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Starting Pensacola's New Park Wasn't Easy


The $70-million Community Maritime Park (rendering, left) will be located along the downtown waterfront (below).

Pensacola will break ground this summer on its Community Maritime Park, a $70-million, nearly 32-acre project on the biggest undeveloped parcel of downtown waterfront, but getting to this point was far from a slam dunk.

Two early park visionaries, Maritime Museum promoter Vice Adm. Jack Fetterman and former Mayor Vince Whibbs, died before they could see their ideas materialize, and a third, University of West Florida’s then-President John Cavanaugh, moved to another job. Park opponents, organized as Save Our City, triggered a 2006 referendum — which saw 56% favoring the park. Environmental permitting for the site, contaminated from 100 years’ use as port dockage and petroleum storage, took 18 months. Then the economy tanked.

U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier, who’s logged hundreds of hours as chairman of Community Maritime Park Associates, the project’s citizen overseer, thinks the five-year effort could spark “a total rebirth of Pensacola.’’

The park will include a multisport stadium where the Pensacola Pelicans baseball team will play, and three UWF-sponsored attractions: A maritime museum that’s partly state-funded, a multicultural museum highlighting Pensacola’s history and an amphitheater.

More than $100 million in private development is also anticipated, including a $12-million office complex with offices for the Studer Group (CEO Quint Studer, a park champion, also owns the Pelicans team). Later phases could include a conference center and UWF research center.