The Greatest American Street

We know what a great street Palafox is; now the rest of the world is catching on.

The latest outpouring of love for Pensacola’s main downtown thoroughfare is spurred by the American Planning Association, which named Palafox one of the country’s “Great Places in America: Streets” for 2013.

The planners association cited the eight block of Palafox between Wright and Main streets for its history, architecture, use of green space and full calendar of street parties form New Year’s Eve to Mardi Gras and Gallery Night.

The designation spurred media coverage that circulated the story of Palafox’s beginnings and its recent rebirth in outlets from Yahoo News to The Washington Post.

Joe Scarborough, native son former congressman gone to the big time thanks to MSNBC, told his 268,000-plus Twitter followers to “read about my great hometown in the Washington Post” on Oct. 16.

The time for hiding our light under a bushel is over, friends. Get ready for our close-up.

There are still improvements to be had; still steps to be made. Personally, I won’t think of the renaissance as complete until the Rex Theater has juice flowing in her art deco signage again.

Harvest Church bought the building in 2012 and has spent a pretty penny working on the building’s innards. Their plans call for it to be a venue for the church, as well as a small-scale venue for theater, concerts or other events.

Our Great American Street has a bit of everything. Music. Eats. Culture. Shopping. A Saturday farmers market. A street party for nearly every occasion.

Near the foot of Palafox is Plaza de Luna, a park where the grungy Bayfront Auditorium used to stand. From there you can see Pensacola Bay, because the water is our lifeblood.

At the north end of the stretch of Palafox that the APA honored are churches. My favorite is Christ Episcopal Church, but other denominations have beautiful houses of worship on Palafox and just a stone's throw away nearby.

God and the water are never far from Pensacola’s collective mind. It is only fitting that our Great Street is bookended by those things.

Something in a Pensacolian seems to wither if he or she is too far from the water for too long.

If anything could rival this community’s love of the coast, it would be its ties of faith.  Whatever your denomination, be it Sunday-go-to-meeting-formal or flip-flops-in-the-sand-style, we’ve got a spot you can gather to thank your higher power for the gift of last week and for the promise of the next.

That’s our secret sauce. We find God in the details and in the good deeds. In the ebb and flow of the tide and the sparkle of a string of Mardi Gras beads.

 We fight each other like family, storing up civic and personal slights, real and imagined, from decades past and dragging them out at every turn.

But we love this community the way a family loves, too, fiercely and forever, with special room in our heart for those who serve our country and those in need.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a place with a street -- and with people -- like that.