Photo:Cascades Park sits on 24 acres in downtown Tallahassee.
Northwest Florida roundup
Tallahassee's Cascades Park finally opens
Four decades in the works, Tallahassee’s Cascades Park has finally opened, moving toward its promise of converting a once-barren plot of land into a downtown showpiece.
The $30-million park, set on 24 acres, features an outdoor amphitheater that seats 3,000, 2.4 miles of biking and walking trails, historical monuments, a children’s discovery play area and plenty of green space.
The idea for a park on the site, once the location of a stream and shallow waterfalls, was conceived in 1971. But a small park that opened there closed a few years later after contaminated soil was discovered — toxic waste left buried by the operators of a long-closed gasification plant. In 2006, with funding from the Department of Environmental Protection and the city, the contamination was removed.
Construction of the park began in 2010, funded mostly by a penny sales tax used for infrastructure projects. Changes to the original plan created delays. “The positive feedback we’ve received since the park’s opening is confirmation from the community that it was worth the wait,” says Wayne Tedder, executive director of Blueprint 2000, which oversaw construction.
The Capital City Amphitheater is a key part of the park. An interactive fountain has an eight-minute light and music show, a splash pad, waterfall and several ponds — all masking the park’s additional function of providing drainage for storm water, which will serve to reduce flooding in the area.
Discovery at Cascades Park, a playscape that includes rocks to climb, a beach sand area and outdoor classroom, was privately funded.
City officials predict the park will spur economic development nearby, with businesses moving in and tourists enjoying concerts and staying to eat and shop. “This park is a game-changer when it comes to economic development,” says Tallahassee Mayor John Marks.
Thomas “Chris” Curry is the new director of Tallahassee’s Aviation Department, providing oversight at the Tallahassee Regional Airport. He recently was executive director of the Collier County Airport Authority.
Ronald J. Miller Jr. Is executive director of the Leon County Research and Development Authority, which manages Innovation Park. Miller was frst hired in 2012 as interim administrator. Innovation Park conducts scientifc research, partnering with Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College, as well as those with governmental and industrial sector representatives.
APALACHICOLA — City commissioners awarded RAM Construction a contract for $82,479 to make improvements to the Apalachicola Regional Airport hangar.
CRESTVIEW — Emerald Coast Aviation is building a terminal south of the Crestview Bob Sikes Airport fxed-base operator’s hangars. The 5,600-sq.-ft. facility will house a reception area, lounge, pilots room and ECA’s offces. The terminal should be completed in six to eight months.
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — The Northwest Florida Regional Airport, a joint-use facility on Eglin Air Force Base, is opening a dog park that will serve passengers’ pets and working animals, including law enforcement K-9 units and therapy dogs.
FORT WALTON BEACH — Quality Inn Bayside hotel, one of the oldest in Fort Walton Beach, was purchased by ROYA International Hotel Investments, based in Europe and the Middle East, and is undergoing $1.5 million in renovations.
PANAMA CITY — Port Panama City is purchasing a $4-million mobile harbor crane, its single most expensive piece of equipment, using a $2.2 million matching bond grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. Arriving this fall, the crane will help to increase the port’s cargohandling capabilities.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Dave & Buster’s restaurant, bar and video arcade is opening Memorial Day weekend, hiring 280 hourly workers for its 40,000-sq.-ft. Pier Park location. > Whisper Dunes in Panama City Beach is taking shape, with 129 coastal cottagestyle homes starting at just under $240,000.
PENSACOLA — Studer Community Development purchased BLAB TV, partnering to produce local programming to promote the Pensacola area. No changes in programming are in effect for several months, but new programs will be added later. Pensacourt, a health, racquet and ftness club, is closing after 32 years in business, citing a decline in membership. The Florida Gulf Coast Marine Fisheries Hatchery and Enhancement Center is in the works at Bruce Beach, using an estimated $18.8 million in fnes from the BP oil spill.
TALLAHASSEE — Consulting frm Hanson Professional Services, headquartered in Springfeld, Ill., has opened a new offce in Tallahassee. Hanson provides engineering and planning services.
WALTON COUNTY — The Town of Prominence, a new residential, commercial and entertainment community, is being developed on an 80- acre site in east Walton County. Construction had begun just before the real estate market crashed and stayed dormant until Emerald Homes purchased the property. Red Bar, a popular Grayton Beach restaurant, will open in the community. The town will eventually have more than 400 townhomes and 149 single-family homes.
On-Point Defense Technologies
On-Point Defense Technologies, a defense and commercial contractor based in Fort Walton Beach, is preparing for a multiyear expansion in Okaloosa County. The project will result in 29 new jobs and an investment of more than $1.2 million. The company designs, develops, tests and integrates advanced weapons systems.
“The Panhandle offers a large employee talent pool of prior service military and defense contractors,” says Fred Schor, general partner and strategic adviser.
Before selecting Fort Walton Beach for the headquarters expansion, On-Point considered locating to Alabama. Florida’s business-friendly environment, access to key clients, workforce and quality of life helped secure the expansion, the company says. On-Point received $249,250 from the Industry Recruitment, Retention & Expansion Fund Grant Program, administered by the University of West Florida.