First look: Draft vision plan for future of Port of Pensacola

Draft vision plan for Port of Pensacola recognizes need for a balanced approach to future development.

“The Port of Pensacola could be a true hybrid of maritime commerce and clean tech.”

After more than a year of public meetings, community input, and research, that’s the consensus of a team of consultants from global infrastructure advisory firm Moffatt & Nichol.

The Long Beach, Calif.-based firm was contracted last year for $100,000 by the City of Pensacola to develop the Port of Pensacola Vision Plan and Reinvestment Strategy. This week, city officials released a draft version of the final document that outlines a way forward for the city to re-envision the centuries-old port.

According to the report, the Vision Plan seeks to establish a hybrid port, one balancing clean cargo seaport trades with new investments geared to creating knowledge and expertise clusters aligned with Pensacola’s strategic strengths and vision. (Moffatt & Nichol)

The plan outlines “a future for the port that creates a new center of excellence for innovation in the growing regional and international blue economy, including ocean sciences and research, product development and testing laboratories, education and community outreach, business incubators and flex working spaces and other related uses.”

During the development of the plan that began last spring, the consultants explored three possible scenarios for the future of the port: dissolving it over time, creating a complementary port that allows some port operations to remain long-term, and a balanced approach that would seek a balance between downtown, the waterfront, and the port itself. After three public workshops and more than 1,000 citizens participated in the drafting of the plan, the consultants determined the balanced approach was the appropriate way forward.

A conceptual render of improvements at the Port of Pensacola. (Moffatt & Nichol)

“A true hybrid of maritime commerce and clean tech, the Port will also expand linkages to downtown and its waterfront where feasible, from roadways to interlinked recreational corridors and greenways,” the report states.

This hybrid approach could include the establishment of centers of excellence, such as a marine research lab, a harbor school, a future location for a state fish hatchery, and business incubators.

When outlining future uses, the team looked at other hybrid ports, including ALTASEA at the Port of Los Angeles, redevelopment at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, and the New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island.

A conceptual render shows mixed-use development surrounding Commendencia Slip between the Port of Pensacola and South Palafox Street. (Moffatt & Nichol)

The plan also includes the development of underutilized city-owned properties surrounding the port. They include potential development of a multi-story parking garage with mixed-use retail and shopping adjacent to the soon to be completed Pensacola Bay ferry terminal.  The creation of a Pensacola welcome and heritage center is also envisioned adjacent to the ferry terminal.

While not designed to be treated as a master plan, conceptual improvements are suggested to take place over a 25 year period, intended to be completed in phases. When a final report is complete, it will be reviewed by both the Mayor’s office and City Council at a to be determined date.

View the draft report: