Northwest Florida Roundup
As Pensacola grapples with an affordable housing crisis, local leaders are looking at repurposing an aging motel to help tackle the problem.
In June, Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves won unanimous approval from the city council to purchase the 30-room Pensacola Motor Lodge for $855,000 with funds from its Community Redevelopment Agency and transform it into permanent housing units.
It’s not a done deal. Before the city commits to the project, it’s conducting inspections and putting out a request for proposals from contractors to see what it would cost to repair and upgrade the 91-year-old motor lodge.
Safety is also a consideration. Police have been called out to the motel more than 2,000 times over the past decade, according to a news report from WKRG-TV. Reeves says the city may have to upgrade security at the motel with fencing, security cameras and regular, on-site police surveillance if it takes possession of the property.
Reeves notes that many other cities throughout the country have been successful in converting old hotels and motels into affordable housing. “Because of the infrastructure that's already in place, you're able to repurpose them and get that online a little bit faster than starting from scratch… I think this is a perfect opportunity for that for us.”
If the project’s price tag is right, he says work could begin before the end of the year.
- Boeing has opened a 20,000-sq.- ft. maintenance facility in the Commerce and Technology Park near Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, where it will inspect, repair and replace the landing gear systems on Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and E/A-18 Growler aircraft. The operation is expected to create 12 jobs.
- The University of West Florida received a first-place award from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Community Outreach for its community programs promoting cybersecurity awareness, education and research. The UWF Center for Cybersecurity leads the National Cybersecurity Workforce Development Program, CyberSkills2Work, which has trained more than 1,700 transitioning military, first responders and veterans for cybersecurity jobs over the past three years.
- The James M. Cox Foundation, the charitable arm of Cox Enterprises, awarded a $500,000 grant to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola for a predictive patient monitoring system at its new hospital and behavioral health unit.
- The former Margaritaville Hotel on Pensacola Beach has severed its ties with singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s resort brand and rebranded itself as an independent property called the Pensacola Beach Resort. The resort is open to guests, offering 161 waterfront rooms.
- Arkansas-based Central Monley announced plans to build a 302,000-sq.-ft. advanced manufacturing facility at Shoal River Ranch in Okaloosa County where it will produce pad-mounted electrical transformers. Facility design, engineering, permitting and construction of the $50-million factory and related improvements will take two to three years. The company expects to create 350 jobs as it scales up to full production.
- G.S. Gelato, a Fort Walton Beach frozen food manufacturer, has added 25,000 square feet to its production facilities, bringing its manufacturing footprint to 65,000 square feet. The company produces gelato, sorbetto and non-dairy frozen desserts.
- Algaplast Corp., a Brazilian manufacturer of auto parts, is moving forward with plans to establish its first U.S.-based operations in the Escambia County town of Century. The proposed plant will specialize in plastics and rubber component parts made for gas and oil equipment manufacturers. It’s expected to create 25 jobs over the next few years.
- D.R. Horton’s $42-million offer for a 500-acre development site in Escambia County has been put on hold. Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, whose District 1 contains the acreage, says the Texas-based homebuilder recently presented its mixed-use development plan for the site. However, county commissioners rejected the proposal, prompting inquiries by two local investors who are considering offering a higher bid for the property.
- A $20-million aquatic center being proposed for development in Niceville could have a $235-million impact on the local economy and create more than 450 jobs, according to a recent report presented to the Niceville Community Redevelopment Agency. Tentative plans call for construction of an Olympic-sized pool in addition to other water-related recreational facilities and meeting areas.