The other side of the story: Representatives weigh in on Harbor Village Townhomes

Savannah Vasquez
A brand new property sign sits along Harbor Blvd. awaiting lighting and decals for the tenants of the Harbor Village Townhomes.

In response to a recent article on the quick business vacancies at the Harbor Village Townhomes, JME Building Development LLC. General Contractor Matt Elder called to give The Log his side of the story. In the original article three major issues were brought up by past business tenants as to why they left the building less than a year after signing a lease. Those issues were; street signage, parking availability and an offsite building manager.

Street Signs

As for the signs, Elder told The Log that after months of working with the city within tight coding requirements, he was finally able to secure the business signs under the arbors that face highway 98.

 “The thing with the signs, you wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through to get a property sign up,” Elder said. “I’d been working on that since January 2014, and had to jump through hoops just to get the hanging signs up in the front.”

After the first sign hurdle, Elder said he thought it would be smooth sailing, but instead was met with another huge setback.

“I had a budget, and the size of the sign that I wanted, and I found a contractor in Destin. But after a couple of months not hearing from them I called on it, and ended up having to go back to the drawing board,” he said.

Elder then found another company in May and invested $10,000 for a new sign, but again was met with a long silence.

“At this point, I’d been promising my tenants a sign for half a year,” Elder said,  adding that four months later he still had nothing to show for his investment.

 “Long story short, I sent my supervisor by the place sometime in September, but the state had posted a sign on their front door; they were shut down,” Elder said of the company.

After a bit of investigating Elder said it turned out the business was operating under a fraudulent license and when pressed with a lawsuit the company buckled and filed bankruptcy.

 “They wrote a contract, but I found out later that they didn’t even have a license,” he said. “They lied to my face and then when I tried to confront them they just ignored my phone calls for months. They filed bankruptcy and took my money. That’s just low.”

Today the long-awaited property sign is standing waiting only on decals and power.

“It’s a backlit sign with inserts,” said Elder. “It’s up, and hopefully by the end of this week it will be powered up and my tenants that are there can put their logos up.”


Parking was another sticky issue for the property as Elder said for him, the solution was a “lose-lose” situation.

 “When it was a vacant building it was a convenient parking lot for those hanging out at the harbor or the Red Door,” he said. “It has been a little bit of an effort to let the public know that this is only a parking lot for tenants and retail stores.”

 Elder explained that when the parking issue was brought to his attention, his solution was to hand out car decals to both the residential and business tenants and to bring in a towing company to remove cars without the proper decals.

“I immediately called the tow company and told them, ‘If you see any people parked there after 11 p.m., without one of the decals, tow them,’” he said.

Elder said that the latest business in the building closed at 10 p.m., so the timing was not the issue.

“Unfortunately a lot of the retail stores’ customers parked in the residents parking,” he said, adding that the  residential parking spots are numbered, but that did not seem to alleviate the problem.

Currently only 20 of the 65 parking spots are reserved for townhome tenants, and the assigned parking spots are numbered in white reflective paint with added warning signs detailing the private parking order.

Elder said he is open to his tenants ideas for solutions and will continue to try to improve the parking issue.

“Any issue that is addressed to me I am concerned about it,” he said. “If there’s a problem I like to address it and fix it. I want those businesses to thrive. I want their feedback.”

Building Manager

As for the out-of-town manager, Elder said he has nothing but praise for his building manager, Ashlie Gleaton.

“Ashlie is phenomenal,” he said. “She’s friendly, and it comes to the point where tenants have to know that it’s a business, just like they are trying to run a business. I’ve got to treat everybody fairly.”

Besides Gleaton, Elder said he also has an onsite maintenance manager that oversees the property at all times.

“Our guy lives directly behind the property, and is able to take care of anything and everything,” he said.

On the whole, Elder said he hopes that Destin businesses and residents will see the asset of the Harbor Village Townhomes and it’s surrounding harbor businesses.

“That area is trying to come back,” he said. “That whole area is evolving, and there’s a new development in the making. It is a great location, it just takes a certain business to be there. I’ve had great tenants, and it’s unfortunate that some businesses could not work out there. But I’d hate to see the Harbor Townhomes fail. I like that little part of Destin, it’s just historic Destin.”