Historic Hygeia Coca-Cola bottling sold, new owner will preserve historic elements

Jim Little Pensacola News JournalPublished 3:14 PM EDT Aug 21, 2020The historic Hygeia Coca-Cola bottling buil

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The historic Hygeia Coca-Cola bottling building on North Palafox Street has been sold to a new owner who plans to keep the building.

David Fetter and Bill Wunnenberg, owners of Industrial Energy Services, Inc. and Illumadyne, an LED lighting company, have purchased the building for $750,000 and plan to restore "the primary architectural elements" of the building, Gunther Properties announced in a press release Friday.

"We intend to honor the full contours of the founder and past businesses while integrating the modern equipment, processes, culture and people of our companies," Fetter said in the press release. "We are hopeful that the revived functionality and commerce at the facility will help leverage and bridge the vibrancy from the downtown to the corridor further North on Palafox."

Built in 1936, the building housed the Hygeia Bottling Works until 1967 and has been vacant for several years.

The Florida Department of Corrections attempted to lease the building to turn it into a probation and parole office in 2014, but that plan collapsed after North Hill residents opposed the idea.

Last year, Keep Pensacola Beautiful attempted to raise money to buy the building to restore it but the idea was abandoned after members learned the cost estimate to remediate the building from water damage would be about $8 million.

Fetter and Wunnenberg said the new building will house their two companies IES and Illumadyne.

Plans dropped: Keep Pensacola Beautiful drops plans to purchase, renovate Hygeia Coca-Cola bottling plant

IES was formed in 2005 and is a specialized electrical contractor which delivers turn-key energy efficient lighting services for commercial and industrial clients throughout the country.  Illumadyne is an LED lighting fixture manufacturer and has been in business since 2008. 

The companies currently operate out of the Palafox Industrial Park and recently bought equipment to expand their in-house production with the goal of producing all of their major components in the U.S.

Fetter said their current office is not large enough to house the equipment to permit their goal of producing a truly “made In America” product.

“Our search for a new facility lasted only one day and concluded quickly after walking through the Coca Cola building for the first time,” Fetter said. “Despite the age and wear and tear of the facility, it is truly a remarkable structure with significant historical value to Pensacola. It is a privilege to have taken ownership of this facility and to be part of writing the next chapter of the story for this lovely building and all that it means to the Rainwater Family, the thousands of employees that have worked in the facility and the local community who have agonized over what the future may bring for a facility which many have a deep connection.”

Fetter said the companies are prepared to offer tours at select times through this process and hope to have a public open house once the restoration is complete.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson praised the companies' decision to buy the building.

"I consider it a win anytime a piece of Pensacola’s history can be preserved, and I’m looking forward to seeing this beautiful piece of architecture brought back to life in our community," Robinson said.

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.

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