By: Tony R. McCray
(Port St. Joe)
The North Port St. Joe Project Action Committee (NPSJ-PAC) held the first of three public meetings during which the community will begin implementing its 2009 Master Plan. The meeting was held at the George Washington High School Gym and was packed with community residents and business owners eager to hear the presentation of WIM and Associates on implementation of the master plan. The Pensacola Voice Newspaper’s owner and publisher was present to cover this very strategic story of community development in the eastern end of the Florida Panhandle with plans to provide the paper in the area.
Walter Miller, the President of WIM and Associates hosted the event to resurrect the plan first developed with community input in 2009. He explained that WIM prepared the 2009 North Port St Joe Master Plan to establish a framework for a “development without displacement” model. Now the company was being retained to prepare a “post great recession” update and implementation of the previously community vetted strategy. Now in 2016 with the potential of utilizing the BP Oil Spill funding as leverage for private investment the community assets are strategically positioned for community and wealth building.
With the understanding that the plan was specifically designed to empower the predominantly African American community of North Port St Joe, the President of the PAC, Elder Chester Davis, spoke with the Pensacola Voice Newspaper during and after the workshop about his excitement of moving the community forward with the PAC. Elder Davis stated, “My vision is to get our community residents more involved to work together, reunite ourselves, and motivate each other to return to the same level of business activity that existed in North Port St Joe when there were 30 businesses in our business district. Secondly. I want to see business education and technical assistance services as a part of the redevelopment so that our children can return home to find employment and business opportunities”. And last but not least Deacon Davis articulated that he wanted to see North Port St Joe and Port St Joe reunited as one community.
Research shows that in 2008, the Port St Joe City Commission voted unanimously to include the community of North Port St Joe in the Port St Joe Redevelopment Plan. This was in response to a concerted effort for inclusion by the neighborhood’s citizens and representatives. It was followed by the publication of a forward-looking document; the North Port St Joe Master Plan (June 2009). The advent of the Great Recession led to the Plan and its recommendations being shelved. However, momentum is growing among a group of North Port St Joe residents to act. The residents formed the NPSJ-PAC, and these citizens are intent on the Redevelopment Plan being implemented.
The overriding objective of this workshop, was to lay the essential foundation for a practical, detailed implementation program for the redevelopment of North Port St. Joe. The two workshops to follow will follow that same objective. To that end the NPSJ-PAC’s, WIM and Associates, Inc. who prepared the original Master Plan presented an illustrated review and update of the Master Plan’s main recommendations asking three critical questions of each: 1.) What has changed? 2.) What is the consequence of change? 3.) What are the current views for implementing the updated plan? The consultants also presented for discussion new redevelopment opportunities that have arisen in the community since the Master Plan was created.