Northwest Florida Roundup
Unchained: Mexico Beach rejects multi-million-dollar hotel
Mexico Beach’s vote on a proposed hotel makes a statement.
Mexico Beach City Council’s recent decision to reject plans for a multimillion- dollar Gulf-front hotel could be described as a “chain” reaction.
With just 1,050 residents, the Bay County municipality, southeast of Panama City, prides itself as a small, Old Florida enclave and wants to protect that image, says city administrator Mell Smigielski.
“There is a big ‘anti-chain’ sentiment in this community,” he says. “There are no McDonald’s, no chains of any kind in Mexico Beach.”
Panama City-based Hybrid Development submitted plans in early 2015 to build a Hotel Indigo, a boutique lodging produced by a division of InterContinental Hotels Group. The project was to feature 110 hotel units and 15 condo units.
When Hybrid encountered resistance, developers offered to alter their plans. But the project was still a no-go for the city council.
“The main reason it was rejected is that the community felt like this hotel would be the first step toward Mexico Beach becoming another Panama City Beach or Destin,” Smigielski says.
While there is a no-growth sentiment among Mexico Beach residents, it may not be absolute, says Smigielski.
“Had this been a momand- pop project, where a local person would have built something similar but kept it independent, I think it might have had a better chance,” he says.
Developers still have an option on the property and have not given up looking for a solution.
“Hybrid wants to find out if they can do anything that would fit with what the public wants,” Smigielski says. “But for now, the hotel is out of the question.”
Pensacola-based Cognitive Big Data Systems is a software startup that develops sensor-based digital memories of objects, images, animals, people and data for use in robots and security systems.
CEO Lloyd Reshard founded the company in 2014 along with Stephen Thaler and Vercell Vance.
Reshard retired recently as chief of the munitions aerodynamics sciences branch at Eglin AFB.
The company’s business plan, says Reshard, is to gain market share in the rapidly growing cognitive computing sector of service robots.
Around 1900 Felix du Pont, a member of the DuPont Co. Family, purchased the Gulf-front land that Mexico Beach now occupies. Over the decades, the area, once called the “Forgotten Coast,” evolved from a sleepy fishing village to a resort that began to develop in earnest in the early 1950s. The town was incorporated in 1966. Today, there are 1,852 residential dwellings, the majority of which are condominiums and second homes. The number of households with fulltime residents is about 560. Median income of Mexico Beach residents is $53,580; the median age is 55 years.
BAY COUNTY — Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport’s passenger counts grew nearly 10% in 2015, says Parker McClellan, the airport’s director. Driving the increase was the addition of non-stop fl ights servicing Houston, Dallas, Tampa and Orlando.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Panama City Beach’s city council has approved plans for a 220-foot condominium building on Front Beach Road. The council approved the clover-shaped tower, 70 feet taller than typically allowed under city building codes, after developers agreed to add numerous amenities, including green building features. Owners of Panama City Beach hotels, condominium units and retailers are predicting that spring break business could be down by as much as 50% because of a new set of local ordinances enacted to tone down the annual event, which saw a number of arrests in 2015.
TALLAHASSEE — Hackney Nursery has posted the $5-million performance bond required to proceed with cultivating low-THC marijuana and processing oil to produce medicinal products for epileptic and cancer patients. The nursery was one of the few state-based nurseries approved in 2015 by the Florida Department of Health to cultivate marijuana.
TAYLOR COUNTY — The Taylor County Commission has approved the sale of wine on Sundays, joining beer and malt beverages, which were previously available for Sunday sales.