Northwest Florida Roundup
NASA selects FAMU-FSU College of Engineering team for its University Leadership Initiative program
NASA recently selected researchers at the FAMUFSU College of Engineering to participate in its University Leadership Initiative program. The team is developing a hybrid electric power system powered by hydrogen using ambient air or concentrated oxygen, which could help reduce or eventually eliminate aviation emissions.
Louis Cattafesta, a FAMU-FSU professor of mechanical engineering, is the principal investigator. The group is partnering with the University at Buffalo, the University of Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Raytheon, Boeing and the Melbourne-based Advanced Magnet Lab.
NASA says its University Leadership Initiative is designed to support educating the next generation of aeronautical innovators by providing opportunities for university-led teams to conduct research that supports the space agency’s goals.
Panhandle Restaurant Group has signed a commitment deal with former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken restaurant group. The Panama City-based company, headed by CEO Chris McMillan, has a tentative agreement to allow development of a minimum of 40 Big Chicken restaurants in Florida, with the first four planned for the Panama City area. McMillan says if the current deal stays on course, the first restaurants will open early next year.
- The Cascades site in downtown Tallahassee, developed by North American Properties, has been sold to Indiana-based Becovic Management Group for $100 million. The sale includes the Millstream luxury apartments, the Merestone office building and three parcels for future development. Once the second phase is complete, the Cascades redevelopment is projected to have a $350-million economic impact and create nearly 700 jobs. The sale comes one year after NAP’s completion of the first phase highlighted by the opening of Marriott International’s AC Hotel Tallahassee and apartments overlooking Cascades Park.
- Developers have completed half of the 100 single-family homes under construction on Perdido Key, about 20 miles southwest of downtown Pensacola. Adam Myrick, spokesman for Pensacola-based aDoor Properties, says the residential development, known as Redfish Harbor Living at Innerarity Point, is unique to the Perdido Key area now dominated by condominiums and townhouses.
- Santa Rosa County has purchased the 192-acre Milton Interchange Park for $36 million, adding a fifth industrial park to its inventory. The county’s acquisition was aided by a $15.9-million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast, the non-profit organization in charge of distributing $1.5 billion the state received for economic damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Santa Rosa County Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree says the property will be marketed as a strategic location for manufacturing and distribution companies due to its proximity to I-10 and its central location between New Orleans and Jacksonville.
- Navy Federal Credit Union has submitted plans for publicly accessible recreational fields adjacent to its 360-acre Beulah campus. The proposed 100-acre facility will become the first capital development on the 600-acre site known as OLF-8, a former Navy helicopter training field now owned by Escambia County. The master plan for the remaining 500 acres calls for development of a town center as well as residential and commercial buildings. The OLF-8 site is located in the rapidly growing, unincorporated community of Beulah, about 15 miles northwest of downtown Pensacola.
- Florida Power & Light has received approval from Walton County officials to install a second solar energy facility to be known as the Pecan Tree Solar Energy Center. FPL’s first proposed solar facility, the 867-acre Chautauqua Solar Energy Center, was approved in October 2021 but has not yet been constructed.
- FPL’s 350-acre Cotton Creek Energy Center in north Escambia County is now online. The solar power facility, one of three in the Panhandle, is capable of powering 15,000 homes.
- St. Joe Co. has opened a Homewood Suites by Hilton near the Panama City Beach Sports Complex. The four-story hotel features 131 rooms and creates more than 55 jobs, says Jean Capps, the hotel’s general manager.
- The WestRock Paper Mill in Panama City has closed after operating in Bay County since the early 20th century. The move leaves 450 employees without jobs. The mill, which produced containerboard and heavyweight kraft paper, had a combined annual production capacity of 645,000 tons.
- The Panama City Beach Tourist Development Council has announced plans to construct a $41-million, 112,000-sq.-ft. indoor sports facility to be built near the current Publix Sports Park. Once completed, the indoor structure will be the third major athletic facility built in recent years in the Panama City Beach area. Dan Rowe, executive director of the Bay County Tourist Development Council, says the complex will be built on land donated by St. Joe Co. and also will serve as an emergency operations center to augment post-disaster response efforts.
- Pensacola’s $70-million plan to expand Pensacola International Airport continues to gain momentum. Mayor Grover Robinson says design plans will begin later this year with initial funding coming from the state. The airport has seen a 40% increase in passengers since 2021 and is on track to break last year’s record of 2.3 million passengers.