Construction of a much-anticipated $44 million mixed-use apartment and hotel development has begun in downtown Fort Walton Beach.
Fort Walton Beach-based Live Work Play Developers, LLC is the development firm behind the groundbreaking project called Landmark Center, at the intersection of Perry Avenue and Highway 98.
Ken Wright, a partner in the project, says foundation work has already begun and the project is well on its way to marking a new era for the revitalization downtown.
“We will pick a date in July to do some kind of official groundbreaking, but we are all eyes forward,” said Wright.
Wright said site work is continuing at the property to remove large stormwater pipes that caused unexpected delays in the spring.
“It will take a few weeks depending on the weather to relocate a large pipe that we have to move before we begin major foundation work,” Wright said. “The next step is to install about 200 underground piers to add stability to the building and then begin vertical construction.”
The development, which has been in the works under different conceptual plans for a decade, will include three buildings totaling more than 144,000 square feet of restaurants, bars, retail stores, offices, 24 loft apartments and a 112-room Hilton hotel, along with a six-story parking garage
A key aspect of getting the project built was getting the hotel component on board. The contemporary Hilton Home2 Suites hotel will be managed by Pensacola-based Innisfree Hotels and will front Perry Avenue across from the Publix Shopping Center.
The 24 loft apartments will be located on the corner of Miracle Strip Parkway and Perry Avenue.
“Currently, we have about two-thirds of the apartments reserved,” Wright said. “Our clientele for the lofts has been diverse, with snowbirds, empty nesters, along with millennials and military seeking interest.”
The project will also include several retail and restaurant spaces throughout the buildings.
“We have all of our tenants secured at this point,” Wright said. “We’re very excited about everyone we have on board.”
Among the tenants are Yagööt Frozen Yogurt, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, the Brass Tap Craft Beer Bar, and Shooters Sports Bar and Grill.
On the fifth floor, rising above the downtown skyline, will be The Terrace Restaurant and Skybar, operated by Chef Ernie Danjean of Ernie’s Dockside Cafe and Oyster Bar in Niceville.
The six-story parking garage will be hidden from the street, will have capacity for about 400 vehicles, and will serve the parking requirements of both the new development and the downtown area.
“The city is transferring two-thirds of an acre for the development’s parking garage,” said Wright. The land deal is part of a larger incentive package provided by the City of Fort Walton Beach.
“The development is within the city’s CRA, or Community Redevelopment Area, and through the CRA we were able to offer assistance for this project,” said Michael Beedie, Fort Walton Beach city manager.
“In total, we will provide more than $500,000 in incentives for this project,” Beedie added.
The bulk of the funds come from a Development Assistance Grant to pay for development fees. City incentives will also go towards reimbursing the developers for streetscape and utility infrastructure improvements.
The project was initially planned as a condo development for the site several years ago, then switched to involving apartments and a hotel after the Great Recession hit.
Wright said high demand for downtown rental housing has given the project a great opportunity.
“The rental market is hot right now,” Wright said. “We’re looking nowhere but forward at this point.”
The condos would have a historic design that would incorporate brick, wrought iron, and stucco, according to development plans.
The loft apartments will range in size from 977 square feet to 2,060 square feet and will rent between $1,150 and $2,550 per month.
During construction, more than 200 people will be working at the site for more than a year. Upon completion, up to 400 permanent jobs will be created throughout the development, according to developers.
Wright said this project couldn’t have been brought to reality without the support from the city.
“Without a doubt, Michael Beedie and city have been instrumental in moving this project forward to increase the tax base for the community,” Wright said. “Once this project is complete, our impact alone on the tax base will be roughly more than half a million dollars annually,” Wright added.
Beedie added his affirmation for the project and the benefits it will bring to the community.
“I believe when this project is complete, it will truly be a landmark for Fort Walton Beach,” Beedie said. “This will change everything.”
Completion of the project is anticipated in early fall 2017.ᐧ