By Tony McCray
The Brownsville Community in West Pensacola has attracted the attention of government, press, business, non-profits, and neighborhood stakeholders in the pursuit of a quality of life that will contribute to a lifestyle worthy of positive growth. Mike Kilmer, the Historic Brownville Community Organization President, is an adamant advocate for neighborhood change that deserves to be branded as “community transformation”. From the development of a Brownsville Media Kit to the redesign of West Cervantes St., the Brownsville Community stakeholders are a very busy team.
A great example of team momentum can be found in the ongoing listing of activities commensurate with community building such as the effort to create a Brownsville Video Documentary Update. With a video focused on businesses- one, the Historic Brownsville Community organization, another, the engagement of Escambia County Commissioners May and Underhill as government stakeholders in the project, a video on the centerpiece of the revitalization initiative, and the Brownville Center, the recent remodeled church building as an activity facility. Another important idea that has gained traction with regional governmental agencies is the involvement of the West Florida Regional Planning Council and the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization in the process of discussing and obtaining stakeholder input on reducing West Cervantes St. from four lanes to two lanes to provides bike lanes and on-street parking with the focus of rejuvenating business activity in the area.
In an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice, Mike Kilmer stated at a workshop held Monday November 13th at Pensacola City Hall with the Regional Planning Council and the Transportation Planning Organization, “It was a very successful workshop as there was not one voice of dissent that was heard on the proposed changes”. Still the community has to go through the governmental process of a feasibility study for the changes and the steps to gain approval for the work to be done to make the vision reality.
However, Brownsville has the support and involvement of smart growth advocate, Christian Wagley, who believes in utilizing the existing infrastructure of the urban environment instead of plowing up the Escambia County landscape with roads, street lighting, water lines etc. and spending government dollars on what is sometimes called “urban sprawl”.
Quint Studer has shown his interest and advocacy in his commitment to bring speakers to Pensacola and Escambia County so that they might share their input on this concept. In an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice, Studer shared that the focus on the intersection of Belmont and DeVilliers is an example utilizing existing infrastructure while simultaneously revitalizing a historic Black business district. Studer’s investments in Maritime Park and Palafox Street in Downtown Pensacola not to mention his involvement with the new YMCA and his 300 unit Downtown apartment complex on the former Pensacola News Journal site speaks loudly and soundly on this strategy.
In fact, Studer brought his urban revitalization strategy to Brownsville during what Kilmer describes as a “community business assessment of needs workshop” several weeks ago facilitated by Robin Reshard, a Brownsville resident.
After the businesses participated in sharing their assessment feedback, dinner was served by a neighborhood restaurant, The Yummi Deli, and then Studer brought his message. He stated that his presentation included his experience in focusing on small areas of concentration with Belmont-DeVilliers and Downtown Pensacola as examples. Strategic advice was given for the Brownsville team of government, businesses, non-profits, community resident stakeholders from the Blue Wahoos baseball team owner.