City acquisition of cement plant set in stone

3.9-acre parcel purchased for $2 million

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie |
The old CEMEX cement plant on Beach Drive was acquired for $2 million by the City of Destin last week. City officials plan to turn the parcel into a waterfront park. ANNIE BLANKS/DESTIN LOG

Six years ago, it was a cement plant. Today, it’s an eyesore. A few years from now, it will be a waterfront park, thanks to the city of Destin’s acquisition last week of the 3.9-acre parcel at 820 Beach Drive.

The parcel was formerly the site of a CEMEX cement plant that closed down six years ago. The city has been trying to purchase the property for at least three years, according to community development director Steve Schmidt.

“It was reasonable for us to have it between our existing properties,” Schmidt said. “We were the best user for it and quite honestly. It was zoned for bay estates. You could have had five to eight houses on it instead.”

Destin City Manager Carisse LeJeune said the purchase of the parcel was part of the Destin City Council’s initiative to make Destin more usable for both residents and visitors.

“The purchase of the CEMEX plant was an initiative in the city council’s fiscal year 2016 strategic plan,” LeJeune said. “It was (one of five) focuses for creating a world-class beach and fishing (town) through improving the public use of beach and waterways.”

The purchase of the lot for $2 million was finalized on Oct. 28. Schmidt said the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department has already approached him about helping apply for grants, and the city is seeking a company to clean up the lot.

The site is sandwiched in between the Joe’s Bayou boat launch ramp to its west and a beach with a pier to its east. The Mattie Kelly Nature Park and Nature Walk is on the north side of Beach Drive across from the three parcels. The acquisition of the cement plant lot will create approximately 1,600 feet of city-owned shoreline between the three waterfront parcels, according to Schmidt.

LeJeune and Parks and Recreation Director Lance Johnson said the city doesn’t have any immediate plans for transforming the lot because they wanted to wait until the sale was final.

“We need to be getting input from the residents on what they would like to see there,” Johnson said. “We’d like to possibly expand the launching facilities, expand parking, have more public beach areas. The biggest thing is to keep the newest parcel in as natural of a state as we can.”