreed to search for solutions to save the building following a backlash to the proposed demolition of the school district building. The site includes several architectural elements deemed to be historically important, including brick arches and a decorative workshop wall. “All of the partners in this project have deep roots in Downtown Pensacola, and have been creative with developments in the past. If we can find a way to preserve the old School Board building, while benefitting the community, we will work hard to find those creative re-uses.” said Ed


If we can find a way to preserve the old School Board building, while benefitting the community, we will work hard to find those creative re-uses.”

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 21

Carson, a General Contractor and partner in 200 Garden West, Inc.

open working with the developers to bring undergraduate housing downtown.

The idea to turn the school building property into student housing has made the project viable, said the group’s realtor Danny Zimmern. The idea stemmed from a talk given by CivicCon speaker Charles Montgomery in July. Montgomery pointed to co-living developments as a new trend in urban development. Co-living spaces typically include smaller private areas, such as bedrooms, study areas, and bathrooms, with residents sharing larger common areas such as living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and lounges. The concept, Zimmern said, fits the building well. The wide, large hallways could be transformed into larger shared spaces, and the offices and former classrooms could be divided into smaller private living areas.

“This is an intriguing concept as UWF expands our presence in downtown Pensacola,” said Saunders. “We are following the project with interest.”



“We had a partners meeting and said, ‘What if we did co-living student housing?’ Would UWF be interested?” said Zimmern. “Everybody thought getting young people downtown would be great. So we talked to UWF.” UWF has been expanding its presence downtown in recent years, and developers hope the co-living concept they’ve come up with will align well with what college students want from their housing experience. In a news release, UWF president Martha Saunders indicated that the University is 22 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

With all the focus that the school district building has received, the developers’ overall vision for the property is far more expansive. Where the school building renovations might cost around $8 million, plans for two, 10-story apartment buildings could cost $50 million or more. The apartment buildings will feature roughly 300 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, meaning as many as 400 to 500 people could soon live on the property that has been vacant for more than a decade. The ground floor will likely see around 15,000 squarefeet of retail space. The plan also calls for a road diet to narrow the very wide Spring Street, as well as changes to Garden Street to make both more pedestrian friendly. The plan will be carried out in phases, with one of the two apartment buildings and the school building renovations taking place first. Demolition of the remaining structures on the site is set to begin in the fall. •

“This is an intriguing concept as UWF expands our presence in downtown Pensacola. We are following the project with interest.”



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SAVOY PLACE by Heidi Travis

The Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood has long stood as a rich, historical and cultural hub here in Pensacola. Located just a clip west of Palafox street, the district known as “The Blocks” boasts decades of African-American contributions by way of art and businesses, such as the Five Sisters Blues Café and Blue Dot. The area is even a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail. In spite of its vibrant history, the area saw businesses dwindle in mass during the 50s and 60s. Long standing efforts to revitalize this sector of town have gained traction in recent years. New businesses that have crept in to spark life into the community have been met with success and there are more to come. Now Studer Properties has set its sights on the Belmont-Devilliers neighborhood for its next development and promises to keep that momentum going and expand on these efforts. October 2020, Studer Properties will open its doors and welcome the public to Savoy Place, a new apartment and business complex. We spoke to Andrew Rothfeder, president of Studer Properties to get the inside scoop.

How is this project different from your first apartment project, Southtowne? There are actually more similarities than differences, given it is a new urban mixed use development with modern amenity residences above street retail and shops, air-conditioned interior hallways, and elevator access. The main difference between Savoy Place and Southtowne is in size and scope. While Southtowne has 258 units, Savoy will have 24. The spirit of the project is very much like Southtowne, and other projects we’ve done. That model is to take an unused or underused piece of property, create a project that enhances the area, supports the neighborhood, creates jobs and provides opportunities for people to live, work, play and learn.

24 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

Can you give me specifics? The apartment sizes, the size of the overall complex, what kind of rates people can expect? Will there be other amenities, such as swimming pools or gyms? With 258 units, the Southtowne apartments can support a parking deck, club rooms, fitness areas, courtyard and pool areas. The Savoy Place project is much smaller—only 24 apartments, literally 1/10th the scope. Given the small size of the site and need to have adequate parking, combined with our desire to fulfill the residential demand, the main amenities are the location, the quality of the units, and the retail/restaurant services located on the first floor. So you will see retail spaces on the first floor facing DeVilliers Street to continue activating and enhancing that already vibrant neighborhood. While we will have surface

Savoy Place will create 24 apartment units and retail space at the site of the former Savoy night club.

parking, it is located behind the property, preserving the activated street fronting retail and restaurant space, with an outdoor patio area to support a restaurant. Why this area in particular? Quint and Rishy Studer have a long history in the Belmont DeVilliers neighborhood, going all the way back to their renovation of what is now Five Sisters Blues Cafe. They really appreciated the history and diversity of the neighborhood, and have continued to try and be a part of this renaissance, with the DeVilliers Square office building and now Savoy Place. Do you have an approximate opening date? October 2020

Concerns about gentrification have been raised. How do you address these concerns? Gentrification is a word that means different things to different people. In Florida, with the Save Our Homes tax protections, it is very unlikely for someone to be taxed out of their home because of increased property values. If someone sells their property, or redevelops a property, that can obviously impact the taxes on a specific lot, but it does not force homeowners out of a neighborhood. We don’t see gentrification as being a concern because we’re taking a vacant lot and building market-rate apartments there. We aren’t tearing down affordable housing and building highdollar condos. In fact, compared to some of the other new developments in the area, Savoy Place will be more accessible to more people. nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 25

This area has a lot of history and culture. How will you balance preserving that history and culture with ushering in this modern project? We’re thrilled to bring this project, Savoy Place, and the Viola Edwards Plaza, to this neighborhood. Thanks to the help of neighbors and advocates here in Belmont DeVilliers, we were able to learn more about the history of this very location. We engaged the neighborhood through meetings and presentations, and even did a survey on suggested names for the project. Our hope is that by naming these apartments after the former music club that was right here, the Savoy, and highlighting the story of Viola Edwards, who was an African-American woman who owned the only hospital in the area for African Americans, we can pay tribute to this great history and heritage. We’ve also got some other things in the works to feature some of the amazing business leaders and musicians who helped create the legacy of this neighborhood. We also believe the architecture and materials we have chosen, while updated to today’s standards, are in keeping with the history and character of this incredible neighborhood.

other ways too - through focusing on entrepreneurship and helping people grow their businesses, by advocating for early learning efforts that prepare children for school, or by providing great options for fun like the Blue Wahoos. Research has shown that the future of a community depends on its ability to attract and retain its young people, its future talent. If they do not have a vibrant community in which to live and work, they will leave. It is critical that we continue to provide the type of mixed use, walkable downtown housing that this younger generation desires. We hope that Savoy Place will be one more option for people to live, work, and play in this amazing neighborhood... and hopefully learn more about the great history of this area.

How does this project fit in with the overarching Studer vision? At the Studer Family of Companies (SFOC), our goal is to improve the quality of life in Pensacola. We want this community to be the best place to live, work, play and learn in the world. Buildings and property development are just one way to do that - it’s a tool in our toolbox. The Studers support this mission in

Anything else you’d like our readers to know? Come spend a day or catch a music or arts festival here in the Belmont DeVilliers neighborhood. Get a burger at Blue Dot, some chicken at Dwarf Chicken House. Grab some awesome gumbo at Five Sisters, or a grab a cold one at Chizuko. This is a really awesome neighborhood that is full of energy, diversity and history. Take the time to check it out.

26 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

What else can we expect from you in the future? The one thing you can count on with Quint and Rishy Studer is that there is always another cool idea they’re working on to improve this community. I’m not sure what that is right now, but it is an amazing opportunity to work with a family and a team that truly believes in making this community a better place.


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Shifting Shoreline Ambitious Plan Would Activate City Waterfront

Renderings courtesy of SCAPE Landscape Architecture DPC

by Will Isern


ne of downtown Pensacola’s greatest assets is also one of its most underutilized, but that could soon change.

Access and interaction with the waterfront in downtown is severely limited, but a plan being put forth by development wonks and supported by the city could transform the waterfront with lively public spaces, increased connectivity and recreational amenities.

The Center for Civic Engagement, a partnership of the Studer Community Institute and the Pensacola News Journal, hired the landscape architecture firm SCAPE and urban planner James Lima to study Pensacola’s downtown waterfront and present a plan that the city could use as a starting point to reactivate the shoreline. The plan they came up with imagines a complete overhaul of the downtown waterfront with the aim of making it a daily destination for all. The plan imagines Bruce Beach revived with a new community center and kayak launch, the expansion of Cedar Street to


nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 29








create a “hashtag” network of streets filled with bike lanes and store fronts, as well as dozens of other improvements from the foot of the Pensacaola Bay Bridge to Joe Patti’s Seafood. Lee Altman, SCAPE’s project manager, said Pensacola’s downtown waterfront is well positioned to become a valuable public asset. “Part of the reason we were drawn to Pensacola is the amazing potential of the waterfront as a public space,” Altman said. “When you say Pensacola, everybody thinks of the beaches but the bayside and the water’s edge so close to city just have so much to offer that is really untapped for the most part right now.” As with all big development projects, implementing the plan will come down to funding.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson and members of the city council are largely supportive of what SCAPE and Lima have proposed, but will have to figure out how to pay for it. “We’re ready to start moving, but first it’s going to fall to getting the council to decide that’s what they want to do,” said Robinson. “Then from there we can engage with firms and begin to put ideas to paper and get something generated we can go construct.” If the plan is undertaken, it will almost certainly be done in phases. Per the recommendation of the plan’s authors, Robinson said the initial focus should be on Bruce Beach and the “hashtag” connector. Seen as catalytic projects that will energize development, Bruce Beach and the hashtag are likely

30 | Business Climate | 2019 Downtown / 2020 Downtown Issue Issue

to be the first signs that the public will see that SCAPE plan is underway. At Bruce Beach, the plan calls for a community center, bay overlook, historical markers and a bridge spanning Washerwoman Creek to Maritime Park. The hashtag street plan would see the extension of Cedar Street to connect it with Maritime Park, thereby creating an uninterrupted path from the Pensacola Bay Bridge to Bruce Beach. Longer term goals of the plan include a “bay walk” that would allow easy access to the water’s edge, an educational hub at the Port of Pensacola and two reiterations of the “Project Greenshores” program installed in the bay near the foot of the Pensacola Bay Bridge.

The SCAPE team has developed plans for dozens of public spaces from New York to Atlanta to Jacksonville and many more. Altman said Pensacola was unique among small cities for it’s the willingness of its stakeholders to think outside the box. “Pensacola was really interesting because of where it is in this process of change,” she said. “It’s going through something that many other small and medium cities around the country are going through. There’s been this momentum that’s was generated through the development community and philanthropic community. A lot of times we hear, ‘This can’t work here, this isn’t New York,’ but that’s not what we got. So Pensacola felt really open and ready to engage with innovation.”



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Women Who Mean Business A new generation of women business owners are forging their futures at Southtowne By Kaitlyn Peacock • Photography by Guy Stevens + Bara’ah Jeraiseh

When people talk about downtown Pensacola, conversation usually centers on the bustling crowds of Palafox Street. For many years, Palafox was the place to be, whether you were looking to shop, get some food or open a new business. In recent months though, attention has been shifting one block over. With Southtowne coming up on its two year anniversary, the block and a half around the apartment complex has changed significantly since those first residents moved into their new home. Construction crews abound as Gulf Power upgrades the electrical grid. A woonerf joins the apartment building with the mixed-use office space across the street. The Bear-Levin-Studer YMCA continues to be one of the best places for your daily workout in downtown. Jefferson Street is the up-and-coming place to be for an easy afternoon in downtown. 32 | Business Climate | 2019 Downtown / 2020 Downtown Issue Issue

One of the biggest reasons people are crossing the street on their trips to downtown are the ground floor retail spaces in Southtowne. Nearly all of them are open now, sporting everything from a bookshop to a yoga studio, a spa, several restaurants and downtown’s only convenience store among many others. While consumers may be happy about the expanded selection of shops and restaurants off of Palafox, there’s something you may not realize just walking along Southtowne. Nearly every

leading to the opening of downtown’s first convenience store, the first Thai restaurant and its first bookstore. It also claims the first blowout bar on the Gulf Coast. Opening these stores helped to bring people looking for these specific services into downtown, off of Palafox and to serve the nearly 400 residents who live in the apartments above. “That’s a big part of the reason they moved in there, that’s one of the big amenities, is having all that right below you,” Rothfeder

Although a coincidence, Rothfeder said he was happy to support the women as they continue into their first years of business in Southtowne. Having a group of influential women at the heart of downtown serves as a beacon of inspiration to others and perhaps signals some greater shift in the economic trends of Pensacola. “The way that this has worked out and the fact that we’ve got all these womenowned businesses in there is just so cool and exciting,” Rothfeder said. “I think it’s

I love to see women do their own thing. I encourage it every chance I get. It may feel uncomfortable and you may doubt your own judgment, but I think having the help we have in this community lends that little nudge they need to get out there and get going.” - Rishy Studer shop you’ll pass is headed up by a woman. Eight shops currently open at Southtowne are at least partially woman-owned, with several women holding the titles of owner, manager and leader. While it seems hard to believe eight women-owned businesses popping up in one block-and-a-half radius is a coincidence, Andrew Rothfeder, president of Studer Properties, said it’s just that. “I’d love to take credit and say it was on purpose, but it was not,” he said. “There was a purposeful component, which is the curating of the retail space. (…) It was just incredible that almost all of them happened to be women-owned.” When the Southtowne complex was first conceived, the project was known as the Southtowne Neighborhood, with the end goal of having that neighborhood feel all within the complex. To that end, Rothfeder said they sought out specific shops to fill the empty retail spaces below the apartments. They looked for stores that filled a void in the downtown market,

said. “You’re within steps from being able to go to Old City Market and get everyday needs and sundries from a bodega, as well as come down and shop and eat at some of these restaurants, take a yoga class, go get a spa treatment. They’ve been thrilled.” Rishy Studer, who had a hand in the conceiving and building of Southtowne along with her husband Quint Studer, has been thrilled to see so many women be involved with the project. She joins the number of women business owners in Southtowne, having opened the bookstore and café at the southwest corner of the apartment complex. While she never imagined this would happen, she is happy to see so many stepping up and taking risks when it comes to opening a business of their own. “I love to see women do their own thing,” Studer said. “I encourage it every chance I get. It may feel uncomfortable and you may doubt your own judgment, but I think having the help we have in this community lends that little nudge they need to get out there and get going.”

such a great story; the emergence of this group of female entrepreneurs in this area is powerful.” There are still a couple empty shops in Southtowne. While many of the women have voiced their want for even more women to be invited into the space, Rothfeder said they will continue to search for the right fit to the space. And, if that happens to include a woman helming the project, he is more than happy to welcome them. “For us, it’s more about curating the right types of businesses, and maybe that’s a trend or something that’s happening in downtown Pensacola, that those right types of businesses tend to be womenowned,” Rothfeder said. Business Climate had a chance to speak with all the women running Southtowne’s shops about owning their own business, the community flourishing around them and what it means to be a part of such an exclusive group of woman leaders.

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 33


I think that if you want to do something, if you have a dream, just go for it.” attendant and a single parent raising her son before the idea of a spa struck her. It came after she realized she couldn’t get the right skin care she wanted to from any other place in town. “At the heart of it, I wanted a place that I would love to go to,” Walden said. “I wanted a place to go and get away from everything, just have a day where you can get a facial, get a massage, have your nails done, just get away from it all.” She first opened Stay the Spa next to Ozone’s Pizza in the old Sacred Heart Hospital five years ago. The spa started out very small, with only four treatment rooms and a few employees. Soon enough, it was time for a change. The second building of Southtowne, the mixed-use building, began offering retail spaces and with the offer of getting to build the spa exactly how she had always envisioned it, Walden leaped at the chance to expand.

Jennifer Walden

Stay the Spa Opened Nov. 6, 2018

Sometimes you just need a day or two to sit back and relax, do something special just for yourself. There might be a couple places that comes to mind, but one of those places should be Stay the Spa. Owned and operated by Jennifer Walden, Stay the Spa offers a full service spa with some medical services as well. Relax with a massage, get your nails done, sweat in the sauna, any number of treats for a day of pampering. Walden said she always knew she wanted to be a business owner, but was uncertain of exactly what she wanted to open. She spent many years as a flight

34 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

“At first it was small, there was just a few of us, I couldn’t afford a receptionist so I worked reception,” she said. “It just picked up. Now we’ve got a great staff with a great product.” As the first women to open her business in the area, Walden couldn’t have known what was coming, but now that the community has developed as it has, she has welcomed everyone with open arms. She said this is the perfect time for women to step up and claim their dream. “This is a great time for women,” she said. “I think that if you want to do something, if you have a dream, just go for it. Surround yourself with positive people who you can trust, have a good team, have a good product and go for it.” Stay the Spa offers a full range of spa services, including facials, massages, spray tans and more. They also offer services for cancer to treat those in need of specialized care. Walden said using the best products in the business is not negotiable, and Stay the Spa will always offer the highest quality products and care that can be given.

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Briana Knight

Disko Lemonade Opened Feb. 21, 2019

There may be no such thing as an easy workout, but if you can find ways to make it more enjoyable, then grab hold of it for dear life. Physical and mental well being are important parts of keeping a healthy lifestyle, and that’s what Briana Knight of Disko Lemonade wants to help others maintain. Disko Lemonade is a power yoga studio and activewear boutique, specializing in heated yoga. While most hot yoga classes are done in rooms about 100 degrees, heated classes at Disko Lemonade are about 85 to 90 degrees, hot, but not sweltering. Along with the exercise and fitness aspect, Knight wanted her classes to focus on mindfulness. For her, that piece is an important part of being wholly well. “I was miserable before mindfulness, before this entire journey of learning what that really meant and applying it to my life and my relationships, my view of the world, my view of people, my ability to believe that I can go after what I wanted,” she said. “It had a profound impact on me personally and I had a calling to share those lessons with other people.” The mindful part of the workouts is just another aspect to Disko Lemonade that makes it stand out from other exercise studios. While it may not be a huge part of every workshop she does, Knight makes sure whatever she does is helping those who come into the studio find their best self. “For me, it’s not just a yoga studio, it’s not just active wear, it’s a way to help people really find more enjoyment in their lives and realize that life isn’t so serious,” she said. “Helping people realize that and helping people come into the present and not take themselves so seriously, that’s what it’s all about.” As more and more businesses open around Knight, she found she had a ready group of women who she could talk with about her own business. Being a business owner can feel very lonely, but Southtowne had a ready and welcoming group she could connect with. 36 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

For me, it’s not just a yoga studio, it’s not just active wear, it’s a way to help people really find more enjoyment in their lives and realize that life isn’t so serious.”

“I think as business owners, from small businesses to large corporations, we can feel very isolated,” Knight said. “You can’t really go to your managers or your staff with your problems because you’re supposed to lead. It’s not like everybody you meet on the street is a business owner, so the amount of people you come into contact with on a daily basis don’t typically know what you deal with or what you’re going through. If you’re not careful, it can seem like you’re on your own. It’s really awesome to have these women, especially, nearby, a door over.” Along with their regular yoga classes, the studio does offer barre classes as well. Disko Lemonade is also an authorized retailer of Lululemon active wear. It’s your one-stop shop for fitness and wellness in Downtown Pensacola.

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Kelly Taylor Properly Posh Baby

Opened Mar. 15, 2019 Even if you don’t have children of your own, you may still enjoy window shopping at a children’s clothing store. The clothes are so adorable and it’s easy to see a cute little girl or boy playing while styling in their new threads. And if you do have children, finding the right clothes can be an adventure all on its own. At Properly Posh Baby, owner Kelly Taylor aims to make that adventure just a bit easier. The upscale children’s boutique clothing store offers brands that aren’t available anywhere else in Pensacola, making it a one-stop shop when your child outgrows everything in the closet. Taylor opened Properly Posh Baby as an online store two years previously and had a successful run. Even though she was finding success and was able to be home to care for her children, she said she was missing something she wanted from her business. “For me, I have a background in retail and I’m used to talking to people and selling to them,” she said. “You can only connect and interact so much over emails and social media when you sell online. I actually missed the customer service side of it. I missed the shopping local thing, getting to know people.” When Southtowne’s retail spaces came available, she knew it was time for a switch. While Taylor has officially moved into a physical space, she still sells some clothes online, but finds she’s had even more success now that she has a location for her customers to visit. Bucking the typical thought that everything is going to be online someday, Taylor believes that there is still a healthy spot for brick and mortar clothes stores in the community. “As much as everybody thinks that online is the way to go nowadays, people in a community still want to get out and shop local,” she said. “They want to walk around and shop somewhere that’s local and come into a store and have that experience.” 38 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

I’ve always considered myself a mom-preneur, because this is my career, I love it, it’s my job, but I have always done things to accommodate being a mom, too.”

Being very community-based, Taylor quickly integrated herself with the other women business owners around her. For her, seeing so many women, particularly those who are moms as well, running their own business and finding success was striking. “I’ve always considered myself a ‘mom-preneur,’ because this is my career, I love it, it’s my job, but I have always done things to accommodate being a mom, too,” Taylor said. “So I love seeing the moms doing their role as a mom and running their business and making both work.” Properly Posh Baby offers clothes up to girl’s sizes 12 to 14 depending on the brand. They also have a selection of boy’s clothes, which has proven to be one of their most popular items and can often sell out quickly.

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Lauren & Cristi Sceca Old City Market Opened Apr. 12, 2019

but if you’re eating or if you live or work downtown, you can’t walk somewhere and grab the convenience items that you need without having to get into your car and drive to get them. We’re downtowners, we live down here, we work down here, we eat down here, so we noticed it ourselves as consumers. You go to all the bigger cities and you notice they have big convenience stores and we didn’t have that. With downtown growing the way it is, we felt it was needed.” The community that has been developing around downtown has responded positively to Old City Market since its opening, especially the residents who live above. Lauren and Cristi have regular customers who come in and people who are just looking to grab something before rushing onto their day. For Lauren and Cristi, it doesn’t matter if you stop in to talk or are hurrying on with your day. They wanted to make a place that was inviting to all, and they love being a part of a flourishing community.

You go to all the bigger cities and you notice they have big convenience stores and we didn’t have that. With downtown growing the way it is, we felt it was needed.” “We love downtown,” Cristi said. “I love the people who come every day because I feel like we’ve become a really cute community. I love that we get to know them personally and I love hearing about their stories.” Being one of the first to open, the two had the privilege of seeing the business community in Southtowne develop over time. They were at first surprised to see the number of women stepping up around them, but now they say they want to see even more women-own businesses in Southtowne. Opening a business is never easy, but it’s made a bit easier when you are working with something you are passionate about. At Old City Market, you’ll find all the convenience of a neighborhood bodega as well as a bit of Pensacola history in the form of an old fashion soda fountain. Co-owners Lauren and Cristi Sceca wanted to bring something to downtown they felt was missing, as well as pursue their own passion for old-fashioned sodas. There were no convenience stores in downtown, nor was there an old soda fountain, so it was an easy choice to open Old City Market. “We filled a void in the downtown walking area,” Lauren said. “We do have a few convenience stores that are skirting around downtown, 40 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

“I personally think it’s really amazing that the whole block as of right now is owned and run by women,” Cristi said. “Not only because it’s women-owned, but because we have been really supportive of one another. I feel like we all have each other’s back. If we have questions we are always very helpful with each other. I think that’s amazing because we empower each other.” Old City Market will soon be offering a lunch menu for those wanting a quick bite along with a refreshing soda. The bodega is also now offering lottery tickets and scratch-offs if you are feeling particularly lucky.

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Brooke Parkurst Angelena’s

Opened Jul. 1, 2019 When Southtowne was first being planned out, a need arose to find a flagship store to bring attention to the fledgling retail spaces in the complex. After much contemplation and discussion, a restaurant was decided to be the best fit. And who better to help run that flagship restaurant than someone intimately familiar not only with wonderful food, but the history of the Southtowne location? Brooke Parkhurst and her husband James Briscione were approached to helm the restaurant. An Italian restaurant had been suggested, and it worked well with both Parkhurst’s and Briscione’s expertise, so they moved back to Pensacola and prepared to open Angelena’s. Parkhurst, whose great grandfather was the publisher of the Pensacola New Journal for 36 years, was eager to return to the place much of her family had previously worked. Parkhurst, just one of the many who worked diligently to open Angelena’s, said they didn’t want to just open an Italian restaurant. They wanted to open an Italian restaurant that reflected the coastal living and local culture of the city. “We wanted to have an Italian restaurant that could only be in Pensacola, Florida,” she said. “We don’t think we are Rome-based and we don’t think we are an Italian restaurant in New York City. We think that we are a very local Italian restaurant that speaks to our area as well as to James’ talent as a chef.” While Briscione works in the kitchen, Parkhurst’s focus is the front of the house, particularly in the wine and drink selection. She works closely with General Manager Jean Pierre N’Dione on the daily needs of running a restaurant like Angelena’s, as well as her partners with the Great Southern Restaurant Group. Although she is just one of a great team of people, Parkhurst said she is thrilled to be surrounded by other women business owners. 42 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

I can only hope for my daughter, who is 10, that she can look to me and look to those around us in our oneblock radius and see all these amazing women and know she can do it too.”

“That is not the Pensacola I grew up in,” she said. “I was born and raised here, but in downtown in particular there were a few ladies shops owned and operated by women, but very few bigger businesses solely owned and operated by women. I love being a part of it and I can only hope for my daughter, who is 10, that she can look to me and look to those around us in our one-block radius and see all these amazing women and know she can do it too.” Angelena’s offers a wide selection of excellent Italian cuisine as well as a full service bar, perfect for an intimate date night or just a quick bite and a couple of drinks after work. Soon, they will be offering a lunch menu along with their regular dinner menu.


Pam VanNess Sabai Thai

Opened Sept. 3, 2019

For VanNess, family and good, quality food are what drive her forward. It’s her family legacy that brought her to this point, and now her daughter works alongside her in the restaurant. “Mom’s dream became my dream and now Mom is working with us and we are all working together,” VanNesss said. “It’s a way to be together but also working together. We’re really not at each other’s throat like you would believe. We are still getting along!” At first, the restaurant operated with a limited menu as everyone got used to the kitchen and the flow of lunch and dinner. As more time goes on, VanNess plans to expand the menu to include some of the favorites from the previous location as well as using fresh, local products, like seafood from Joe Patti’s. However, family and quality will remain at the forefront, no matter what changes may happen.

We are a modern day mom and pop shop, we are family owned and operated, we worked really hard to get where we are today and we are so proud to be a part of this community.” “We are a modern day mom and pop shop, we are family owned and operated, we worked really hard to get where we are today and we are so proud to be a part of this community,” VanNess said. “I’m so happy that the community has welcomed us.” Foodies rejoice! There is finally a Thai restaurant in downtown Pensacola! Sabai Thai, formerly located in Tiger Point, has opened in Southtowne and offers wonderful Thai family dinners and lunches. Pam VanNess, owner of Sabai Thai, is a second generation restaurateur, her father having opened and operated a restaurant in Seattle. The menu at Sabai Thai features recipes that VanNess adapted from her old family recipes. After working in her father’s restaurant for many years, she learned how to run and operate her own business and when she came here, the time seemed right. She and her family opened Sabai Thai at its first location and found a lot of success. However, when the opportunity came up to move into the city, she took it. Now, VanNess is working to continue the success she had with the first location and to expand on the experience customers can expect. 44 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

As VanNess settles into the restaurant with her family, she has connected with the other women running their businesses around her. For her, she is thrilled to see just what women are doing in today’s communities. “It’s the most wonderful thing to jump into in today’s time and today’s society,” she said. “Pensacola is growing and to be a part of these women and the new generation, where we are running the shop and doing our own thing, it’s a big deal. It’s a very big deal.” Sabai Thai offers a lunch menu and a full dinner menu. Seating is limited, but the food is well worth the wait if you can get a table.

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All of us ladies around here were getting our hands dirty to be able to do our stuff. It’s like woman power. We got this.” quite right. After a bad experience at a similar shop in New Orleans, she decided it was time to pursue her own business. “I said, you know what, I’m going to open one of these myself and we are going to do it right and it’ll be totally badass,” she said. “That was August of 2017 and here I am now.” After searching for the right location in Destin and Pensacola, she was approached by Studer Properties, who were interested in having her business at Southtowne. Diaz said she played it cool, but inside, she was overjoyed.

Chasity Diaz The Blowout Bar Opened Sept. 20, 2019

Southtowne is boasting a first of the Panhandle. The Gulf Coast’s first drybar hair salon is now open for business. Owned and operated by Chasity Diaz, the salon specializes in dry hair styling and make up for events like weddings and parties, or just to have a girl’s day out. Unlike most salons, there are no cut or color options at The Blowout Bar, their services more akin to a day at a hair spa. Get your hair done up or have it blown out after a hard day at work or in preparation to take on the stresses of life. Diaz was inspired by Alli Webb, the founder of Drybar, the first of this particular type of salon experience, however she never felt the timing was

46 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

“It was my dream location,” she said. “It’s downtown Pensacola, and that’s where I want to be. It’s more urban living, it’s up and coming. That was my main focus. It’s more city-like vibes and that’s where blowout bars are successful, where you can walk and there’s a gym and after the gym you can pop in and get your hair done.” Being surrounded by a supportive group of women was extremely helpful for this first-time business owner. Diaz said she could lean on them for support as she prepared to open and now she has a dependable group she can look up to as her business continues to grow. “It’s so empowering,” Diaz said. “Everyone always thinks that only males can run a successful business, especially with the construction part of it. I’ll tell you, all of us ladies around here were getting our hands dirty to be able to do our stuff. It’s like woman power. We got this!” The Blowout Bar is open for events or for daily styling. Blowouts can take between 30 to 45 minutes depending on your hair length and the type of services you want.

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Rishy Studer Bodacious

Bookstore and Café Opened September 26, 2019 There’s nothing better than spending a day curled up with a cup of coffee and a wonderful book. Or at least, you can enjoy one if not the other. And finally, you can have both in downtown Pensacola. The newest in the line of Bodacious stores is the Bodacious Bookstore and Café. With half of the space a cozy café with the same great Bodacious coffee and the other half a small bookstore specializing in local selections as well as popular reads from the bestsellers list, this shop can be a quick stop-in or a long afternoon visit. As downtown’s only bookstore, it fills a missing niche that can often be found in other cities’ downtowns. Rishy Studer, owner of the Bodacious Bookstore and Café, said the idea came to her and her husband Quint Studer while they were exploring other downtowns. “We’ve been to several cities and looked at downtowns and seen what works, what doesn’t, but you always seem to find a little bookstore, just like they always have a coffee shop or they always have a bakery,” she said. “Since we didn’t have bookstore and that was something near and dear to Quint’s heart since he’s written so many books, when there was an extra space in Southtowne that was his big idea to include a bookstore. We were always going to have a coffee shop and he said, well, we have more space so let’s open a bookshop too and see how it does. It was something else to give Pensacola that downtown feeling.” Along with having a woman owner, the bookstore is also currently managed by a woman as well, Crissy Nettles. Nettles has a long history of running bookstores, including a store she managed in Monroeville, Alabama, the home of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee. She carefully 48 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

I think that entrepreneur instinct has gotten so strong in this community.” picks the book stock to match customer needs and local interests as well as some of the bestsellers currently topping the list. If you need a good recommendation, she is your best friend. Having seen Southtowne from its inception to now owning one of the retail spaces on the ground floor, Studer was thrilled knowing so many of the businesses around hers were women owned, but she wasn’t too surprised. “I love it! We sit and talk about the company, we owners, but I didn’t realize it was all women,” she said. “It doesn’t surprise me. I think that entrepreneur instinct has gotten so strong in this community.” The bookstore offers a similar drink menu that can be found at the Bodacious Café with along with having a place to sit and relax while enjoying your coffee or your book. The bookstore also has a children’s area for playing and to encourage reading.

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Sitton Sets Sights Downtown by Will Isern • photos by Guy Stevens

As downtown Pensacola has morphed from sleepy office park to bustling entertainment district, one property with immense development potential has remained stuck in the past. Until now.

The downtown Post Office, beloved by customers for its convenience, is nonetheless housed in a building with far greater potential than its current use. With an expansive corner lot, wide courtyard and historic charm, the building at 101 Palafox Place is a prime piece of downtown property thus far untouched by the resurgence of downtown as the city’s premier entertainment district.

That will all soon change as native son and Super-Bowl-championturned-developer Josh Sitton and his wife Kristen have purchased the property with plans to transform it by adding retail or restaurant space on the ground floor and residential units upstairs. Sitton said the couple had been looking for an investment opportunity downtown for some time before they became aware the 101 Palafox property was an option. “My wife and I are always looking for opportunities to invest in the downtown area,” he said. “A friend of ours introduced the property idea to us. It was nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 51

Partnering with the Sittons on the project is Josh’s (right) lifelong friend and president of Bear General Contractors Chris Jaubert (left).

off market so we had no idea it was even an option. We fell in love with the building right away. We have always wanted to invest on Palafox and we personally don’t think there’s a better corner downtown.” Patrons of the downtown Post Office need not fear, the Post Office will remain in the building, just in a smaller footprint. As for what will fill the rest of the building once the Sitton’s are done with it, they’re not quite sure yet. They’re still in the very early planning stages. “Nothing is set in stone this early for the project,” said Sitton. “Our initial idea is to reduce the footprint of the post

office downstairs and add retail and or a restaurant. Upstairs is a beautiful untouched canvas. The ceilings are 15 feet high and it is a beautiful old space oozing with charm. We plan on turning this space into condos or apartments. None of this is for sure yet. The property is so large and has so many possibilities that we won’t know until it happens.”  Partnering with the Sittons on the project is Josh’s lifelong friend and president of Bear General Contractors Chris Jaubert. Sitton and Jaubert founded the company while Sitton was in the midst of his successful NFL career.

52 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

Sitton retired from the NFL in April following an 11-season career that saw him take the field with Green Bay packers and Chicago Bears. Sitton won Super Bowl XLV with the Packers in 2011. The 101 Palafox property has a long history downtown and was once home to a Sears, Roebuck & Co., a Walgreens, a dry cleaners and the Downtown Improvement Board. The building was designated in honor of former Pensacola mayor Vince Whibbs, Sr. following his death in 2006. The water fountain in the courtyard was once located at the intersection of Palafox and Garden streets and used for watering horses.

Sitton said watching downtown’s transformation since his youth has been inspirational and that, if they do end up putting condos on the second floor of the building, there’s a good chance the couple will keep one for themselves. “Where downtown is compared to when I was growing up here isn’t even close,” he said. “It’s amazing to see the transformation, and we’re so very happy to be a part of it!”

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Downtown Townhomes on the Rise by Dakota Parks

The rise of townhome construction is not just a trend in the Pensacola real estate market, but a nationwide trend as well. According to the National Association of Home Builders’ most recent census data, townhouse construction is on the rise. At the end of the third quarter for 2018, townhouse starts were up 24 percent higher than the previous four quarters, consisting of about 14 percent of the market share for single-family construction. Townhouses are especially trending with millennials who comprise 45 percent of the 2019 market and have demonstrated a desire for affordable homes in walkable downtown centers. We spoke to Kacee Bidnik, aDoor Properties developer and in-house real estate agent, for the Junction at West Hill townhomes about target demographics. 54 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

“Originally we thought we were aiming toward young professionals and people wanting to live downtown—because there is so much to do in downtown Pensacola—but it was a total mix of buyer demographics: military families, young professionals, single buyers, single families and retired couples wanting to downsize,” Bidnik said. Townhomes that are conveniently located in the downtown hub of the city, cost significantly less than detached single-family homes. They eliminate the maintenance of home-owning, they offer tight-knit communities and feature amenities such as shared outdoor spaces. With the wide variety of advantages, townhomes attract a wide variety of buyers. Townhome construction has increased exponentially in downtown Pensacola.

Hallmark Townhomes – D.R. Horton 365 S E Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

North of the Sander’s Beach neighborhood, the Hallmark Townhomes will be one of the largest townhome communities with 76 townhomes in total. Still under construction, the Hallmark Townhomes are being developed by D.R. Horton with prices ranging from $257,900 to $285,900. There are two available floor plans, each around 1,500 square feet. With two-story townhomes lining an interior courtyard, the community aspect is central to the design. The interior courtyard will feature walking paths to community areas and a community swimming pool.

Junction at West Hill – aDoor Properties 200 S DeVilliers St, Pensacola, FL 32502

Located in the richly historic BelmontDevilliers neighborhood, the Junction at West Hill townhomes completed construction and went under contract in early Spring 2019. A majority of the townhomes sold during presale phases in late 2018, and now all 31 of the units developed by aDoor Properties have sold out. As a staple of townhome popularity in Downtown Pensacola, Bidnik said that aDoor Properties continues to receive several phone calls each week inquiring about the unit availability. The Junction at West Hill townhomes offer four different floorplans, around 1,300 sq. ft., built in a craftsman style. The units listed between $221,000 and $299,000. One of the biggest draws of these townhomes is the walkability. They are located only fiveblocks away from Palafox and Downtown Pensacola. The HOA at Junction at West Hill townhomes also eliminates the maintenance of detached single-family homes by covering the landscaping and exterior upkeep, including lights, water and sprinkler systems.

Girard Place – Segen Ventures 302 W Romana St, Pensacola, FL 32502

The Girard Place townhomes broke ground in March 2019. Currently in phase one of their pre-sales, the 23-unit townhome community will feature two and three-bedroom floor plans, roughly 2,110 to 3,000 sq. ft, priced between $559,000 and $739,000. The property developers, Segen Ventures, are focused on what they call a “luxury residential community.” Amenities of the property include fully automated smart technology in the townhomes and several community gathering sites including a swimming pool, fitness center, outdoor firepit and entertainment spaces. Covington Place – Olde City Developers, LLC.

808 North Baylen Street Pensacola, FL 32502 Located in the North Hill neighborhood, the Covington Place townhomes are revamping a formerly abandoned block along W. Cervantes Street. Local attorney Charles Liberis is developing the 25-unit, luxury townhome community. Phase two of pre-construction sales are currently under way with prices starting at $399,000. With eight unique floor plans, each unit will be roughly 1,500 to 2,200 sq. ft. with high-end features. A few features of the townhomes are 10-foot ceilings, chef ’s kitchens, private porches and balconies, elevators, rear-entry garages and communal green spaces for residents. Additionally, all exterior upkeep is managed by their HOA fees. We spoke to Kevin Fox, vice president of sales and marketing for Olde City Realty, about the Covington Place townhomes. “We wanted to put together a community that reflects the vibrance of downtown Pensacola. Downtown is a thriving part of the city that attracts everyone from empty nesters to young professionals,” said Fox. “Downtown has become its own destination, which makes Pensacola such a unique city. Pensacola is one of the few places in the Gulf Coast that has a definitive downtown and a definitive beach—there is a harmonic balance between them that attracts a wide demographic.” Townhome developments are quickly becoming a way of life in downtown Pensacola. With the amount of industry growth in Pensacola from retail, banking, cybersecurity, healthcare, military and hospitality, townhomes offer affordable housing solutions in up-and-coming neighborhoods while retaining modern aesthetics. The townhome developments also feature tight-knit communities and community amenities that reflect the diversity of Pensacola. As the residential market expands in Pensacola, homes like these will continue to flourish, offering new and unique opportunities to buyers looking to settle in our city. nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 55

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Underground Upgrades

Gulf Power spending $86M on Downtown Grid by Will Isern

Powering the growth and development of downtown Pensacola requires a robust infrastructure and the power grid beneath the streets of the city’s core is getting old. That’s why Gulf Power has undertaken an $86 million project to replace the entire downtown power network.

Gulf Power began work to install an entirely new power grid throughout downtown in March 2018. It’s a project aimed at modernizing downtown’s aging power grid and mitigating the risk of severe power outages. The work is scheduled to last until 2022. “Basically, we are rebuilding and replacing our downtown network. All of the network is underground,” said Gulf Power’s

regional manager for corporate external affairs Rick Byars. “It’s been there for over 70 years, so it’s at the point where any day we could have what we call a catastrophic failure on the system and, if that were to occur, we’d lose power or would have to take any means necessary to restore power… So we’re not tearing it out, we’re building a brand new system next to the old system.”

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 57

Underground Upgrades Work to replace the downtown power grid is scheduled to last until 2022. Work in 2021 and 2022 is not expected to include excavation and should be less disruptive.

The project involves the replacement of concrete-encased duct systems, power cables, transformers and protection equipment, said Gulf Power. Getting access to the old system has meant tearing up large sections of downtown’s most trafficked thoroughfares. The project generated mild backlash when it began as construction crews blocked off and tore up Palafox Street during peak lunchtime hours. Work has since shifted to nighttime hours and downtown stakeholders like Katie Bosso, owner of Indigeux Denim Bar, are much happier. “Right now its lunch time and I’ve got five people in my store,” said Bosso. “It would be a lot slower (if work were still being done during the day), so it’s huge difference overall for sure.” The shift to nighttime work came at an additional $1 million cost to the company. Tearing up the historic streets has revealed more than just power lines. Gulf Power is working with the University of West Florida’s Archaeology Department to preserve any historic artifacts unearthed under the downtown streets. When work began in 2018, workers uncovered an old wine barrel believed to have been the base of a well during the early American period. The project will move to portions of Government, Intendencia and Palafox

58 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

streets in front of the Escambia County government building in 2020. Work in 2021 and 2022 is not expected to include excavation and should be less disruptive, said Gulf Power. “We’re just trying to get the worst part of it out of the way first,” said Byars.

For more information or updates on Gulf Power’s downtown project, visit GulfPower.com/DowntownUpgrades. •

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Beautification as a Business Model

by Dakota Parks


he once bustling Hygeia CocaCola bottling building on North Palafox street has sat abandoned for the last decade. In that, time it has succumbed to water damage, mold and dilapidation. Built in 1936, the building is long past the 50-year classification of a historic building yet has no current legislation to protect it from being torn down. The nonprofit organization Keep Pensacola Beautiful recently underwent one of its biggest fundraising missions to date to save the historic Coca-Cola building.

Though the organization was ultimatley unable to save the building, the effort to do so sparked a recognition of blight reduction and historic preservation as potentially new avenues of its longstanding mission of beautification. Keep Pensacola Beautiful focuses on beautifying our local communities through environmental advocacy and the cleanup of public spaces. While searching for a new office building, the organization came across the historic Coca-Cola building. As a mission to reduce blight in the neighborhood, the organization set out to raise $300,000 by October 1 as a down payment to purchase, preserve and keep the historic building from being torn down. The three-month timeframe for the down payment on the building was an unusually tight deadline. Other historic preservation groups are typically given six months to a year to raise funds.

nwflbusinessclimate.com | Business Climate | 61

The Executive Director, Sigrid Solgard, said, “Even if we aren’t the ones to save this specific building, we are still fully advocating for it. While preservation doesn’t technically fall under our mission statement, the mission of beautification encapsulates the preservation and enhancement of our community.” The organization was able to successfully raise $100,000 in three months, breaking their previous fundraising records, but the historic building had more damage than previously expected. Solgard said their final assessment report of the property received a quote of $8 million for remediation costs alone. The remediation costs were not included in the $5 million five-year plan for the property. The project quickly surpassed budget, reaching a total $12 million. The fate of the building is currently unknown, however, a new city ordinance protecting historic properties may help protect it from demolition. The North Hill historic district skirts the property leaving it unprotected. 62 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

The mission to preserve the historic CocaCola building was the first of its kind for the organization. Keep Pensacola Beautiful has never focused on historic property preservation, but with the vast amount of historic buildings and abandoned properties downtown Pensacola, the opportunity for blight reduction is readily available. Their mission statement is rooted in what they call “beautification.” Community beautification starts with the basics, like litter prevention and removal, to promoting recycling education in schools and communities. However, Solgard said “we also do blight reduction, graffiti removal, tree planting and maintaining historic cemeteries—it’s not just community building but also improving the quality of life.” Improving the quality of life, as Solgard said, was the root cause for the foundation of Keep Pensacola Beautiful. The organization started in 1978 as a group of concerned citizens that bounded together to improve the quality of life in their community. At the time littering

was a big issue in Pensacola, which was rapidly accelerated by public spaces not being properly taken care of. By 1979 they were officially chartered as a nonprofit and by 1995 they became an affiliate with the Keep America Beautiful organization. Their group underwent a few name changes over the years, known previously as the Pensacola-Escambia Clean Community Commission and later Clean & Green. However, their mission statement has not changed over the years. Looking forward, the organization is still looking for a new building to move their offices to, as well as expanding their community programs and volunteer opportunities to include increased beautification of public spaces as opposed to just litter removal. Keep Pensacola Beautiful is well known for its beach cleanups and post-festival cleanups in downtown Pensacola. However, they want to do more in the community and be known as more than just a sanitation organization.

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“We’ve always talked about our organization using three tiers: litter, recycling and beautification, but I want us to be known as the beautification organization—beautification is at the heart of what we do. There are a multitude of ways you can beautify the community, and litter and recycling are just one way” said Solgard. Keep Pensacola Beautiful currently partners with several community groups in Pensacola for projects like “Adopt A Spot” that cares for city parks and public spaces. While the Downtown Improvement Board covers a 25-mile radius downtown, Keep Pensacola Beautiful aims to serve communities across Pensacola through their environmental advocacy, group projects and continual education on litter awareness and recycling. Their mission of beautification aims to make the public spaces of Pensacola more enjoyable for the entire community. For more information on their organization, please visit https://keeppensacolabeautiful.org.

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A long and contentious legal battle between the City of Pensacola and leaseholders of a valuable piece of waterfront property has finally come to an end, and the result will be a marina that could feature floating homes at the iconic Fish House restaurant.

64 | Business Climate | 2019 / 2020 Downtown Issue

Since 1985, local telecom mogul and property developer Ray Russenberger has held the lease on the city-owned property known as Pitt Slip, the waterfront parcel home to the Fish House. Russenberger subleases the property to the Fish House’s owner, Collier Merrill. In 2014, mayor Ashton Hayward’s administration claimed Russenberger and Merrill were in violation of the terms of their lease and demanded $5 million in

The agreement that’s been struck will see the city contribute the $350,000 toward construction of a $2 million breakwater at Pitt Slip which, once constructed, will allow for development of a marina there. The attorney representing Russenberger’s Seville Harbour, Inc. said the deal is beyond fair. “It generates $38,000 in revenue, a $5 million payroll, a marina that the public has wanted and gives us the benefits that were bargained for 33 years ago. This lease extends and expands those benefits,” said attorney Ed Fleming. “We say that it was good value then, it’s a good value now.”

back pay, sparking a years-long legal battle, which the city finally lost in 2017. Per the terms of the settlement, the city is responsible for repaying Russenberger and Merrill’s legal fees, which grew over the years to around $350,000. Since taking office in 2018, mayor Grover Robinson has sought to strike a deal that would relieve the city of it’s legal debt while still benefitting the public.

Russenberger’s hope is to install and rent out floating homes in the marina. Whether those floating homes will be permissible will be up to the Coast Guard. Russenberger plans to connect the floating homes to the city’s water and sewage systems. If the Coast Guard determines that the floating homes are technically vessels, then they will be permissible. If they are determined instead to be permanent floating structures, they would not be allowed under the terms of the lease. Before that determination can be made, however, a breakwater must be built at the site. The Pitt Slip marina hasn’t operated since it’s breakwater was wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The Pensacola City Council in September approved terms to renew the lease for 99 years. The terms of the deal stipulate that rent for the property will

double from around $46,000 a year to $96,000 once the current term of the lease expires in 2045. The six-acre, waterfront property was appraised at value $630,000, a number well below what some city council members believe would be it’s fair market value. The city council’s budget strategist Butch Hansen said the new lease gives the Seville Harbour leasees a sweetheart deal at the expense of city taxpayers since the property is being leased well below market value, but council president Andy Terhaar said the specifics of the deal make the valuation moot. “If this was a vacant piece of property that we were trying to get a lease on we would definitely negotiate a market rate for that, but unfortunately that’s not the situation,” said Terhaar. “The situation is we have a lease that we have to honor for the next 27 years, so you can’t just discount that. You can’t just ask for a market rate for what the property could be because you wish it was vacant. So I don’t understand that rationale of trying to get a market rate for a property we don’t have control over.” Russenberger had hoped to start construction of the breakwater before the Gulf sturgeon migration in October, but will now likely have to wait until the migration ends in May.

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Downtown Sandwich May ‘19 space oddities at t.t. wentworth angelena’s is here! 5 questions with artist jarrod goldmann summer drinks a new waterfront

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Over 111,000 Graduates Since 1948 PensacolaState.edu • 850-484-2544

Sherlyn Waghalter BROKER/OWNER

(850) 449-4242 wwww.DiscoverNorthwestFlorida.com | SherlynSells@gmail.com Sherlyn Waghalter is a name you can trust in today’s real estate market. With nineteen years of local experience and over $300 million in sales, she has the knowledge to assist with your next real estate decision. Sherlyn is one of the leading RE/MAX agents in the state of Florida.

Some of the homes Sherlyn sold in 2019...She can sell yours in 2020! SOLD

5 COLLEY COVE DR-GULF BREEZE 3 BED / 2.5 BATH, 4,291 SF SOLD ON 1/15/19 $1,550,000


5930 OAK MANOR DR-MILTON 5 BED / 3.5 BATH, 5,184 SF SOLD ON 7/31/19 $649,000


507 DEER POINT DR- GULF BREEZE 4 BED / 2 BATH, 2,369 SF SOLD ON 4/5/19 $949,900


721 PENSACOLA BEACH BLVD #801 PENSACOLA BEACH 3 BED / 3.5 BATH 2,114 SF / SOLD ON 1/18/19 $760,000


1061 HARBOURVIEW CIR-PENSACOLA 4 BED / 4.5 BATH, 5,672 SF SOLD ON 5/31/19 $1,830,000


489 DEER POINT DR-GULF BREEZE 4 BED / 3.5 BATH, 4,213 SF SOLD ON 6/21/19 $1,450,000


775 WOODBINE DR-PENSACOLA 4 BED / 3.5 BATH, 3,669 SF SOLD ON 2/11/19 $339,000


1241 TALL PINE TRL-GULF BREEZE 5 BED / 3 BATH, 3,326 SF SOLD ON 6/28/19 $619,000


138 SIGUENZA DR-PENSACOLA BEACH 5 BED / 4 BATH, 4,065 SF SOLD ON 8/30/19 $1,725,000


226 PINETREE DR-GULF BREEZE 3 BED / 3 BATH, 3,243 SF SOLD ON 6/17/19 $900,000


4633 SOUNDSIDE DR-GULF BREEZE 5 BED / 3.5 BATH, 2,812 SF SOLD ON 8/28/19 $530,000


1506 E CROSS ST-PENSACOLA 3 BED / 2.5 BATH, 2,100 SF SOLD ON 3/1/19 $469,000


100 CHANTECLAIRE CIR-GULF BREEZE 5 BED / 5.5 BATH, 5,196 SF SOLD ON 8/15/19 $1,000,000


4 PORTOFINO DR #801-PENSACOLA BEACH 3 BED / 3.5 BATH, 2,034 SF SOLD ON 2/8/19 $830,000


146 HIGHPOINT DR-GULF BREEZE 5 BED / 5 BATH, 3,253 SF SOLD ON 2/1/19 $890,000


145 MIDDLE PLANTATION LN-GULF BREEZE 5 BED / 3.5 BATH, 3,390 SF SOLD ON 1/18/19 $775,000


All of the projects happening and on the horizon in Downtown Pensacola are the efforts of a diverse group of people passionate about making downtown a better place, many of whom have been instrumental in helping us produce this magazine. Putting this magazine together each year would not be possible without the help of those who speak to us, write for us, send us photos, advertise with us and generally point us in the right direction. It is always our aim to present the most comprehensive and nuanced view of downtown development and we rely on those at the forefront of that development to relay their vision and experience here. We extend special thanks this year to Andrew Rothfeder at the Studer Family of Companies, Danny Zimmern at Scoggins Real Estate, Chad Henderson at Catalyst Healthcare Real Estate, Tosh Belsinger at Gulf Blue Group, Josh Sitton at Bear General Contractors, Sigrid Solgard at Keep Pensacola Beautiful, Lee Altman at SCAPE Landscape Architecture, Lissa Dees at the Downtown Improvement Board, Kaycee Lagarde at the City of Pensacola and all of the women business owners at Southtowne featured in our cover story. Downtown is only as good as the people who call it home, and y’all are great. Will Isern

74 | Business Climate | 2019 Downtown / 2020 Downtown Issue Issue

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Business Climate Downtown Development 2019  

Business Climate Downtown Development 2019