The Studer Community Institute was founded on the belief that when people with common goals come together, great things can happen.
Quint and Rishy Studer purchased the former SunTrust Building earlier this year with plans to renovate it into a hub for networking, small business development and community education.
Before they finalized plans, the Studers wanted to gather input from the community about what people would like the space in the iconic downtown landmark to become. Participants in these mini-focus groups were asked to rotate in small groups through four different parts of the property – the outside plaza, the inside lobby, the downstairs meeting space, and the upstairs meeting and patio area.
At each “station” facilitators were on hand to ask questions, gauge feedback and note your suggestions. The goal is to use that input to help design, create, and program a place for civic conversations, community solutions and ongoing education.
After the couple’s $8.5 million offer was accepted in April, the Studers moved on to proceed with plans to invest an additional $6 million to upgrade the property, which closed in August.
Studer Properties President Andrew Rothfeder said the vision for the building is to serve as the epicenter of learning, collaboration, and community dialogue for Northwest Florida by providing a venue for education and problem-solving.
Plans call for the first floor to be converted into a conference center with a large banquet hall, which can be partitioned into smaller lecture venues or classrooms.
The remaining portion of the first floor lobby and atrium will be transformed into a public community area with tables, seating, a small cafe and smaller private meeting spaces. Outside the building, the large plaza will be upgraded with landscaping, outdoor seating, green space and other amenities, very much like similar plazas found in large cities.
Activities planned for the building include hosting local and national speakers to discuss ways to improve the quality of life in the area. The first of these is CivicCon, a lecture series that begins Sept. 26.
CivicCon will highlight thought leaders and compelling speakers on a series of topics meant to improve planning, prosperity and quality of life in Pensacola. It is presented by Studer Community Institute in partnership with the Pensacola News Journal.
Improving the quality of life is at the heart of the Studer Community Institute’s mission and work in leadership and business skill development and early learning education and outreach.
Charles Marohn, a civil engineer, is the president and co-founder of Strong Towns, a nonprofit that encourages citizens, developers and cities to rethink the way their communities grow.
Hear Marohn in “Is Pensacola a Strong Town?” on Sept. 26 at the Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St., in Pensacola. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation begins at 6 p.m. You can register here.
In addition, several local arts groups and educational institutions have also expressed interest in using the building for classrooms, events, and a venue for live performances. Both the indoor and outdoor public areas will host community events and entertainment as well as a place for people to relax and unwind.
While the ninth floor will be leased for office space, one large room will be left open, which will provide a spectacular view of Pensacola. In addition, one of the elevators has a glass panel which faces south, which will provide a scenic overlook of downtown Pensacola that residents and visitors will both enjoy.
“Our goal for this renovated space is to give a voice to those who want to initiate positive change in the community, and work toward improving the quality of life for everyone in Northwest Florida,” said Quint Studer.
In addition to the planned renovation of the lower floors, extensive upgrades will be made to heating and air conditioning, elevators, restrooms, and exterior finishes to ensure that current building tenants have a great place to work.
Renovations are expected to be complete in fall 2018.