In my picking endeavors, ephemera has always been a favorite. Especially Florida stuff. So, obviously, Pensacola paper holds a very high position in my value graph. Recently, I acquired this master plan prepared by Robert S. Bateman and Associates, Incorporated, of Mobile, Alabama, from May of 1971. Other than a unique addition to the brokerage library, could I learn anything from this nearly fifty year old study of how to preserve Pensacola’s historic district?
The objective of this plan was “to include the preservation, development, and reservation of land in such a manner as to insure an orderly growth and development of the historic district.”
The objective of this blog is to see how we are doing at that- 47 years later -and begin a dialogue about form based code for Pensacola.This is hardly a new concept. The first so-called master or comprehensive land use plan was implemented in New York City’s Central Park in 1875 by Frederick Law Olmstead, and became the design vogue after heavy impetus at the 1893 World’s Fair, where the City Beautiful Movement was started. In the current urban design world, the gold standard is called form based code. At the time of printing, negotiations are still underway to bring form based code in earnest to the city of Pensacola.
Takeaways from the objectives section of the plan:
- To Achieve a distinctive and desirable historic district which is economically feasible and which will forever open to the public the indelible imprint on the historic area left by the five governing nations
- Re-create the historic environment or interpretations of the lost part of the past
- To develop a plan which will encourage private enterprise to restore accurately the property and to protect those who do
- To preserve the unusual attributes of the area that contribute to the aesthetic image of the historical district and to Pensacola
- Open up new pedestrian easements, and ease vehicular traffic.
They were none too kind to the port. “The Port of Pensacola is a definite liability to the historic district. The view from the district to the port is somewhat less than desirable.”
Heavy emphasis was placed on infrastructure in this plan. “It is recommended that all new or replaced services, new power distribution lines, primary and secondary, and related items be placed underground immediately.” The same recommendation was made for phone lines. “The ultimate aim should be to have a complete underground system for utilities.” Phone lines then are today’s cable.
There were several mentions of what we refer to today as Walkability and walk score, although those weren’t their exact words: “For the district to be more attractive and successful, much thought should be given to pedestrian movement. After all, the district should have a leisurely appearance without exposing pedestrians, tourists, or residents, to a ‘racetrack’ atmosphere prevalent with large vehicle traffic volumes.”The market conditions when this plan was published were surprisingly similar to today. In fact, housing starts and housing permitting surged to their highest levels in recorded history in early winter of 1972. So, this plan was timely then. A plan like this in in the works again, at the top of the housing market, and this time, I sincerely hope we get it right.