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THE MID-TOWN PENSACOLA INNOVATION DISTRICT

THE LOCATION

An aerial photo of the proposed Innovation District area.

A map depicting the current governmental jurisdiction boundaries.

The mid-town innovation district is centrally located in Escambia County, FL. and enjoys several geographic designations that can be advantageous to land developers, investors and businesses.

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It is in an Opportunity Zone!

Opportunity Zones are a new community development program established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. The Opportunity Zones program provides a tax incentive for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds that are dedicated to investing into Opportunity Zones

The area in green is the primary Opportunity Zone impacting the proposed Innovation District. There are also two additional Opportunity Zones depicted in gray in the illustration.

The Innovation District embraces and extends the published plans for the redevelopment of the Escambia Treating Superfund site which is also known as the Midtown Commerce park (shown below). Jointly developing the midtown commerce park on the east side of Palafox Street (Hwy 29) and the Opportunity Zone on the west side of Palafox gives Pensacola a unique opportunity to transform the Gateway to beautiful downtown Pensacola from a blighted area to a vibrant business area. Here is a 2003 Economic Impact Analysis prepared by the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.

Midtown Commerce Park and Opportunity Zone working together.

It is in a New Market Tax Credit area!

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The New Market Tax Credit Program attracts private capital into low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial intermediaries called Community Development Entities (CDEs).

The area in blue is the NMTC area, the orange arrow points to the location of the proposed Innovation District.

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It is in a County Redevelopment Zone

The Palafox Redevelopment District was adopted by the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners in 2000 pursuant to ordinance number 2000-17. The ordinance was amended during 2001, 2003 and 2010 pursuant to ordinance numbers 2001-21, 2003-56, and R2010-205 which revised the boundary description of the Palafox district. Currently, the district covers an urban area of approximately 3.6 square miles consisting of high density mixed uses and abuts the Oakfield Redevelopment District to the north, and the Brownsville and Englewood Redevelopment Districts to the southwest and southeast, respectively.

Palafox is home to Pensacola’s first premier shopping center, the Town and Country Plaza, located off Fairfield Avenue and North Pace Boulevard. This expansive development was established in 1956 and expanded to include a five-story office tower during in early 1970s. The Town and Country Plaza remains in operation today, and continues to feature a variety of retail and office uses. The Palafox district offers a truly mixed commercial climate featuring strong retail, industrial and commercial uses and is served by four major commercial corridors which include Michigan Avenue-Beverly Parkway-Brent Lane, Massachusetts Avenue, North Pace Boulevard and North Palafox Street.

In addition to the district’s commercial and industrial assets, Palafox is home to a several prominent residential communities and features a variety of parks and community centers including Brent Athletic Park, Brentwood Park, Bristol Park and the Dorrie Miller Park and Community Center.

Last but not least it is in a HUB Zone

HUBZone is a company level diversity certification referring to the Historically Underutilized Business Zone program that helps small businesses located in distressed areas gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities. The HUBZone program is in place to increase employment opportunities, investment and economic development in these areas. 

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THE BEGINNING

Scroll down this page to learn more about the beginning of the Innovation District, some of our ideas for the future to make it attractive and useful for both current innovators and generations of innovators to come followed by how to make it happen and finally some reference links

In addition, Socialdesk has undertaken the responsibility to keep Herman Street and L Street very clean and litter free everyday, day light or twilight, warm or cold, sunny or rainy, work-day or holiday - we are diligent to help "Make Mid-town Beautiful"! Please join us where you work or live - litter-free is beautiful.

Socialdesk has chosen to locate in mid-town Pensacola to help start the process of revitalization. In addition to renovating an abandoned building we have opened a coworking and shared office space to provide professional and low-cost workspaces to the entrepreneurs and innovators in our area.

Inside Pensacola Socialdesk

IDEAS FOR THE FUTURE

The following are some ideas being considered for the mid-town Innovation District. All of these ideas can be privately funded or public/private partnerships.

Better Accessibility

Connectivity is one of the keys to an Innovation District. Mid-town Pensacola is the home of Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) so all buses in the County come to the District. This means that employment opportunities are open to all residents, no matter where they live or their access to transportation.

Another important key is bike-ability, this means not only within the district itself, but includes well-defined, continuous and safe bicycle commuting routes as depicted in the graphic to the right.

 

Technology Infrastructure

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Fiber-Optic & Wireless connectivity

All of the buildings in the Innovation District will be inter-connected with fiber-optics that will allow extremely high-speed, low-latency access to the community data center and sharing of Internet access. The entire district will also provide comprehensive wifi and be ready for 5G and small cell deployments.

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Community Datacenter

Increasingly businesses of all sizes are creating, storing and using ever greater volumes of data. Many businesses use computer servers that are housed in their offices, in a closet, without reliable back-up power or cooling and others are using various cloud services with their pay as you go pricing. Both options have benefits and problems. Some communities are offering community data centers that deliver the best of both worlds. A community data center can provide both physical access to co-hosted equipment and extremely high-speed network access when coupled with a community fiber-optic network. On the other hand, it can provide the redundant electrical power and cooling and professional management you get when using a cloud service.

This technology infrastructure will make the innovation district a great place to implement IoT (Internet-of-things) deployment testbeds and production environments.

District Energy

A District Energy facility located in an Innovation Location enables lower capital construction costs and lower operating costs for businesses that locate in the serviced area and in addition helps those businesses lower their carbon footprint.

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District energy delivers sustainable heating and cooling, connecting local resources to local needs. It is a proven solution for delivering heating, hot water and cooling services through a network of insulated pipes, from a central point of generation to the end user. They are suited to feed in locally available, renewable and low-carbon energy sources; solar thermal and geothermal heat, waste heat from industry and commercial buildings, heat from combined heat and power plants. The ability to integrate diverse energy sources means customers are not dependent upon a single source of supply.

The constant evolution of district heating and cooling mirrors that of the broader energy transition. More efficiency, more renewables and more flexibility lead to a better energy system.

Renewable Energy / Microgrid

According to Wikipedia a micro-grid is a localized group of electricity sources and loads that normally operates connected to and synchronous with the traditional centralized electrical grid (macrogrid), but can also disconnect to "island mode" — and function autonomously as physical and/or economic conditions dictate.

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In the mid-town Innovation District we have a great opportunity to design and build renewable energy sources on the site that can reduce the operating cost of businesses and reduce their carbon footprint.

All of the buildings in the Innovation District will be inter-connected with fiber-optics that will allow extremely high-speed, low-latency access to the community data center and sharing of Internet access. When TriNet becomes a reality, other Innovation locations can be linked together allowing businesses to locate in multiple areas along the gulf coast.

 

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WHAT'S NEXT

A few years ago I heard an elderly speaker that served under the Pensacola legend, General Chappie James. In this talk he said that the General was known for always asking “What’s Next” as a way to keep his troops moving forward and not resting on their laurels. When looking at Pensacola with the progress that has been made downtown it would be wise to ask What’s Next?

Pensacola becomes a Smart City

The Innovation District is one part of making the City of Pensacola a Smart City which is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs.

The SmartCoast

The Pensacola SmartCity is still part of a larger regional vision to make the Florida Gulf Coast become recognized as the SmartCoast for Innovators and Entrepreneurs. More information on the SmartCoast.US is available here.

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MAKE IT HAPPEN

Previously we talked about General Chappie James and his question What’s Next. In keeping with that spirit, my Uncle rose in the Georgia National Guard to become the state’s first Command Sargent Major and his continuous challenge that was memorialized on his challenge coin was to “Make It Happen”

Steve Case, the founder of America Online and a major technology investor is fond of saying that a Vision without Implementation is a Hallucination. The following are steps that we can follow to turn this vision into reality.

  • Build a Collaborative Leadership Network

Build a collection of leaders from key institutions, firms and sectors who regulary and formally cooperate on the design, delivery, marketing and governance of the district.

  • Set a Vision for Growth

Provide actionable guidance for how an innovation district should grow and develop in the short-, medium-, and long-term along economic, physical and social dimensions.

  • Pursue Talent and Technology

Educated and skilled workers, and sophisticated infrastructure and systems are the twin drivers of innovation. Pursuing talent requires attraction, retention, and growth strategies; integrating technology requires a commitment to top notch fiber optics to create a high quality platform for innovative firms.

  • Promote Inclusive Growth by using the district as a platform to regenerate adjoining distressed neighborhoods

In addition, create educational, employment and other opportunities for low-income residents of the city.

  • Enhance Access to Capital Funding

This could support basic science and applied research; the commercialization of innovation, entrepreneurial start-ups and expansion (including business incubators and accelerators); urban residential, industrial and commercial real estate, place-based infrastructure (e.g, energy, utilities, broadband, and transportation); education and training facilities; and intermediaries to steward the innovation ecosystem.

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