Welcome back to the Space Coast. You’re probably just returning from places like Greece, New York or Upper Arlington, Ohio, all ready to bask in the mild temperatures and send beach-and-flip-flop photos to your neighbors back home shoveling snow.
You may have noticed that restaurants — some of which weren’t here when you left — are revving up for more customers now that you’re here.
Golf courses may be a little more crowded now as you hit the links. Doctors soon will be seeing more patients because, obviously, this is where your favorite physicians are.
Specific data is hard to come by. We really can’t say how many of you visit Brevard County each year, or Florida, for that matter. We do know you pour millions into the local economy, and for that we’re grateful.
FLORIDA TODAY figured you might have missed a few things while you were gone. So as a service to our seasonal residents, we’ve put together a list of what’s happened here since last Easter.
An irascible Irma
When Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel visits your state, it ain’t a good thing.
Cantore was in Florida in September, and he wasn’t on vacation. That was because of Hurricane Irma.
You probably were at your summer residence saying, “Whew, those poor suckers,” as Irma made one weekend a bit hellish on the Space Coast in September.
The local toll, at last count, totaled more than $37 million from damage to at least 7,131 residences and businesses during the storm. That figure is more than four times the 1,651 homes and businesses affected by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
The storm also exposed problems with the infrastructure of the Cocoa Water System and Brevard County’s sewage system.
Let’s start with the health concern formerly known as Wuesthoff Health System. In February, Steward Health Care LLC acquired Wuesthoff, and last month, Steward renamed the two local hospitals.
Gone were Wuesthoff Medical Center-Rockledge, and in its place is Rockledge Medical Center. Same with Wuesthoff Medical Center-Melbourne. It’s not Melbourne Medical Center.
Palm Bay perplexities
It’s a little hard to keep it straight but it seems to come down to this: Palm Bay Mayor William Capote got angry with the city manager Gregg Lynk and asked for his resignation. A majority of the City Council decided the mayor overstepped his authority and censured him. A censure, by the way, is something less than a wrist slap and more or less having nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah placed in your mayoral file.
And tendering their resignations were the city’s growth management director, Stuart Buchanan and then-deputy city manager, Dave Isnardi.
On an unrelated and costlier note, the same people who censured the mayor also pushed through a new storm water assessment in Palm Bay that clocks in at $123.99 for small houses and $247.98 for large houses.
Strap on the feed bag
Restaurants come and go and some places are ubiquitous, meaning your favorite Pizza Hut probably is still here. As far as you’re favorite mom-and-pop business, check. Running a restaurant is a tough, tough business.
Here are few new places to chew on while you’re back.
On the chain side, a place specializing in breakfast and brunch called First Watch opened in Viera, and a barbecue eatery called Charlie Graingers opened in Suntree.
Speaking of barbecue. there’s a new place in Cocoa Village called Cryderman’s Barbecue that’s only open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. “Or Until Sold Out.” That should tell you something.
And if you’re looking for a view, Rising Tide Tap & Table is now open at Port Canaveral, The “gastro-pub” has 60 craft beers on tap, craft cocktails, scratch cooking and a panoramic view of the port.
Surf no more
The old Bernard’s Surf restaurant has been closed for years. Now, its landmark building in Downtown Cocoa Beach is no more.
The Fischer family sold the iconic restaurant in 2006, but the new owners had a hard time making a go of it and closed its doors in 2010. In 2012, British entrepreneur Luke Johnson, who originally had planned on a new restaurant for the site.
Eventually, though, he decided the land was worth more vacant and demolished the nearly 70-year-old building. The property is now for sale.
Speaking of Cocoa Beach, the supermarket scene has changed since you headed back north. The totally made over Winn-Dixie reopened in July. In September, the Publix at Banana River Square (the one south of State Road 520) was demolished. A completely new and larger Publix is now being built on the site and is expected to open late next summer or early next fall.
Get good and tanked
You ever get in the mood where you feel like you want — no, you need — to crush something? Well, how about a car?
Tank America, a state-of-the-art, 6,000-square-foot tactical laser tag arena opened last week and visitors can try their hand at driving an Abbot FV433 tank or FV432 armored personnel carrier.
As a bonus, vehicles are on the site as so much chum for the monstrous vehicles to crush.
Tank America is headquartered at a former National Guard armory on Ellis Road. The wooded property stretches across 33 wooded acres near John Rodes Boulevard.
Here’s a thought, or two, or three
In August, Isadora Rangel became FLORIDA TODAY’s public affairs and engagement editor. Matt Reedleft for a job at the Brevard Public Schools.
You’ll agree or disagree with her at various times. Full-time residents already have.
Rangel writes opinion pieces, provides video commentary and has been on a tear meeting with different civic leaders and organizations.