Privately-funded space race sparks economic liftoff for this Florida town

Cocoa Beach is the base for both Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk's space businesses — and local real estate is booming

A view of Cocoa Beach (Credit: Google Maps)
A view of Cocoa Beach (Credit: Google Maps)

As billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk compete in launching rockets to outer space, they are fueling a revival of Cocoa Beach, a coastal Florida city where their respective businesses, Blue Origin and SpaceX, are based.

Located on the Atlantic Coast, just south of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach was slammed by the 2009 recession and the end of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s space shuttle program, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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But now the city is seeing resurgence as rocket launches by the private space industry bring back employment and tourism. One of the immediate results? The number of downtown restaurants has doubled in recent years, Cocoa Beach Mayor Ben Malik told the Journal. Developers have also started building homes in the Cocoa Beach area for well-compensated workers in the space industry.

The heightened activity is also drawing more tourists to the Cocoa Beach area causing revenue per available hotel room to climb to $112.63 in the January-April period —nearly double the level during the same period in 2011, according to hotel data provider STR Inc.

Recently, Driftwood Acquisitions and Development acquired three hotels in the Cocoa Beach area. The Miami-based company plans to redevelop one of them as the area’s first four-star resort (with facilities for conferences) and replace a waterfront resort called International Palms with a $250 million mixed-use complex, which will include a 502-room hotel. [WSJ] – Mike Seemuth