Joe Bruner takes down 'biggest eyesore' in Destin; promises something 'magnificent'

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

For the past few days, heavy equipment has been knocking down what Joe Bruner calls the “biggest eyesore” in Destin at the foot of the Marler Bridge. 

In June, BK of Destin Inc., of which Bruner is the principal, purchased the property on the northeastern side of the bridge for $5.5 million. 

Within the little strip of buildings that have been demolished this week was Custom Concepts Tattoo and Design. Over the years, the space has housed Fantasea Dive Shop as well as other businesses.  

The building at the northeast end of the Marler Bridge in Destin has been demolished. Businessman Joe Bruner recently purchased the property, which overlooks Crab Island.

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“My major concern is getting rid of the biggest eyesore in Destin, Florida, out of Destin,” Bruner said.

“Cleaning that eyesore up has been my No. 1 priority,” Bruner said since purchasing the property.

“It’s a beautiful piece of property but has always been covered up by that trashy old building,” he said. 

Bruner said he did a lot of negotiating to purchase the property. 

“As you can see, we’re cleaning it up and continuing to clean it up. It’s just horrible, and we’re getting it down,” he said. 

Joe Bruner said the building at the northeast end of the Marler Bridge was the biggest eyesore in Destin. He said he's planning a "Dubia type" project for the property.

Bruner said it will probably take another two weeks to clear off the property “like we want it.”

The property is 2.1 acres, with 250 feet of waterfront overlooking Crab Island. He said the lot is 800 feet deep with 175 feet on U.S. 98 and 125 feet on Calhoun Avenue. 

In recent days, Facebook has been buzzing with questions as to what will be going on the property that is now being cleared. 

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“You can be sure, there will be a project there, Dubai type architect, and it will be in the very best taste,” Bruner said.

“The only word you’ll be able to use for it will be 'magnificent,'” he said.

Bruner said plans for the property are “big,” and he has two to three architects, engineers and developers working on it. 

The building at the northeast end of the Marler Bridge in Destin has been demolished. Businessman Joe Bruner recently purchased the property, which overlooks Crab Island.

“It will be the standard by which all others will be judged in Destin, Florida, and it will not be a water park. We’ve got one,” he said. 

Bruner opened Big Kahuna Water Adventure Park 42 years ago, but has since sold the park that is located along U.S. 98 in Destin. 

“It’s going to be a magnificent ... out-of-this-world project. It won't be boxes and balconies like everywhere else,” he said.

Bruner said in recent years he has seen everything moving toward 30A in Walton County and he would like to keep people and bring people to Destin. 

“My heart is in Destin,” he said, noting his roots run deep in Northwest Florida back to his great-great-grandfather signing up to fight in the Civil War in Marianna. 

Bruner said he wants to build something that makes people go “wow” but at the same time not be too commercial. He is looking to build something that makes people say “I love Destin … I want to come to downtown Destin,” he said. 

“This project, at my age, I am going to go with something that will be a landmark in Destin. Something that everybody can be proud of,” said Bruner, 69. 

He said it will be modernistic and will be a “Dubai type project that will be No. 1 in Destin and give people something to talk about when they come over the bridge,” he said. 

One of the reasons Bruner bought the property, located across U.S. 98 from the Emerald Grande, was because of all the parking possibilities. 

“We’re looking at multi-level parking to tie in with our project,” he said. 

According to Catherine Card, public information officer for the city of Destin, no “development orders” or plans have been submitted for the property. 

Bruner said they are waiting until they have a “bulletproof plan” together before they bring it before city council. 

“We’re working on it every day,” he said, noting he has some of the best engineers and architects in the country hired.  

“It’s very costly, just to get it cleared up,” he said. 

Right now, his main concern is “to remove the biggest stick in the eyeball of downtown Destin.”

Next, is to build something “magnificent, something that everybody in Destin would be proud of, and something that will bring people to Destin,” he said. 

“I’ve been in business in Destin almost 50 years, my heart is there. I’m fired up and ready to go,” Bruner said.