Photo:A former brownfields site, the Gaines Street Corridor in Tallahassee has been transformed.
Northwest Florida Roundup
Tallahassee sees green in brownfields
With prime urban locations at a premium, the city of Tallahassee is spurring activity through the aggressive use of brown fields — properties where pollution or chemical contamination from an earlier use has to be removed or remediated before the properties can be redeveloped.
Under the Brownfields Redevelopment Act, developers can get tax credits, limitations of liability and job creation incentives to encourage investment. Grants from the federal Environmental Protection Agency help with the first stage of brown fields development — identifying and measuring contamination.
Over the past decade, Tallahassee has secured more than $2 million in EPA grants, says John Powell, the city’s director of Environmental Services and Facilities. “The brown fields program is changing the way abandoned and neglected properties are being viewed by investors,” he says.
Among the rehabilitated former brown fields sites is the Gaines Street Corridor, which has been transformed into a vibrant retail area with cafes, shops and entertainment venues. “Five years ago the entire area was old warehouses, gravel parking lots and lands with harmful toxins,” says Ed Murray, a principal with NAI Talcor. “The city did a great thing by designating the area as a brownfield.
The return on investment there has been staggering.” The city’s most recent brown fields effort is a 1.2-mile section of South Monroe Street. The city has earmarked more than $7 million to rebuild and clean the area before seeking proposals from developers.
“Developers seeking a strategic location close to Florida A&M University and the Capitol will find that the former industrial sites of South Monroe are perfect,” says Sue Dick, CEO of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.
Panama City Beach-based Mine Survival manufactures wearable, lightweight vests that enable users to breathe while in toxic environments. The technology behind the company’s Closed-Circuit Escape Respirators was developed at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. Mine Survival’s patented system provides respiratory protection up to three times longer than the current equipment typically used in mines.
DESTIN — Bass Pro Shops is adding 16,600 square feet. The change will be complete by early fall.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Although tough new ordinances restricting alcohol consumption on public beaches led to a sharp decline in spring break spending this year, local sales tax revenue for the first six months is up 5.7%, say Panama City Beach officials. “It’s not the gloom and doom everyone thought it would be,” says Councilman Hector Solis.
PENSACOLA BEACH — The Florida Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision and ruled Escambia County cannot collect property taxes on land it leases on Pensacola Beach. The Supreme Court’s decision ends a protracted legal battle over whether the property appraiser’s office had the right to place beach land on the tax rolls.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY — Fabbro Marine, a manufacturer of Cape Horn offshore boats, is building a manufacturing facility at Santa Rosa Industrial Park East in Milton.
TALLAHASSEE — A $33.2-million solar panel farm proposed for a site near Tallahassee International Airport has cleared a federal regulatory hurdle. The Federal Aviation Administration found the facility will have “no significant impact” on the environment or on airport operations. Origis Energy will erect 90,000 solar modules. The farm will generate up to 20 megawatts, about 2% of the city’s current capacity. The first phase of renovations at the Centre of Tallahassee Mall include building a covered 10,000-seat amphitheater, gutting the former Dillard’s to make room for the School of Arts and Sciences’ second location and installing cobblestone streets and an ice-skating rink. Bing Energy, a Tallahassee company once worth millions of dollars, is under a court order to pay thousands of dollars in back rent and utility payments to its former Innovation Park landlord. The lawsuit brought by the Leon County Research and Development Authority, which owns and manages Innovation Park, is one of two lawsuits filed against Bing this year. Tallahassee has been named a “Top 50 City for Entrepreneurs” by Entrepreneur magazine.
» Jeff Wahlen, a shareholder with the Ausley McMullen law firm in Tallahassee, is the 2016-17 chair of Leadership Florida. Wahlen has served on Leadership Florida’s board since 2006.
» Nathan Sommer is president of BBVA Compass Bank’s Pensacola market. He previously was BBVA’s south Alabama Global Wealth market executive.