Saufley Field in Pensacola may see new life as a commerce park

Historic preservation and commerce will blend together when an old Navy airstrip becomes a new-age business park in the near future.

Historic preservation and commerce will blend together when an old Navy airstrip becomes a new-age business park in the near future.

Saufley Field is an “under-utilized” airstrip, located near the community of Belleview on the northwest side of Pensacola, which consists of about 100 acres of X-shaped airfield and several buildings. But a private-public partnership currently in the works may transform parts of the facility into an office complex with the feel of a college campus.

Greg Clauson, commercial advisor for Coldwell Banker Commercial, said the venture is being administered under the Enhanced Use Lease process, which means the government has put it in the public domain to generate revenue.

“We are negotiating to lease it from the Navy for fair market value, under specified terms,” Clauson said.

Not all of the facility’s 700,000 square feet of land area will be “developed.” There are four 30,000-square-foot aircraft hangars on site, as well as some desirable environmental features that will be targeted for preservation.

“Some of that will be historical and will be maintained,” Clauson explained. “There are some beautiful specimen trees which will be preserved, and a walk-able campus environment will be created. Much like what you’d see at a campus university, but a business campus of some kind, an office park.”

The airplane hangars have been there since the 1940s and exhibit architecture that is “absolutely gorgeous,” he said.

“We are going to replicate that style in some of the new development and renovation of existing buildings,” Clauson added. “The hangars for the most part stay as is, not much you can do to a hanger, but some of the other buildings (will be renovated).”

The vision of the new park is simple. It involves offering up new executive office suites with all the amenities, such as media room, conference room and all the luxury of a built-out Class “A” office space.

“If you were essentially an out-of-town office user you could set up an office here and have a presence in this market,” he said.

Negotiations are expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2011. Shortly after the ink is dry, Clauson said final building inspections will be done in preparation for renovation work, but it’s unlikely any brand-new buildings will be constructed.

“We probably wouldn’t build a new building … unless we had a tenant who required that,” he said. “We have enough existing space. We have plenty of buildings that (the Navy) is going to be turning over to us.”

The working title for the new park will be the Center for Innovation and Technology at Saufley Field. And, in a region consumed by the military-industrial complex, it wouldn’t be surprising to see that kind of usage take place at Saufley Field.

“Certainly it will have a share of defense contactors, but we will seek synergistic uses that share technologies like information tech, lab sciences and medical technologies,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Navy will still retain control over the airfield — although it rarely uses the outlying field.

Clauson said he believes the project is in a position to provide a great economic boost to the local economy. “To have this much land and vertical structure in inventory is a very unique opportunity,” he said.

“We’ll become the economic driver … and that’s a good thing for the community.”

Categories: Commercial