There is a lot of construction and change and growth in downtown Pensacola right now. What there isn’t a lot of is parking, and that continues to be a problem. Last December the city of Pensacola commissioned a study from the West Florida Regional Planning Council called Pensacola Parking Strategies as a Catalyst for Economic Growth. Jill Lavender is Special Projects Coordinator for the council and is the team leader for the study. She says they are going to first look at the current supply and then predict the future demand of parking downtown. "We're also going to be looking at the current parking regulations...then we're going to be looking at other cities throughout the country to see how they've been successful implementing parking strategies."
That study is now underway. And there is a lot TO study. Ron Butlin, Executive Director of the Downtown Improvement Board in Pensacola says "A lot of the vacant office space has filled up, a lot of the historically vacant retail space has filled up, you've got a new hotel going up down at Main (Street), you've got the residential property (being built) at the old (Pensacola News Journal) site; there's just lots of things that are happening right now that I think need to be looked at."
Butlin says while the board is not directly involved with the study, which was commissioned by the city, they do have a stake in the results since they currently manage the city’s parking. He’s hopeful they will be looking vertically, calling surface parking lots "low intensity use. You want to start increasing the intensity which hopefully is a multi-story building on those sites."
He also says it’s important to locate the structures where they would have the most economic impact. Over at the West Florida Regional Planning Council, Jill Lavender agrees. "Businesses want the parking to be close to their business. So a lot of times, yes, building up like garages is one of the better ideas."
Lavender also says whatever solution is suggested by the study, be it parking structures or surface lot, has to be attractive and blend in with the feel of the downtown area. Of course, nothing in this study will be binding, but it will start the process of solving a problem that many in the city government pointed to as one of Pensacola’s priorities for 2016.
The final report should be ready by the end of June.