6 min read

Live, work, play ...

Phil Nickinson standing alongside a swing set at a park in Pensacola
District 1 is a brilliant mix of diverse housing, parks within walking distance, and small businesses that punch above their weight.

Three words. Twelve letters that define a community. Our community. And this is what it means to me, here in District 1.

Live work play

What's great in District 1

We live together

District 1 is the best of what makes Pensacola special. We enjoy a mix of housing options – in type, and also in price. We have community-supported schools, like Scenic Heights Elementary. And perhaps most important is that we have engaged neighbors.

A citronella torch in the foreground as a family swims in a backyard pool.
We've lived in Scenic Heights since 2004 and built our house into even more of a home over the past two decades.

From the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night, this is where we live our lives. It's where we raise our children. It's where thousands of us return home from work every day. It's where we start families and grow old together.

To make sure this remains an ideal place to live, we need to keep focused on things that support that quality of life. Infrastructure and safety are at the top of the list.

We work together

District 1 is home to major economic drivers that affect our city’s overall quality of life. Pensacola International Airport continues to set passenger records.

I’ve spent more than my share of time there, and I love that I live in Pensacola but can be just about anywhere in the country by lunchtime. That’s benefitted my professional career for sure — and I know I’m not alone, based on the number of fellow business travelers I've met along the way. And I’m always amazed at how far folks in our region will drive to just fly out of Pensacola. It’s that important.

A head-on view of a Delta Airlines plane with the jet bridge attached at Pensacola International Airport.
One of countless departures from Gate 4 at Pensacola International Airport. (The old tower is long gone, but I remember when it was still in action.)

With the addition of ST Engineering's maintenance facilities at the airport, we've seen an influx of jobs in our district — with more on the way.

Pensacola State College remains a vital piece of Pensacola’s educational and economic well-being. It’s important to high-schoolers looking to get ahead. It’s important to older students looking to start anew. I should know — I was one of them. And its home? District 1.

Downtown may deservedly get a lot of the buzz, but District 1 is Pensacola’s real retail hub. Anchored by Cordova Mall — and supported by scores of medium and small businesses — our retail landscape is changing almost daily, and that transition has been fascinating to watch over the decades.

Two young girls seen playing from behind at the fountain at Cordova Mall.
I played in the fountains at Cordova Mall as a child. My kids (seen above) did, too.

We play together

Pensacola is a city built for all kinds of recreation, and District 1 has the best of the best.

From regional destinations like Hitzman-Optimist Park and Roger Scott Athletic Complex, to true community centers like Gull Point, to neighborhood parks with plenty of space for dogs and their humans to stretch their legs. And many are within easy walking distance.

Our District definitely doesn’t disappoint. From soccer-loving families to disc-golf enthusiasts, from Bill Bond baseball to kindergarten ballet, and all the quiet spaces to enjoy nature, our recreational resources highlight why District 1 is the place that serves families of all sizes.

What can be better

Improving our lives

Maintaining and improving our infrastructure is key. We must preserve what makes our district one of the city’s most livable. That also means smartly planning for our needs in the future.

Cars seen driving on Summit Boulevard in Pensacola.
Stop signs and traffic signals only go so far. It's up to us as drivers to slow down.

We need to manage the balance of traffic flow, bicycle and pedestrian safety. And much of that is on us as drivers. Cars are just so big and get up to speed so quickly.

Stormwater and natural-resource management are key pieces of this puzzle, too, and require additional investment. None of that is a one-time fix — it requires a new way of thinking about every improvement we make as a community.

And we need to work now on high-tech infrastructure for the next 20 years. High-speed broadband internet and next-generation cellular coverage are necessities for neighborhood safety, and for keeping up with the growing pace and nature of business.

And too often overlooked is the importance of the accessibility of our public assets, so that everyone can use and enjoy them. It's one thing to talk about making our communities more walkable and accessible, and another to actually do it. And that’s not a luxury — it’s a requirement.

Ensuring our work

In a city our size, no neighborhood is an island. We each influence one another. I know how important neighborhood-level projects are. I’ve advocated for several in the decades I’ve lived in District 1. I'm privileged to work on one of the biggest almost every single day.

But I also know that our community’s challenges don’t stop at a District line. I believe we can secure district- and neighborhood-level wins while keeping an eye on the big-picture things we have to do to make sure the whole community thrives.

Playing safer, together

There are nearly 100 parks in the Pensacola city limits, and District 1 is home to some of the best. I played at Hitzman Park as a child, and I've been honored to have played a small part in its improvements in recent years. I’m even more honored to help Pensacola Youth Soccer create a culture of fun, safety, and inclusion that puts the emphasis in youth sports where it should be — on the kids.

Phil Nickinson in a black T-shirt speaking in front of a group of children in soccer uniforms.
Re-energizing Hitzman Park and helping to build a recreational soccer program our entire city can be proud of has been a highlight of my adult life.

Hitzman Park is a destination park we should be proud of. We also should be proud of the smaller neighborhood parks — Aviation Discovery Park, Belvedere Park, Eastgate, Tierra Verde, and the hidden gem that is Eastgate-Elizabeth Ferniany Peaden Park — that make District 1 special. We need to ensure funding is available for their upkeep, and that maintenance is being done.

What’s next ...

District 1 has been a jewel in Pensacola for years. But that doesn't mean it should go decades without change. On the contrary, we need to continue to improve our lives, and that means improving the things around us. We are passionate neighbors who don’t hesitate to help each other, because we know how closely we’re linked.

Well-maintained parks attract people to buy homes, plant roots, and invest in their neighborhoods. I know this because it’s exactly what I did back 20 years ago. Safe streets ensure safe commutes. They make space for cyclists riding to work or for exercise. They let kids walk to and from school. Nearby businesses — whether they're inside the district or just outside — benefit from that customer base.

We must maintain what we love about our neighborhood, but also plan for the future. And we have to do that together. We have to do our homework, and let data and the best available research drive our decisions.

And when we do all that? We will truly live, work, and play together.