Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rethinking the Beach Core Plan

To its credit, the SRIA committee that met via teleconference yesterday ended by directing the EDSA consultants to come up with a fourth "beach plan" option for the commercial core that doesn't involve a multi-million dollar parking ramp.

The only sour note is the slight hint that political accommodation, rather than genuine conviction, may be behind the move. Kimberly Blair reports for the PNJ that one committee member worries that a parking garage needs to be politically marketed:
"That is going to be the most politically charged issue. Many people won't have it. The (Escambia County) board of commission has to sell it to its constituency."
Let's hope the rest of the committee is more interested in good planning rather than politics. If the suggestion to explore other options is taken seriously and EDSA applies some of the creativity it displayed in the first draft of illustrations to re-think greener, more walkable, beach-friendly, and bike-friendly options, it could lead to re-making Pensacola Beach as a stand-out among beach communities.

We've said it before: "As the most impressive and successful city make-overs demonstrate -- the skywalks of Minneapolis and Des Moines, the light rail systems of Portland and Morgantown, and the walker-friendly shopping and entertainment areas of Seaside, Florida, and Seattle -- parking ramps shouldn't be at the core of the plan." That's as true for smaller beach communities as it is for city cores.

Whatever you may think of Seaside's overdone aesthetics, there's no denying that the town is a popular destination for tourists. As Kathleen LaFrank argued persuasively in an essay some years ago, resort towns generally attract visitors precisely because they aren't like the stressful daily life of our commuter culture, filled as it is with crowded streets and highways, creeping cars, and repellent, elevated parking caves:
Resorts are defined by their contrasts with daily life, their oppositions in climate, pace, activity, and obligation, the opportunities for new experiences and the temporary relaxation of norms.

LaFrank, "Seaside, Florida: The New Town: The Old Ways,"
6 Shaping Communities, 111, 113 (1997).
EDSA plainly has the people, tools, and know-how to come up with something that would really distinguish Pensacola Beach from every other car-choked beach town this side of Seaside. If the planning committee comes up with a truly sensible, attractive plan, the politics will take care of itself.

P.S. And, how about it, SRIA? Can you please post past and future EDSA committee reports and drawings on your web site for the public to mull over?

No comments: