If you ever wanted to serve on Pensacola’s Downtown Improvement Board, here’s your chance.
“We will be appointing three new people to the DIB; and we are looking for names, we’re going to send stuff out if people want to volunteer,” said Mayor Grover Robinson, who will fill three upcoming vacancies on the five-member panel to replace retiring members. Candidates are subject to City Council approval at its June 14 meeting.
Members serve three-year terms and must meet certain criteria.
“You have to be a taxpayer in the district,” said Robinson. “You can lease as long as you pay the taxes on the lease. If you own a business – like you’re a law partner, you’re one of multiple owners in the business, you’re in line of either ownership or an officer of that corporation – you can participate.”
During his weekly news conference Monday, Robinson said his main priority for the DIB is improving downtown parking, and made no bones that he’s looking for applicants who are on the same page of that hymnal.
“What are the right hours and what are the right prices?” said the Mayor. “A variable rate for parking? I’ve said for a long time that, when you get after five o’clock, you can drive up and down and we’re still charging people for parking – and there’s not a single person parking.”
Parking in downtown Pensacola was the focus of a study last year by the Haas Business Center at the University of West Florida. Researcher Amy Newburn said it was a “multi-modal” survey – that is, using a number of methods -- with some help from the Downtown Improvement Board.
“The first way was the random-digit dialing telephone survey,” said Newburn. “We also allowed the DIB to share the survey online and was shared on social media as well.”
The study unveiled what Newburn called a “really interesting” pattern. Respondents say on one hand, they like being able to find a parking space ten minutes or less from when they began looking, and that they’re only a couple of blocks from their destination.
“On the other hand, they don’t think there’s sufficient amount of free parking,” Newburn said. “They’re dissatisfied with the convenience of parking and with the cost of parking. So it’s really a two-pronged approach that the DIB has to consider.”
“It’s great information; we wanted to get a benchmark for where we were, [and] what we know,” said John Peacock, Vice-Chairman of the Downtown Improvement Board. “Nationwide, there’s a negative connotation associated with parking anywhere you go; it’s pretty consistent if you read all the studies.”
While the study contained no real surprises, Peacock said it does provide an opportunity to see what areas need improvement, such as better communication.
“Certain things where funds are going,” said Peacock. “I don’t think you’re ever going to get rid of the negative connotation of parking. One of the experts nationwide said parking has a way of turning the staunchest, conservative Republican into a total socialist. Because somehow they think parking should be free.”
Past controversies aside, Mayor Grover Robinson says the DIB has made some decisions which have made things better and have led to dramatic changes.
“I remember working with them when there was the decision to make Baylen and Palafox two-way streets, and Spring and Baylen two-way streets,” said Robinson. “It’s made things more walkable; they took out all the stoplights. I would also remind people that every decision the DIB makes is not a great decision; they also decided they would do the backwards parking.”
The Downtown Improvement Board is funded by a special tax on properties within its 44-block district boundaries across downtown Pensacola.
These three appointments will be the first by Mayor Robinson. The current members were from the Ashton Hayward Administration. An online application is at www.cityofpensacola.com. The deadline to submit is Thursday, May 30 at 5 p.m.