A more walkable Pensacola is just the start

 We not only have to improve our neighborhoods — we also must improve the way they connect to one another.

We not only have to improve our neighborhoods — we also must improve the way they connect to one another.

The downtown area is the heart of any community. It is our community's lifeblood. Jeff Speck, the renowned urban planner and walkability expert who spoke Monday night at CivicCon, immediately touched on that point. And he also immediately picked up on something that should be readily apparent to all of us.

Downtown Pensacola has changed a lot in the past 15 years. And it has changed in ways befitting of our city. It is about being better at who we are. It is about building Pensacola smartly, and not just growing for growth's sake. District 6, which I have had the honor to represent since 2010, has undeniably seen the bulk of that growth. And I want to see that prosperity expand throughout the rest of Pensacola.

Yes, a lot has changed in the past 15 years. And today we are planning for the growth of the next 15 years.

 Our vision to Build Pensacola requires creativity and flexibility in planning not just for the next year, but for the next 15 years.

Our vision to Build Pensacola requires creativity and flexibility in planning not just for the next year, but for the next 15 years.

That is what I have laid out in Brian's Blueprint —  the building blocks of what can be the next 15 years (or more) of Pensacola's future. And just like any good project — and as Jeff Speck wisely pointed out in Monday's talk — these building blocks all intersect and interact with each other. We will have to be quick enough to handle multiple avenues of growth at once, and nimble enough to adjust and not be stuck in our ways should adversity appear.

We will continue to grow our neighborhoods while maintaining their natural character and beauty.

We can improve where we live — our homes parks and schools — making them more accessible not just to ourselves, but to one another. We can better connect our downtown communities, and make them safer in the process. We can better connect all our residential neighborhoods so that we don't have to think twice before letting children ride their bikes to a friend's house.

We will more smartly use the land we already have.

 Urban planner Jeff Speck at the Rex Theatre on Sept. 17.

Urban planner Jeff Speck at the Rex Theatre on Sept. 17.

Few people want more regulations and red tape. We already have a costly infrastructure — we just need to be smarter about how we use it. We must better utilize our land surplus. We must examine the regulations we already have and improve or replace them. They should do more than just maintain the status quo — they should shape the future of Pensacola and help design our smarter, more walkable communities.

As we build Pensacola, we will build local talent.

We all know this story. We have to attract even more quality employers to Pensacola. We have to entice young adults to come here to begin their families. We have to encourage those who moved away for college that returning to Pensacola is something that shouldn't just be considered — it should be desired.

Those three things — growing our neighborhoods, improving our city land use, and building our local employment opportunities — are all interconnected. We cannot neglect one and expect the others to flourish. We have seen it work in our own District 6. Together we can make it work for all Pensacolians.

Think, again, to downtown Pensacola over the past 15 years. There is no denying the growth and the improvement. We were able to move past any inflexibility and work our way through the bureaucracy. We can all take pride in our downtown.  

The improvement of the past 15 years is phenomenal. On Nov. 6 we can make a clear choice and vote to continue to Build Pensacola.

- Brian

Build PensacolaPhil Nickinson