Northwest Florida Roundup
The mouse that roared: Perdido Key and its tiny beach mouse
For decades, the tiny Perdido Key beach mouse has been a giant headache for developers and homeowners on this barrier island just west of Pensacola. A federally protected endangered species, the nocturnal, reclusive rodent lives in burrows among the sand dunes just yards from the Gulf of Mexico.
Most Perdido Key residents have never seen a beach mouse. But they’ve certainly felt its impact. Regulations prohibit residents from owning cats and from installing sprinkler systems and deck lights.
In addition, rules to protect the mouse have increased the time and money involved in obtaining federal environmental permits, discouraging all but the most determined developers.
“From a broker’s point of view, the beach mouse has had a dramatic impact on development on Perdido Key,” says Pete King, owner of a real estate agency on the island.
But now, more than three decades after its designation as an endangered species, the mouse and developers may have found a way to co-exist.
Escambia County’s recently enacted Perdido Key Master Plan has installed a new set of guidelines that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission officials feel will protect the mouse and its fragile habitat, while reducing the time it takes a developer to obtain a building permit.
“The federal government has transferred all permitting to Escambia County,” says King. “Where it used to take a developer an average of seven years to get a building permit, it now takes about seven months.”
TechFarms evaluates business plans of startup technology firms and offers the companies use of its Panama City Beach headquarters for a modest fee. CEO Steve Millaway started the tech incubator in 2014 and most recently presided over the grand opening of the company’s two-acre Panama City Beach campus. TechFarms is the first tech incubator and support center in the Panama City Beach area. Millaway says he targets firms that he believes have a chance to grow revenue to the $10-million range within a decade.
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Chelco has completed construction of its solar demonstration project. The 5.3-kilowatt solar array will serve as an educational site for solar energy production.
FORT WALTON BEACH — InDyne and Reliance Test and Technology have been awarded a $150.2-million, 18-month Eglin AFB operation and maintenance services contract. » Allegiant Air will begin offering non-stop service from Destin/Fort Walton Beach to Las Vegas in October.
MARIANNA — Jackson Hospital has launched construction of a $3.5-million, 8,000-sq.-ft. wound and healing center that will create 16 jobs.
PANAMA CITY — Silver Airways has discontinued service to Orlando and Tampa from Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.
PENSACOLA — The Jupiter Group, which builds fiberglass nacelles for GE Wind Energy turbines is expanding and will add 150 jobs, says CEO Jens Kristensen. » A group of local investors led by Robert Fabbro of Whitesell-Green, is developing a $15-million office building downtown. The city has approved plans for a four-story retail and office structure of up to 48,000 square feet. » Quint and Rishy Studer are developing a $14.3-million, 57,000-sq.-ft. office building adjacent to their 258-unit, $52-million apartment complex now under construction in downtown Pensacola. » Construction is under way on Gulf Coast Health Care’s Olive Branch Health and Rehabilitation Center. The 90-bed facility will be constructed adjacent to West Florida Hospital. » The Warren Averett accounting firm has merged with Pensacola-based Hutto & Carver.
PERDIDO KEY — WCI Communities has started construction on 90 three-story townhomes at its Lost Key Golf & Beach Club community on Perdido Key.
PERRY — Chemring Military Products has won a $29-million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to make ammunition.
TALLAHASSEE — Phase two of College Town has been completed. The mixed-use development includes 89 units of student housing with 202 beds, restaurants and retail, says Will Butler, president of Real Estate InSync, the project’s manager.
» Dawn Kernagis, a research scientist with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, has been selected as one of six crew members for NASA’s Undersea Mission. The crew will focus on evaluating tools and techniques for future space exploration by living in simulated spacecraft conditions and conducting simulated space walks outside their undersea habitat.