When I would ask my father for business advice, many times he would share, “Find others that are already doing it, observe them and what they are doing best. Great way to learn and uncover resources.”
It is this tact that Mayor D.C. Reeves has been taking when discussing the future of the old Baptist Hospital property.
On Thursday, he hosted a feedback session attended by 50+ community members and invited them to help shape the vision of the future for the Baptist Hospital legacy campus.
“As you are aware, the future of this area – or lack of a future with no planning – will have a generational impact on the surrounding neighborhood and the entire city.
If done right, we could help set in motion a project that improves the quality of life for so many including options for housing, education, safety, workforce development, and more. These types of transformational projects are taking place around the country, and I believe that this is a vital opportunity for our city to do it right,” said Reeves.
Invited to speak and share their expertise were James Lima of JLP Development. James was hired by Baptist to facilitate the visioning work in recent years and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about this site. He finished his work in early 2022 but made himself available to be in Pensacola today at the Mayor’s and Baptist Hospital’s request to discuss his findings, reports, and thoughts on the project.
Gerry Bearousse of the Bayou District Foundation was also in attendance. Gerry developed the Bayou District Foundation in New Orleans, an impressive housing/education/services community built on the site of a former public housing project.
James Lima observed that the greater alignment of interest between the two projects is more than most probably have realized. The fact that honoring our heritage, connection, and peacekeeping in honoring what is special and unique about community is something that Baptist Hospital, the Mayor, and the Bayou District Foundation all have in common.
He also reminded the group that the work being done right now by the Mayor and the Baptist team typically comes after being in crisis.
“What is happening in Pensacola is that your government is acting boldly by taking risks in acting in the public’s best interest without being pushed by a crisis. The Bayou District Foundation was created and did its work as a result of Hurricane Katrina,” shared Lima.
Mr. Bearousse shared the results of the work that the Bayou District Foundation has completed in the last 15 years; and what a purpose-built community is and its benefits. His expertise is evident in that more than 120 communities have come to visit his project.
He shared specifically that what Bayou District Foundation in New Orleans and what Baptist Hospital in Pensacola have in common includes the size of the property (both are 50+ acres), the fact that there was a question of demolition for their project and the same now with Pensacola, and how he thinks that findings and results can be applied here for the Baptist Hospital campus.
Mr. Bearousse went on to explain the 15-year results with statistics that answered the question, “Why would someone want to live here?”.
During the Q&A, Tim Kinsella, Director of the Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis & Overholtz Center for Leadership, thanked him for posing the question and sharing that their success had a formula: people feeling safe in their neighborhood, having access to education, having a large and well-maintained park, a grocery store, and access to healthcare and transportation.
Mayor Reeves closed the session after 20+ questions were asked by attendees. He reminded those in attendance that he would continue to lead the effort to narrate this with the community and the experts and to gather feedback.
“This is a transformational opportunity for a neighborhood in our city, and how we make school and housing accessible to that neighborhood is of the utmost importance to me. And that is why I am asking for input from these experts, and I will continue to seek feedback including from those that have lived in that neighborhood the longest and live there now,” shared Reeves.
Baptist Hospital is currently in negotiations with Mayor Reeves and the City of Pensacola to donate part of the acreage to the city.
Find more details here from WEAR TV
If you would like to send feedback to Mayor Reeves, please email Alex Smith at AlexSmith@cityofpensacola.com .