DIB and City to build public restrooms

Posted: Aug 2, 2022 6:01 PMUpdated: Aug 2, 2022 6:01 PM
Financing is in place and design plans underway for construction of two public restrooms at the south and north end of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on North Palafox St. The public facilities are a joint project of the City of Pensacola, which approved the plan several weeks ago, and the Downtown Improvement Board.

DIB Chairman Michael Carro says construction should get underway by early 2023.

The proposed MLK Plaza restrooms will be maintained by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and are the first of several Carro says are needed in downtown Pensacola. “Our city has not done a good job providing restrooms for public use in downtown Pensacola,” says Carro.

But Carro adds that when the DIB devised a plan to pay for half the cost of the restrooms with private funds, City Council members recognized the need and responded positively. “The City of Pensacola is always grateful when we come with solutions to problems and money to address them,” Carro says.

Estimated construction cost for both facilities is $500,000, with half that amount funded by the City and remainder under a three-year financing deal backed by revenue from the Palafox Market vendors.  

The restrooms, Carro says, are designed to be easily maintained and cleaned. Moreover, the exterior of two restrooms will be aesthetically pleasing and blend into the overall architectural look of the downtown district.

Announcement of the joint City-DIB restroom project comes amid recent controversy over repeated vandalism of temporary portapotties paid for by Palafox Market vendors and required by City ordinance.

The portapotties are delivered to the MLK Plaza on Friday afternoons and locked during the night to preserve their sanitation. They are unlocked early Saturday morning for the market’s customers, relocked at night and typically picked up Monday mornings.

“The Palafox Market is like any other permitted downtown event; it just so happens the event occurs every weekend instead of once a year like many other downtown events,” says Walker Wilson, DIB executive director.

Long-time market vendor Barbara Fletcher says securing the portapotties overnight is necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of the portable restrooms. She says the recent vandalism of locks is completely unacceptable. “Palafox Market vendors, as part of a fee to be able to be there every Saturday, pay for the portapotties, and as a result they are privately rented for a permitted event,” says Fletcher.

The recent repeated destruction of the padlocks on the portapotties results in their unlawful use at night and presents a serious public health concern due to the unsanitary debris left inside the devices, Fletcher says. “Destroying the lock one time could be viewed as a good Samaritan act,” she notes. “Destroying the lock 11 consecutive times is destruction of property rented by the Palafox Market vendors and is a criminal offense.”