In the sport of baseball, small ball is an informal term for an offensive strategy in which the batting team emphasizes placing runners on base and then advancing them into scoring position for a run in a deliberate, methodical way. Applying this concept to urban revitalization, getting things right doesn’t necessarily mean having to only select between hitting home runs on risky, heavily subsidized mega projects or striking out at bat. Clustering, complementing businesses with a compact, pedestrian scale setting is a successfully proven and affordable example of small ball.
Attending the 2019 Florida Preservation Conference, facilitated by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, I had the opportunity to visit Pensacola for the first time since 2010. A less than a decade following the conversion of a one-way street back into a two-way street, Pensacola has played the urban revitalization game of small ball to perfection, transforming Palafox Street into an urban, exciting and lively pedestrian friendly atmosphere that would make cities ten times its size envious. As a result of Pensacola’s hard work and vision, Palafox was designated by the American Planning Association as one of ten Great Streets in America.
It is very impressive to see what Pensacola has accomplished in a very short time. Larger cities such as Jacksonville should be excited to witness Pensacola’s success and think about what can be achieved locally if leadership is able and committed to finally doing the little things around clustering complementing uses within a compact setting that make a downtown successful.
Here is a before and after look at the transformation of Downtown Pensacola’s Palafox Street.
Two-Way Street Conversion
At the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation Conference, the two-way street conversion of Palafox Street was identified by Quint Studer, co-owner of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and founder of the Studer Group, as a major reason for the street’s recent success story. Once a one-way southbound corridor, the two-way street conversion was completed in 2009.
Old Hickory Whiskey Bar
Pensacola Katie Garrett opened the Old Hickory Whiskey Bar on Palafox Street in 2014 after entering a barren job market a couple of years earlier with a history background from the University of West Florida. Now she is in the process of opening a cocktail lounge as her second venture on Palafox Street called the The Kennedy.