A new “multi-use cultural activity plaza” could be coming to downtown Pensacola’s historic district, according to plans released Friday by city officials.
Located behind the T.T. Wentworth Florida State Museum, the plaza would include a covered stage, children’s play area, and historical exhibits, among other features. The area is currently occupied by a lawn and parking lot.
The University of West Florida Historic Trust, which owns and manages much of the historic district, plans to build the plaza as part of a master plan unveiled last year.
The master plan is being implemented in phases and is envisioned as a new opportunity to explore new ways of sharing the history of Pensacola and West Florida. The entire plan, estimated to cost between $10 to $15 million, could take several years to come to fruition.
In September, Historic Trust officials unveiled the Commanding Officers’ Compound, a covered outdoor exhibit which will be incorporated into the new plaza. Several other enhancements and additions have been completed or are underway throughout the Trust’s 8.5 acre campus, including installing glass doors on the Museum of Commerce, adjusting museum hours to maximize visitation, and installing new lighting at the T.T. Wentworth Museum that will illuminate the former city hall at night.
Once constructed, the plaza would serve as a central connection point between the Trust’s properties, including the Wentworth Museum, the Pensacola Children’s Museum, the Voices of Pensacola multicultural center, and the Historic Village.
“Connecting the TT Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum with the rest of our historic properties is just one goal,” said Rob Overton, COO of the Trust. “The main goal is interpreting the archaeology of the forts that lie beneath the ground on this site to allow visitors to better understand our city’s history.”
Overton said the project will be a much-needed improvement over the current parking lot and vacant lawn that currently occupies the site.
“The overall goal of creating Museum Plaza is to better connect all of our assets more closely and cohesively,” said Overton. “The surface of the plaza will be a mixture of grass and pavers, a porous surface that will allow for proper water drainage. The markings on the new surface reflect the archaeology beneath.”
“The project will add shade and seating, which will encourage visitors to spend more time downtown,” Overton added. “This project will also create an outdoor classroom allowing us to better engage with people and share our stories.”
It’s estimated that more than 60 parking spaces will be sacrificed for the plaza project in a downtown core that is already feeling the pressure to find solutions to parking and transportation.
Marquis Latimer + Halback, a St. Augustine-based landscape architecture firm, has been retained to design the plaza. Because the plaza would be located in the historic district, plans must be approved by the city’s Architectural Review Board. The board is set to consider the plaza at its October 20 meeting.