Lucky 13? Log looks back on the year that was (PHOTOS)

Pam Griffin
The former Holiday Inn, which was also the famed Hawaiki in years prior, was razed in 2013 to make way for the Destin Sands Beach Resort.

2013 may become known as the year of the proverbial wrecking ball, as a nearly built-out Destin found itself in a redevelopment boom.

Whether it was the old revolving HawaiKi restaurant, city founder Leonard Destin's 19th Century homestead, the old Destin Racquet Club, or the iconic Greek chapel on Highway 98, demolition was a hallmark of the year that was. But from the rubble, development is again on the horizon in Destin — a marked shift from the stagnant economic growth and real estate market of recent years. 

Here's a look back at some of the more notable events from the year that was 2013 in Destin.


• A Dolly Parton-backed development may serve up cowboy/pirate dinner theater, but the ‘ball is in their court,’ say county planners.

• Fifty-seven-year-old Kenneth Dale Davis died in a trailer fire at 315 Sibert Avenue, after the single-wide trailer became fully engulfed in flames.

• After a unanimous vote, city leaders authorize the use of civil citations in city parks, including the Dog Park and Norriego Point.

• Developer and Destin resident Jay Odom charged with violating campaign contribution laws. He faces a maximum of seven years in prison if convicted of two charges.

• Three remaining classes of fifth graders will be relocated from Destin Elementary School to Destin Middle School beginning in August.

•A bid by Damon Becnel to acquire the old Club Overboard/Twisted Palm falls apart. The project called The Family Hunt Club would have brought a combination of an Italian pizza kitchen, motorcycle sales, accessories and repairs, and an indoor archery and shooting range to the building that has sat empty since closing in December 2010.

• A strip club called The Runway could rise as a 5,625-square-foot, two-story facility at 908 Airport Road, the former site of a business called Pottery World.

• Thanks to a new rewards program in Destin offered by Waste Management, residents can earn points toward discounts for recycling.

• A Coyote Ugly Saloon is set to open up shop in the former Shed BBQ & Blues Joint at HarborWalk Village while rumors suggest that a Margaritaville might also be on track  for HarborWalk Village.

• After more than two decades, KJ’s, a truly local watering hole on the harbor, will close its doors.

• Anonymous residents donate Live Oaks to Destin for use at Morgan’s Sports Center.


• From 500,000 to 600,000-cubic yards of sand will be pumped onto a 6,200-linear foot stretch of beach on Holiday Isle that has been ravaged by storms throughout the years.

• Based on the number of emails Councilman Jim Wood is receiving from concerned residents, it’s safe to say that opposition to a strip club in Destin is mounting with 100 percent of emails against it.

• City leaders gave the green light to Renaissance Planning Group to perform a pedestrian mobility study along Harbor Boulevard.

• While a majority of the drug arrests made in Destin are related to marijuana, lawmen have noticed an increase in the use of methamphetamine.

• Air traffic is rerouted,and between 50 to 100 workers could be spotted along the runway at Destin Airport as a complete resurfacing project is under way with more than 16,000-tons of asphalt placed along the 5,000-foot runway.

• Mary Anne Windes, broker/owner of Real Estate Professionals of Destin, was officially sworn in as chairman of the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce.

• Some city leaders would like to see references to a "future" Destin high school removed from Destin’s proposed comprehensive plan.

• Christians who attended the first citywide meeting of Destin Residents Against the Adult Cabaret (DRAAC) turn to prayer calling for seven Fridays of prayer walks on Airport Road.

• With more than half of the squad from Destin, the Fort Walton Beach High School Cheerleaders win second national title.

• The city’s public works/public safety committee leads the way to install flashing warning beacons to help alert motorists to the curve on Airport Road.

• More than half of the drivers that are pulled over by deputies in Destin are given warnings rather than citations, and deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office keep a close eye on motorists along U.S. Hwy. 98 as part of their patrols.

• If the city doesn’t act quickly, boat captains say it’s only a matter of time before the mouth of the harbor and navigation channel become choked up.


• Local developers and some city leaders say trashing Tier III developments would be a mistake as the future of high rises and macro developments in Destin is debated.

• With a 5 percent increase in visitors compared to last year expected, local law enforcement, beach safety, and restaurants prepare for spring breakers who are ready for some fun in the sun.

• The finished West Destin Beach Restoration project began at the east jetty and continued on to Destin on the Gulf Condominium before stopping and picking back up at Sandpiper Cove and wrapping up at Southbay on the Gulf. Crews from Coastwise Consulting Inc. successfully relocated 23 turtles as part of a turtle trawling campaign during the West Destin Beach Restoration project.

 • City prepares ‘declaration of emergency’ for navigation channel and harbor mouth. Days later, representatives from the United States Coast Guard place buoys in the navigation channel to guide the way through the sand-choked pass.

• The Destin Library reached a milestone on Saint Patrick’s Day, turning 10 years old.

 • City to explore a variety of options for beach chairs at Norriego Point and city parks.

• Rhodes Auto Repair, opened on March 13, 1973, has become one of the oldest businesses in Destin — and it’s been family owned and operated for 40 years.

• Destin wins Travel Channel’s Best Family Beach 2013, receiving 43 percent of the votes cast for the best beach destination for a family.

• St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Destin was sold to Mike Buckingham for $330,000.

• Facing a ‘million-dollar-problem,’ Fire Control District to ask for millage cap increase.


• As pedestrian study continues in Destin, signage and intersections see upgrades, and pedestrians are urged to "go to a crosswalk."

• With 149 contract air traffic control towers scheduled to close in the coming months due to the sequestration, airport officials are proceeding with plans for an 84-foot tall air traffic control tower in Destin.

• The city of Destin may be in the midst of an employee morale crisis. Based on the findings of the city’s biannual employee survey, overall satisfaction has declined from 2011 in 41 of 50 items, with 10 of the declines being "significant."

• With boats scraping their props in the navigation channel, city leaders move quickly to bring a dredge to Destin ahead of the summer season.

• The city partnered with the Auburn Technical Assistance Center & Percy Associates, Inc. to conduct the inaugural business survey, designed to gain information from business owners that the city could use to improve its services and overall impact in the business community. Approximately 152 were returned of 1,433 sent out. Ninety-two percent of businesses rated their relationship with city as very good.

• Spring break 2013 in Destin was deemed a success by local businesses. With a strong guest turnout, the expectations for the upcoming summer season are high.

• City crews will install boardwalk “rules” signs along the harbor as restaurants shift from bottles to plastic cups for to-go drinks to be in compliance. City leaders, meanwhile, say they will crack down on open containers outside harbor area.

• Ten months into a renovation project, developers behind the Destin Sands Beach Resort decide to demolish what was once the iconic Holiday Inn tower. It was one of Destin’s pioneer high-rises and in its glory days in the ‘70s, a revolving restaurant called the HawaiKi thrilled diners. Originally, plans were to build a new tower, cabanas and a lazy river. Since the demolition, though, things have been quiet and planners reportedly are going back to “the drawing board.”

• Caroline Oswalt, 17, was named Miss Destin and will reign over the 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

• After providing 18 years of artistic and educational services to the community, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation celebrated the opening of the Dugas Pavilion that will be used for many activities, including the Concerts in the Village series.

• Sandpiper Cove celebrates 40 years of growth in Destin and today has 631 units, 171 buildings, six tennis courts, five swimming pools, three golf courses and three spas on its 43-acres.


• Destin’s oldest home, built in 1866 on Calhoun Avenue by Leonard Destin, is now a thing of the past after an effort to save the structure fails. A restaurant may rise from the rubble and lumber.

• Destin Chamber of Commerce opposed to any legislation that would dissolve the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority.

• Based on the amount of construction projects and redevelopment currently under way in Destin, an economic recovery may be in full swing.

• Work is close to wrapping up at the Marler Street parking lot less than six months after construction broke ground.

• Since a donation box was installed at the Destin Dog Park in February of 2012, patrons have been donating an average of $58.77 per week.

• This year’s Blessing of the Fleet saw 153 boats participate, more than ever before. The Week of Blessings extended to seven days, with an addition of a Youth Day.

• Local restaurateur Anthony Tusa and a partner have the former Club Overboard/Twisted Palm building under contract and plan to transform the property into "something real nice." The deal falls through days later.

• The Destin Forward Leadership Award, chosen by a class vote, was presented to class member Matt Algarin of The Destin Log. 

• As part of Destin’s "Clean City Initiative," city leaders asks businesses, individuals, civic groups or any other organizations to participate in the Adopt-A-Street program by helping pick up trash.

• After almost 10 years as the town manager in Rosemary Beach and seven years on the Destin City Council, Jim Bagby was chosen to head up the Walton County Tourist Development Council as its new executive director. He has no plans to step down from his seat on the City Council.

• About three dozen people gathered for a ribbon cutting at the recently completed Marler Street parking lot.

• Mayor Sam Seevers cut the ribbon under the Jetty East pagoda to celebrate the completion of western Destin beaches’ restoration. Crews also planted sea oats to help secure the dunes and prevent future erosion.


• The demolition work at the Destin Sands Beach Resort came to an end as all nine floors of the old Holiday Inn building were torn down.

• City leaders have spirited debate about scaling back proposed harborfront park.

• More than 200 international students attended the Destin International Students Outreach welcome dinner at the Destin Life Center at the Destin United Methodist Church.

• The city’s emergency dredging of the Old Pass Lagoon Channel and harbor mouth wrapped up with more than 10,000-cubic-yards of sand removed.

• Residents and firefighters remembered Black Sunday, June 8, 2003, when Destin’s firefighters had eight "near drownings" and one drowning. All told, eight people had drowned or died from injuries related to that day between Okaloosa and Walton County.

• Memphis-based Southern Airways Express lands at Destin Airport on inaugural flight.

• Outfitted with a digital billboard, an R-22 Robinson helicopter lights up the sky over Destin as part of its advertising partnership with HarborWalk Village.

• Calhoun Avenue may soon become the next restaurant row in Destin, as eateries are in the works along Destin’s first named street.

• A used car dealership and a landscaping company along Henderson Beach Road and Commons Drive have been closed. The buildings may be removed to make room for a Dolly Parton-backed dinner theater.

• Under the authority of a county ordinance, deputies can issue a notice-to-appear to beach patrons who do not obey commands to exit the water during dangerous surf. The ordinance does not apply to surfers.

• Five fishermen hauled in 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of cocaine worth an estimated $2.5 million in the Gulf of Mexico, south of East Pass.

• The city’s code enforcement officers step up enforcement of parking violations following the city’s code of ordinances which prohibit cars from stopping or parking on the roadway or curbside; on a sidewalk; within an intersection; or on a crosswalk.


• JoJo, the only reported derelict vessel in Destin, is partially submerged about 700 yards from the bay line of Indian Trail.

• Heavy rains force cancellation of numerous Fourth of July activities and fireworks in Destin and South Walton.

• Parks and Recreation Committee approves plans to add lighting to the Dog Park.

• HarborWalk Adventures Zipline open and running 1,000 feet, round trip between 80 foot steel towers overlooking the harbor.

• In addition to operating out of Destin Airport, Timberview Helicopters has been offering sightseeing tours from a barge in the harbor and has been pulling giant advertising banners at other times. Both city leaders and county officials have issued letters to the Army Corps of Engineers voicing concerns about sightseeing operations from the barge.

• The Okaloosa County Health Department issued water quality notices in East Pass and at Clement Taylor Park in Destin urging people to stay out of the water due to the sewage spills in Fort Walton Beach and Valparaiso.


• July in Destin, with 17.54-inches of rain, was the second wettest on record, with rainfall in 1975, 19.88 inches, topping the list.

• The city’s harbor pump, out of service since late February went back online Aug. 2, with a final cost not to exceed $14,000.

• Boaters attend the first Dive-In Movie at a floating screen that Legendary Marine has on a barge in Destin harbor near Boogie’s Watersports.

• Shark Week wrapped up in grand fashion, with Capt. Mike Tokheim tangling with a 256-pound mako shark that leapt into the boat and decided to wreak havoc before it just gave up the ghost.

• Norriego Point is shrinking, and could be completely breached by water in the near future unless it is permanently stabilized.

• City leaders face a breach of contract lawsuit from local contractor Aero Training & Rental, stemming from a dispute over improvements that were made along Kelly Street.

• New Destin Elementary principal, Janet Stein, aims to revitalize art, music and tech programs

• When Dolly Parton announced a $300 million upgrade to her Pigeon Forge, Tenn., theme park, there was no mention of expanding into Destin.


• The Main Street Betterment Alliance’s main project at the moment is the creation of a community garden, located behind the American Legion on Main Street.

• The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Timberview Helicopters sightseeing tours due to multiple safety violations.

• The cross town connector, an alternate East-West route that would run parallel to U.S. Hwy. 98 from Beach Drive to Benning Drive, is back for discussion with a  proposed $300,000 in funding for engineering and design work.

• In order to keep the city of Destin "competitive" in the market, city leaders in Destin are considering a cost of living adjustment, merit pay and a one-time bonus for their employees.

• A revamped plan for Royal Melvin Heritage Park is in the works, going from a $3 million design to roughly a $1 million design.

• One man is dead and an Illinois doctor is in critical condition after a car explosion at 704 Harbor Lane.

• The 73-foot, 1929 classic, custom-built motor yacht ERSA was submerged in its slip. It’s owner said he “felt sick."

• City leaders finalized the FY2014 budget in the amount of $13,048,424, which includes the $1,194,771 contract with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, and adopted the FY2014 millage rate of 1.500 mils, which is a slight increase from last year’s 1.455 mils.

• Destin’s Outstanding Senior Citizen for 2013 is Sue Goetz, top volunteer in the city and chairman of the city’s recreation committee, who also teaches water aerobics classes at the Destin YMCA and fitness classes for seniors at Destin United Methodist Church.

• During halftime of the Florida vs. Tennessee game, Destin’s Danny Wuerffel was given a standing ovation as he was honored for his recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

• Gia Prima, widow of Louis “King of Swing” Prima and an accomplished singer in her own right, passed away Sept. 25 in Destin. She was 72.


• Eighteen-year-old Winston Chou caught a 2.8-pound speckled trout aboard his kayak, Choumein, to be the first entry in the 2013 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

•The 35th annual Destin Seafood Festival was cancelled due to weather conditions surrounding Tropical Storm Karen. The weekend turned out to be mostly sunny after the storm weakened to a depression before coming ashore with a few heavy rains and a little wind.

• After 27 years in Shoreline Village, The Lighthouse Restaurant has a new home in the Downtown Destin Shopping Center in the former Calhoun’s Pub and Grub space.

• Demolition of old townhomes next to Signature Beach along Scenic Hwy. 98 made way for a new project, 1900 98, first Gulf-front condo development in six years and slated to become a 12-story, 14-unit project.

• Atlanta area-based developers behind The Runway filed a First Amendment lawsuit Oct. 8 in federal court against the city of Destin and City Manager Maryann Ustick.  The lawsuit claims Destin is prohibiting “erotic speech.”

• Whether it’s a pedestrian activated system or a fully signalized traffic light, city leaders are exploring their options as they look for ways to safely move pedestrian traffic from the Marler Street parking lot to the south side of U.S. Hwy. 98.

• After sitting vacant for many years, St. John Greek Orthodox Church was torn down by local businessman Mike Buckingham, making way for a barbecue restaurant.

• City leaders unanimously agree to spend $24,900 for a study that would determine the economic impacts of the charter fishing fleet and recreational boating activities along the harbor, as well as an overview of the city’s overall economy.

 • City Council approved a motion for city staff to draft an ordinance that would prevent helicopters from taking off and landing in Destin harbor.

• A black bear visited several homes and businesses in Destin over a three day period, with no injuries. Photos of the Destin bear went viral on Facebook.

• A 47.6-pound grouper was the last of the 1,540 fish caught at the Rodeo, the most fish ever written up in the 65-year history of Destin’s longest running tradition.


• Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance added more shells to the oyster reef at Mattie Kelly Park.

• Chamber CEO Shane Moody said gambling expansion would damage brand that Destin has as a family friendly resort community.

• More than 100 snowbirds registered at the first event of the season.

• City leaders gave the green light to spend $35,480 for design work and permitting of a proposed traffic signal along U.S. Hwy. 98 at Marler Street.

• City leaders consider an ordinance that, if approved, would extend the expiration deadline on projects in the city that have received a final development order by 2 years.

• Although county commissioners have voted to create an “aircraft restricted zone” near Crab Island and East Pass, city leaders in Destin are on their own with regulations in the Destin harbor. This restricted zone will apply to a variety of aircraft, such as hang gliders, helicopters, parasails, hot air balloons, seaplanes, glider excursions and other apparatus that could take off or land on the water.

• Developers laud a proposed Tier III development in Crystal Beach as a job creator, but nearby homeowners say the project would ruin the neighborhood’s character.

• A 3.29-acre parcel of land at 855 98 Palms Boulevard may soon become the home of a 32,000-square foot commercial, office and retail center, based on an application filed with city planners.

• After four years in the making, city officials have finally secured their joint coastal permit that allows them to complete a full restoration project along Norriego Point, which has been eroding severely for years.


• Mayor Sam Seevers, first elected to the City Council in 2002 and elected the city’s first female mayor in 2010, will not run for a second term in 2014.

• Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Walton County Sheriff's Office responded to an accident that involved a black bear that was struck and killed by a car near the Maraville subdivision on the south side of U.S. Hwy. 98. The bear may have been the same one that toured Destin a month earlier.

• The former home of Resolute Martial Arts and the Destin Racquet Club was razed to make way for a proposed subdivision called Destin Oaks.

• After a decades long battle with shifting sands and storm erosion, funding for the long-term fix for Norriego Point has been approved. Based on the project application, city leaders aim to protect, stabilize and re-establish the recreational opportunities along the continually eroding spit of land that marks the entrance into Destin harbor.

• Damage estimates reveal that more than $200,000 in merchandise was damaged during an early morning fire at Dollar Tree, in the Emerald Coast Centre.

• The Log’s own Tina Harbuck, sports/managing editor, was the 2013 Grand Marshal  at the  annual Christmas Parade.

• Charlie Marello, principal at Emerald Coast Middle School in Santa Rosa Beach, has accepted the job as the new principal at Destin Middle School, replacing Dianne Kelley who accepted another position in the school district.

• Mel Ponder, mortgage loan officer with Prime Lending, is the first to announce he will run for mayor of Destin in 2014. Voters will also choose three new councilors in the 2014 municipal elections.

• The City of Destin Harbor Heritage Award was won by the Buccaneer at the 27th Holiday on the Harbor Destin Boat Parade.

• A structure at 718 Beach Drive is at the center of pending litigation between the city of Destin and Alain Laird, who owns the neighboring property.

• As helicopter training ramps up at Destin Jet, so do complaints about the noisy, Russian-built choppers hovering over residential areas.

• After a unanimous vote, city leaders said that helicopters should not be able to take off and land in Destin harbor.

•Lieutenant Colonel Larry Eli Caison (USAF Retired), 52, was killed in an aircraft crash in Bay County near Panama City on Dec. 18, 2013, on his way back to Destin to visit his family for the holidays.

• With a renewed focus on economic development and diversifying the economy in Destin, city leaders want to identify specific, targeted industries where ad valorem tax breaks could be offered in an attempt to encourage businesses to come to Destin, or for existing businesses to expand and add more jobs.