April 26, 2018

Site of Success- Northwest- July 2003

Joan Hughes | 7/1/2003
In 1980, Tallahassee began a 16-year process of acquiring and redeveloping 5.17 acres adjacent to the Capitol and City Hall. After cleaning up contamination at the site left by a dry-cleaning operation, the city built Kleman Plaza, a pedestrian mall central to state, federal and local governments and two major state universities. The city's total investment: $50 million.

When the plaza was complete in 1996, tenants began lining up. The Florida League of Cities headquarters and the Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science opened in 1998. In 1999, the city persuaded the Florida A&M University/Florida State University College of Engineering to locate a Challenger Learning Center, with an IMAX theater and a planetarium, at the plaza rather than in the college's Innovation Park.

With two major family attractions in place, the city began looking for residential and retail components to round out its vision for an "18-hour downtown." Residents had long joked that "you can't buy a Band-Aid or bottle of aspirin in downtown Tallahassee."

Progress came on the heels of a Downtown Improvement Authority market analysis showing a demand for 1,300 residential units in the city's center. Developers took note. In February, the city approved Miami-based BCOM Inc.'s $2-million offer to buy the largest open parcel in Kleman Plaza. BCOM plans to build a $36-million, 20-story mixed-use building with 224 units for rent or sale and 90,000 square feet of retail and office space.

In May, the city approved a bid by developer Gameday Centers for the last vacant parcel. Gameday plans to build a $20-million, mixed-use development with 108 units and 15,000 square feet of retail.

"We specialize in building halfway between major college sports stadiums and the city's entertainment district. Kleman Plaza fits the bill perfectly for Gameday," says President and founder Gary Spillers. The company's fully furnished units are designed to accommodate loyal FSU and FAMU alumni, but Spillers expects Tallahassee will offer a more year-round market, thanks to state and federal government.

With the Tennyson, a 90-unit mixed-use luxury condo project, under way within blocks of Kleman, Tallahassee now has over 400 residential units on the board. Add in the planned retail space, and Tallahassee's $50-million investment in Kleman Plaza is finally paying dividends. As Mayor John Marks puts it, "what we need and what we want."


Eglin Air Force Base -- Air Force officials have signed off on an environmental study showing that amphibious/expeditionary Marine Corps training would cause no environmental or human harm, clearing the way for planned biannual war exercises lasting 10 days each.

Escambia County -- Former County Commissioner W.D. Childers, a 30-year veteran of the Florida Senate, has become the first public official to serve jail time for open-meeting violations of the state's Sunshine Law. Childers is also scheduled to serve a 3 1/2-year sentence on felony charges of bribery and unlawful compensation in a land deal involving a friend of Childers.

Fort Walton Beach -- The city's downtown waterfront area, which has few residents and has been a focus of revitalization efforts, is undergoing a housing spurt, with four residential projects with a total of 117 units under way.

Franklin County -- Despite recent criticism from the Legislature's auditor general on state land purchases for environmental conservation, Gov. Jeb Bush and his Cabinet have approved the purchase of 37,358 acres in the middle of Tate's Hell State Forest from Profundus Holdings for $38 million. The addition will make Tate's Hell the largest state-owned forest at almost 200,000 acres.

Gadsden County -- Tri-Eagle Sales, the Anheuser-Busch distributor for a nine-county area, is moving its headquarters from Tallahassee after 27 years to St. Joe Co.'s new 300-acre Hammock Creek industrial park in Gadsden County, where Tri-Eagle plans to double its current facility size.

Jefferson County -- State officials have approved the $20.7-million purchase of 18,550 acres from St. Joe Co. as part of the Wacissa/Aucilla River Sinks Florida Forever conservation project.

Madison County -- Nestle Water North America has begun construction on a $120-million water bottling plant that will draw from Madison Blue Spring. Nestle Water plans to employ up to 250 over the next several years.

Okaloosa County -- Tulsa-based Zinke & Trumbo plans to drill a multimillion-dollar exploratory oil well near Crestview, targeting a formation that yielded about 100 million barrels in Santa Rosa County in the 1970s.

Panama City -- Pipe company Wellstream, recently sold by Halliburton to U.K.-based Candover Partners, will lay off 100 of its 240 employees in June.

Pensacola -- Approximately $1.5 million set aside for development of the downtown Trillium property, which was rejected by voters, will be used instead to clean up other Florida Department of Environmental Protection projects.

A $500,000 donation from Paul Amos, co-founder of AFLAC Insurance Co., has allowed WSRE-TV, the Panhandle's only public television station, to begin construction on a $3-million, 500-seat performance studio.

Santa Rosa County -- Citing protection of critical oystering grounds, the state approved the $1.59-million acquisition of 1,166 acres for the Escribano Point Florida Forever project, protecting 10 miles of shoreline and 37 miles on the Yellow River.

Tallahassee -- Jet engine repair company Chromalloy closed its Tallahassee facility, laying off 15 of its 120 regional workers. The company is consolidating its northwest Florida operations at its Fort Walton Beach facility.

Florida State University has established the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Center for Rural Health to serve the state's 33 rural counties, 19 of which are designated as medically underserved, through research and education projects.

Responding to budget restrictions, Florida State University will limit fall 2003 freshman enrollment to 6,200. It enrolled 6,500 for the 2002 fall term.

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