Northwest Florida’s Emerald Coast is growing and there are major commercial deals that prove it. From Okaloosa Island to Panama City Beach, there will be four new amusement parks built from 2013-2016. The area is seeing tourism growth with a few new hotels going up. There are also new luxury condominium and resort developments scheduled for completion in 2015 and 2016. Don’t forget about the Highway 331 expansion that has been going on since 2012 and will hopefully be completed around 2016. But, one of the most exciting recently announced growth benchmarks is the largest detailed sector plan in US history by St. Joe Company that spans over 100,000 acres in Bay and Walton Counties.

The face and landscape of the interior of the Emerald Coast is changing and is projected to continue changing over the next several years. What does that mean for residents, property owners and interested investors? Large commercial and residential companies have put serious research and planning behind the growth. If these highly skilled planners agree that the Emerald Coast is the place to invest and build, we agree. Smaller companies and personal real estate ventures can also benefit from the area’s current and future growth.

Want to know the details? Read on to learn what is happening in each section of our Emerald Coast.

Okaloosa Island

wild-willys-okaloosa-islandCommercial Growth on Okaloosa Island

Okaloosa Island is seeing commercial growth with the development of two new family amusement parks. ”They are perfect for the island,” said Ed Schroeder, head of tourism for Okaloosa County. “The island is a family development and both those attractions will cater to family.”

Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone sits on Highway 98, directly across from The Crab Trap and Okaloosa Island Boardwalk. It is currently under construction and will be a dinosaur-themed amusement park including zip lines, laser mazes, a 4D theater and miniature golf with motion-activated animatronic figures.

A new miniature-golf park, Okaloosa National, is planned for Santa Rosa Boulevard. The putting course is more low-key for people who like mini-golf but aren’t up for all the excitement of a facility like Wild Willy’s. The golf course also will be served by a sidewalk and is within walking distance of many island residences.

Read the details about the amusement parks here.

Real Estate Growth on Okaloosa Island

The first Okaloosa Island hotel to be built in 16 years opened in April 2014. Holiday Inn Resort is located between Waterscape condominiums and Sheraton Four Points hotel. The hotel features a game room, daily children’s programs, meeting space, restaurant, lazy river, hot tub and indoor pool.

Photo: Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone is being constructed on Okaloosa Island. This aerial photo taken by Nick Tomecek – Northwest Florida Daily News


whole-foods-destin-commonsCommercial Growth in Destin

Most Destin residents and visitors have had a chance to check out the newly expanded Destin Commons retail center. The expansion debuted on July 3rd, 2014 with the celebration of Destin Commons’ 10th anniversary and the fourth annual Smoke on the Coast BBQ competition. Several new stores and restaurants have opened at Destin Commons, including Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill, a unique aquatic under water themed restaurant with 16-lane bowling alley; H&M, a European fashion retail giant offering designer inspired clothing; Chipotle Mexican Grill; Yogo Mogo, a self-serve frozen yogurt cafe; and World of Beer restaurant. There are a total of 21 new stores and restaurants included in the expansion.

Two additional major commercial retailers are coming to Destin in 2015 and 2016 – Hobby Lobby and Whole Foods Market. Hobby Lobby will be located beside Target in The Shores Shopping Center near Destin Harbor. “We feel that we can bring a very unique shopping experience to the area,” said Hobby Lobby’s Vince Parker. Hobby Lobby is planned to open spring 2015.

GI-Joes-Destin-2015Whole Foods Market will be coming to Destin Commons in 2016 – the first location in Northwest Florida for the largest organic and natural food retailer in the U.S.  “We think this is just another feather in the cap of the area that shows we have rebounded from the economic recession and the oil spill. Everything seems to be moving up,” said Bob Perry, general manager of Destin Commons.

Destin is also proposed to see a new amusement park development by 2016. G.I. Joe’s will be a Veteran-themed park located close to Big Kahuna’s on the north side of Highway 98. The park will showcase history of the American Forces throughout the past 100 years and offer military-themed rides. G.I. Joe’s is expected to open Summer 2016.

Real Estate Growth in Destin

Salamander Beach and Spa Resort announced in January that a 171-room hotel – The Henderson – will be opening Spring 2016 adjacent to Henderson Beach State Park. The multi-phase Henderson Beach Resort will be anchored by the luxury hotel. Additional planned phases include a 95-room beachfront hotel and 200 luxury condominiums – all to carry through with the New England style architecture of Crystal Beach.  The resort will also feature an on-site spa, fitness room, pool, restaurants ballrooms and meeting spaces.

1900-ninety-eight1900 Ninety Eight broke ground in 2014. The luxury condominium project will house 14 single story residences and a pair of two story penthouses. It will be the first development of its kind in Destin since 2008. The condos will feature modern style with dramatic Gulf views. 1900 Ninety Eight is located next to Signature Beach Condominium, Silver Shells Condominium Complex, and The Back Porch Seafood & Oyster House.

Rendering of proposed Whole Foods Market coming to Destin Commons – Nortwest Florida Daily News
Local entrepreneur Maxwell “Joe” Bruner was onsite Tuesday preparing a new teaser for his future military themed G.I. Joes amusement park – Kathy Harrison – Destin Log.
Interior rendering of 1900 Ninety Eight penthouse – courtesy of Scenic Southeby’s International Realty.


Miramar Beach

Seascape-town-centre-miramar-beachCommercial Growth in Miramar Beach

In December 2014, plans were approved for Seascape Town Centre. The retail center will sit at the entrance of Seascape Resort on the corner of Highway 98 and Seascape Drive. “It’s a family-oriented lifestyle center,” said Jay Nettles, general manager at Seascape. “It’ll have some restaurants and retail.” The project includes a outdoor events plaza with euro bungee and zip-lines and will sit adjacent to an existing.

On the south side of Highway 98, across from Silver Sands Outlet Center, Beachwalk Palaza is receiving two new retailers. CVS opened its new stand-alone building with drive thru pharmacy in January 2015. A Chic-fil-a is currently under construction in the east corner of the plaza and will bring a new variety of fast-food to the area.

sandestin-welcome-center-sowalSandestin Golf and Beach Resort opened its new 40,000 square foot Welcome Center in late 2014. The three-story Sandestin Welcome Center was features a spacious, two-story lobby area with views of the Choctawhatchee Bay. The center features dynamic touch screen digital displays providing a unique orientation and vital tour with property. The Sandestin Welcome Center is located on the northeast corner of Highway 98 and Sandestin Boulevard, at the main north gate entrance of the resort.

Across the street, the newly remodeled Market Shops at Sandestin hosted its grand re-opening in November 2014. The shops are currently home to 11 stores and restaurants including Bistro Bijoux, Sirens Lingerie and Swim, Sunset Shoes, Village Boutique, and Wyland Galleries. The available retailers at Market Shops will continue to grow with 14 available units.

Also in the Sandestin area, Grand Boulevard has seen recent growth. A brand new Starbucks (in addition to the Silver Sands Starbucks) opened January 2015. This unique Starbucks is a Starbucks Reserve location featuring the first Clover Brewing System in the Florida Panhandle – serving the finest, rare small-lot coffees from around the world. The building has room for one or two additional retailers. A new Another Broken Egg Café also opened at Grand Boulevard in October 2014, further enhancing the popularity of the area.

starbucks-grand-boulevardMore news showing the growth of the area is Sacred Heart Hospital’s announcement of a $30 million expansion in June 2014. Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast expansion will increase the capacity for inpatient services, maternity services, emergency services and pediatric services. In the past 12 years, the Miramar Beach hospital has added over $35 million dollars in expansions, building additions and hospital programs.

Seascape Town Centre rendering – Northwest Florida Daily News.
Sandestin Welcome Center – courtesy of
New Starbucks at Grand Boulevard, Sandestin – courtesy of Grand Boulevard Facebook page.


North Santa Rosa Beach and Freeport

331-bridge-parkCommercial Growth in North Santa Rosa Beach and Freeport

One area of growth that residents and visitors to the area are familiar with is the expansion of Highway 331 from I-10 in Defuniak Springs to Highway 98 in Santa Rosa Beach. Started in 2012, the originally two-lane road is being expanded to four-lanes with enhanced drainage areas and new bridges. The widening the 27 mile stretch of road will ease traffic problems and make it safer for drivers. Along with the Clyde Wells bridge expansion at the south of Highway 331, the state plans to build a park with boat ramps, picnic areas and a dock. The project has three phases, two of which should be completed Summer 2015 and the final phase Summer 2016. Stay updated with the progress of the project on Facebook.

Just north of the bridge, in Freeport a major retailer is laying down roots. According to Freeport Mayor Russ Barley, Publix will hold a ground-breaking ceremony mid-March 2015. Residents have been waiting for the official ground breaking for a few years. With major community builder like Publix moving to Freeport, the area is sure to see continued growth.

One of the area’s most popular planned communities, Hammock Bay, that continues to build new phases and also houses a large city recreational area will benefit from the new Publix.

Photo: Rendering of proposed park and boat ramps at new Clyde Wells Bridge – courtesy of

Scenic 30A

30avenueCommercial Growth on 30A

At the east end of Scenic Highway 30A a new retail center is underway – 30Avenue. 30Avenue is a new village shopping center within easy walking and biking distance to Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, and Alys Beach. The 16-acre mixed-use town center features popular local retailers, service businesses and local Chef Tim Crehans’s Cuvee 30A. 30Avenue will continue to grow and add retailers, restaurants and office space through 2016.

Adjacent to 30Avenue, a third Donut Hole restaurant opened in 2014. The Donut Hole locations in Destin and Santa Rosa Beach are popular with locals and visitors during all seasons.

waterhouse-condo-watersound-beachReal Estate Growth on 30A

Nearby 30Avenue, Inlet Heights, a new Holiday Builders community is being developed in Inlet Beach. The Florida style homes range from 1,683-2,671 square feet and are located adjacent to Lake Powell and just north of the Gulf. Contact the Nathan Abbott Team to schedule a showing of these beautiful new homes.

Waterhouse, a new 16-residence condominium complex between WaterSound Beach and Alys Beach, was completed at the end of 2014. Each 1,787 square foot residence is sold fully furnished and rental ready. Rental management is offered through St. Joe Company. Their program provides owners and guests with access to the WaterSound Beach Club, championship golf at Shark’s Tooth, Camp Creek tennis facility, SouthWood tennis facility and the WaterColor fitness center. Watch a video of Waterhouse.

Photos: Rendering of 30Avenue – courtesy of
Waterhouse aerial video still – courtesy of Scenic Southeby’s International Realty.

Panama City Beach

miracle-strip-amusement-park-pier-parkCommercial Growth in Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach has seen growth in 2014 with the expansion of Pier Park North and Miracle Strip Amusement Park. The 360,000 square foot Pier Park North shopping center was completed in 2014 and features national retailers including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Pier 1 Imports, and Michael’s. Local retails at Pier Park North include Chan’s Wine World, Lee Nails and Spa, and Aspen Dental.

On the eastern side of Pier Park, Miracle Strip Amusement Park re-opened in 2014 on 14 acres. With a total of 20 rides, the parks provides hours of fun for the entire family. Rides include the famous ferris wheel, carousel, tea cups, RipTide roller coaster, water splash pad, games and batting cages.

Real Estate Growth in Panama City Beach

Real estate on Front Beach Road is growing. There are planned ground-breaking for two new hotels in early 2015. Also in the works is the long awaited third tower at Calypso Towers. The new 250-unit tower is expected to go vertical in 2015 or 2016.

bay-walton-sector-mapOne of the most exciting recently announced growth benchmarks spans sections of both Bay and Walton counties. The Bay-Walton Sector Plan is the largest detailed sector plan in US history and is being planned out by St. Joe Company. The total plan includes 75,000 acres in Bay County and 53,000 acres in Walton County. Over the next ten years, St. Joe is planning to build over 5,000 new residential units, 500 new hotel rooms, 81 holes of golf and 322,000 square feet of recreation. The Bay-Walton Sector Plan includes the land surrounding the north and west of West Bay to Deer Lake State Park in Walton County. Read the detailed article from 850 Business Magazine.

This 50-year plan will bring an untold amount of new residents and businesses to the area. Real estate and land values in the Panama City Beach area are expected to continue increasing with the approved sector plan in mind. If you have ever been interested in purchasing property in Panama City Beach, Nathan Abbott recommends now is the best time.  There are two available Gulf front parcels on Front Beach road that would be well suited for single-family residences, multi-family residences, high rise condominium developments, hotels or even entertainment venues. Contact Nathan Abbott to learn more about these available parcels.

Miracle Strip Amusement Park ariel photo – courtesy of
Bay-Walton Sector Plan map – courtesy of