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UWF Historic Trust Aims To Make Pensacola A Historic Destination

The University of West Florida’s out with its blueprint to transform downtown Pensacola’s Historic District into “Historic Pensacola.” The announcement was made at the Museum of Commerce downtown.

The plan was developed with help from Bill Haley Sharpe Design. It’s aimed at showcasing the historical and archeological assets within the 8.5 acre area that contains 28 properties.

Jerry Maygarden, who chairs the Board of Directors of the UWF Historic Trust, says it’s a matter of positioning Pensacola to increase its historical tourism numbers, and compete with Savannah, Charleston, and Gettysburg.

“It’s a cerebral visitor; it’s a heritage visitor,” said Maygarden. “They come, they stay longer, and they spend more. And they can be just as important to us, as the white sand of our beaches – if we would capitalize on it.”

UWF President Judy Bense told a standing-room only crowd at the museum that this project marks the next level. The challenge in such a project is creating a balance among resource protection, historical education, visitor and recreational use and enjoyment of the site – through appropriate and achievable enhancements.

“Bill Haley has taken his creative mind and his creative team, and created something that will draw people here for just the history and archeology,” Bense said.

Brenden Kelly -- UWF’s Vice President of University Advancement – also serves as CEO of the Historic Trust. He told the crowd that the area’s historical assets, starting when Tristan de Luna’s landing in 1559 – and continuing through the Spanish and British occupations – can make a difference in 2015 and beyond.

“As a university and a [sic] historic trust, we wanted to make good on the promise of the amazing things that Judy [Bense] spent so much time uncovering in Pensacola,” Kelly said. “Because the things that make this place special, are the things that have happened here and continue to happen here.”

Job number one of the project’s first phase is to construct the Commanding Officers Quarters Canopy behind the T.T. Wentworth/Florida State Museum. That’s expected to be completed next June at a cost of $100,000. Cost of the overall project is about $10 million.

UWF is paying for the canopy, and Kelly says the rest of the funding will come from various partnerships.

“We will invest our revenue in these strategic priorities,” said Kelly. “And we obviously will be inviting plenty of others to make those investments, too. We feel like the opportunity to build out this eight and a half acres – not to add buildings, but to enhance its quality, ties us all together.”

The Haley Sharp Design plan also calls for the museum to stay open later, placing historic holograms in the windows, and illuminating the outside at night. There’s also state-of-the-art technology where the forts once stood.

Other features include making a pedestrian walkway out of Zaragossa Street as part of the Historic Village, featuring iconic objects and fort building markings; combining the museums of commerce and industry under a new name, and moving the Children’s Museum into the Museum of Industry’s current digs and expanding it.