St. Joe's Granted Through-the-Fence Access at New Airport

In a filing yesterday with the United States SEC, St. Joe announced that they’ve executed an agreement between the Airport District and their new commercial development on the new airport property, the VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre.  This agreement grants through-the-fence access to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport’s taxiways and runways for companies within the VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre.

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Make No Mistake, the Purpose of the New Airport is to MAKE MONEY

Often I receive all sorts of cynical comments about the construction of the new airport in Panama City Beach.  This is, in fact, one of my favorite topics to debate, I love hearing what everyone has to say and I love forming rebuttals.  So this is the first of a series of posts that I want to walk down the line of some of the comments I get and open it all up for conversation in the comments below.

I’ll list out the cynical comments, then I’ll explain why they are so off base, you’ll see why the new airport has NOTHING to do with bringing “Aunt Pearl” home.

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Details of Southwest Airlines and St. Joe "Partnership"

It was made quite clear by Bob Montgomery, Vice President of Properties for Southwest Airlines, that if it weren’t for St. Joe, Southwest Airlines wouldn’t be coming to Panama City.  The discussions between St. Joe and Southwest Airlines began over a decade ago.  One of the things that was explained to me a short while ago was that Southwest Airlines can go where ever they want to go; they just pick an airport, and the airport accommodates.  I was told that Southwest coming to Panama City made absolutely no sense from a business perspective and the prospect encompassed more risk than a company like Southwest would be willing to take.  But, what if the risk was mitigated by a third party?  That was their ticket into our market.

Read on for all the facts.

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Huge Economic Development Event Comes in October

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Get your big hat out and prepare for a storm of huge economic development ideas to come ripping through Northwest Florida October 29 with the Annual Fall Leadership Summit being held at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa.  There are tons of presentations on the board with big-name speakers such as Jerry Ray from St. Joe, Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, Alabama Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, Mel Ponder of Coastal Vision 3000 and many others.

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St. Joe releases new Golf memberships in Wild Heron

sharkstoothWhen St. Joe purchased the Sharkstooth club house, tennis and beach club the community was all a buzz about the change in memberships.  At that time the only way to get a full golf membership was to either buy a home that had an existing membership through transfer and purchase or to buy an approved St. Joe property.  That was not received very well by the community since many home owners assumed this was a privilege that would always be afforded to them.

Fast forward and now St. Joe is now offering several golf, tennis and beach club memberships to Wild Heron owners as well as those that would purchase property in the community.  As a past club member and owner in Wild Heron I believe this is a great idea for the health of the community.   As a Realtor I have had several people that have wanted to buy a particular piece of property and without a membership possibility that was less attractive.  I will tell you that the golf course is great, the community is one of a kind and the neighbors are second to none.

Please click here for more information about the membership offerings and remember to call your favorite Realtor to check out Wild Heron and if you do not have a favorite Realtor I would love to help you.  Karen Smith with Beachy Beach Real Estate at 850-527-5651.

Okaloosa's Northwest Florida Regional Airport Not Closing

Apparently Okaloosa’s Northwest Florida Regional Airport is not closing, and Okaloosa Airport officials are getting quite snappy about it.  I’ve heard this very rumor for quite some time and have actually participated in some of the speculation.

Some believe that it all started January of 2008 with the Panama City Beach’s Chamber let out an email blast to members that stated that Eglin Air Force Base would shut down commercial airport operations in order to preserve Eglin’s incoming Joint Strike Fighter mission.  I personally remember the email and thought it quite a bold move, but was unable to substantiate the statement.

Other locals to Panama City and Panama City Beach have been known to question whether the Okaloosa airport would stay open for much longer, including well-known attorney, William Harrison and former Panama City Beach Mayor and local news show host Lee Sullivan.  Recently, Sullivan had Panama City Bay County International Airport Director Randy Curtis on his show and made the comment that in the future Okaloosa would have airspace issues with Eglin that may lead to complications in commercial operations.  Harrison’s opinion is that it is of the best interest of the Florida Panhandle that Eglin’s military and the Joint Strike Fighter mission is of the highest priority.

Currently the Okaloosa County Commission is investigating the possibility of legal action against the Panama City Bay County International Airport and have also supported seeking the resignation of Jerry Ray from Coastal Vision 3000.  Ray is one of the VP’s of St. Joe and a prominent supporter of the New Panama City Airport.

Okaloosa’s Northwest Florida Regional Airport Director Greg Donovan said that they will be launching an advertising campaign to counter the rumors.  Recently the Air Force renewed their lease with Northwest Florida Regional through 2032.

New Publix to Open in 6 months on Back Beach Road

_mg_6416_2wtmkWith vertical up and sheetrock going in, the new Publix on Back Beach Road across from Home Depot in Panama City Beach will be complete by April and open by May.

Located at the intersection of Beckrich and Back Beach Roads, the new Publix will replace the old one currently located at Middle Beach Road and Beckrich where Sonic and PostNet are located.  My sources tell me that they will lease out that commercial space as soon as it is vacated.

_mg_6416_2wtmkThe design and architecture will be just like that seen at the other new Publix on Thomas Drive at Magnolia Beach Road, going into Bay Point.  Featuring all new equipment, the employees are excited about the move.

In addition to a new Publix, this particular parcel will sprout an Office Depot as well as a Dunkin Donuts, finally.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Airport to begin Paving Runway

Nearly a whopping 3 months ahead of schedule, the 10,000 foot primary runway is only weeks from seeing the first warm morsels of pavement.  Although the current contract is for 8,400 feet, the funding is in place for the full 10,000 feet.  Hopefully this decision will be solidified in the coming weeks.

“Next week, we’ll begin laying pavement test strips for the runway,” said the Senior Project Manager for KBR, Roy Willett.  With over 130 pieces of Caterpillar equipment on site, the project has moved over 4 million cubic yards of material.  “There’s been a great level of cooperation from a local, state, and federal level,” said Willett.  “We don’t feel like we’ve had to pull this project along, like we have others in the past.”  80% of all storm sewer systems have been installed.

The main loop is paved, all except in front of the terminal.  There are heavy utilities that will be in front of the terminal building that need to be installed before the the paving can take place.  The 11,000 foot, 4 lane entrance road from Highway 388 has been completed since June and is now completely replaced the usage of the temporary construction entrance.

Looking at the terminal footprint, I expressed concern about the future expansion of the terminal building the additional airport facilities.  Randy Curtis explained that the terminal building can be expanded to the north and south to accommodate demand and the concourse could V at the end to purvey supplemental gates.  Long term plans also include another runway parallel to the primary runway with room for a terminal similar in size to the main terminal and a “mid-field” terminal as well.

With all the “bad” soil filling the holes where the “good” soil was excavated, the entire construction site is “balanced” in that no dirt had to be taken out, nor brought in.

The 10,000 foot runway will accomodate everything short of an Antonov filled with pipes.

Click here to download the special ‘VIP’ flyer that we were given; includes aerials, layouts, etc.

For those that didn’t notice on the sidebar, I was providing up to the minute updates (where cell service permitted) on my tour of the airport.  If you want instant updates, subscribe to my twitter page and set up your mobile phone to receive text messages whenever I have updates.

Click here to sign up!

Publix Construction Update on Back Beach Road

15 acres of chopping, grubbing, clearing and sweat, Frank and Terry are just trying to stay cool. It isn’t working.

“All that black fencing? I put it all up by hand”, Frank said. “There wasn’t a machine to help.”

It all seems to be happening so fast, but then again, Pier Park was the same way. One year it was a huge dirt field, the next year it was a thriving mall with a constant flow of activity pumping through its retailers.

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Jerry Ray Discusses New Airport on HomeAwayPodcast.com

Jerry Ray, the Senior Vice President for Strategic Alliances for the St. Joe Company, was interviewed this week on the HomeAwayPodcast site. The topic of discussion was the new airport and what it is going to do for our area.

Jerry starts by giving an account of the history of St. Joe and where it all began. He continues by giving the history of the airport relocation project, how it all started and discusses the process it has gone through thus far.

You can listen to it by downloading it, or listen to it online.