More than a decade after being announced, the Landmark Center project is nearly ready to go vertical, making it the first new major multi-story construction from the ground up in downtown Fort Walton Beach in years.
Workers are busy digging hundreds of holes in the project’s foundation to install concrete piers to support the six-story development at the intersection of Perry Avenue and Highway 98 near the foot of the Brooks Bridge.
Construction of the much-anticipated $44 million mixed-use apartment and hotel development had been tied up for the past few months due to sub-surface utility and soil work, according to the developers, Fort Walton Beach-based Live Work Play, LLC.
The development, which has been in the works under different conceptual plans since at least 2004, will include three buildings totaling more than 144,000 square feet of restaurants, bars, retail stores, offices, 24 loft apartments and an 112-room Hilton hotel, along with a six-story parking garage. Missouri-based Killian Construction is the general contractor and Pensacola-based DAG Architects is the architect-of-record.
A key aspect of getting the project built was getting the hotel component on board, according to developers. 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.
The project will also include several retail and restaurant spaces throughout the buildings. 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 area 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 a 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 now anticipated in spring 2018.ᐧ