Clearing the way for new Brooks Bridge: Tropical Waves, Waffle House buildings demolished

Devon Ravine
Northwest Florida Daily News

A crew with Cross Environmental Services demolished the Waffle House restaurant and the Tropical Waves store on Okaloosa Island on Thursday in an ongoing sign that progress is being made to replace the aging Brooks Bridge that connects the island to Fort Walton Beach.

The two vacant buildings at the southeast corner of U.S. 98 and Santa Rosa Boulevard are among 10 residential and commercial structures that have been slated for removal by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Take a look:Bird's eye view of the Brooks Bridge

More details on the project:FDOT picks contractor for new Brooks Bridge. Here's when it will open, how much it will cost

Structures in Fort Walton Beach that have already been removed include the old Pat’s Bait & Tackle building on Brooks Street, four units at the Oak Breeze Apartments complex on Florida Blanca Place, six units of the Playground Inn on Brooks Street, as well as Bamboo’s Jamaican Restaurant and Diva Nails and Spa, both located on U.S. 98.

A mural on the Tropical Waves store is seen next to the sign for Waterscape's parking lot on Okaloosa Island.  The Tropical Waves store and the adjacent Waffle House were demolished Thursday to make way for the new Brooks Bridge replacement.

In addition, a portion of the building that houses Props Brewery in the Shoppes at Paradise Pointe is being removed to make way for the new bridge.

The FDOT has earmarked $122 million in federal money for the bridge removal and construction work. Actual construction of the new bridge could get underway by late 2022 and might last about three years. The existing bridge was completed in 1966 and is considered structurally deficient.

The new bridge will include three driving lanes on both of its two spans and extend between Perry Avenue in downtown Fort Walton Beach and Pier Road on the island. It will also cross over Santa Rosa Boulevard, with local vehicle traffic using access roads to get to and from U.S. 98.

Thomas McCarty with Cross Environmental Services said that they only have one building left to demolish for the project, the  six-story Emerald Coast Inn & Suites adjacent to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center. McCarty said they will likely begin demolition on that property after the Labor Day weekend.