Pier Park Moving Ahead

After more than seven years of negotiations and planning, development on Panama City Beach's Pier Park will finally getting off the ground.

The St. Joe Company sold 90 acres at Pier Park to one of the nation's premiere shopping mall developers, the Simon Property Group.

The conceptual design of Pier Park began way back in 1997. The city of Panama City Beach and St. Joe teamed up to buy property adjacent to the old Aaron Bessant Park, but it has taken the St. Joe Company to present day to actually sell its portion to a major mall developer and finally get a design off the ground.

About 93 acres was just sold Thursday to the Simon Property Group for $26.5 million. Simon operates 240 malls and shopping centers in 38 states and Canada. Among them is the Mall of the America in Minneapolis and University and Cordova Malls in Pensacola.

Under the contract, Simon could buy an additional 125 acres in and around the park. St. Joe will retain approximately 13 acres on the north side of Front Beach Road for future development.

Under the original agreement in 1997, Panama City Beach and St. Joe stipulated that about 100 acres on the west side of the Pier Park property will never be developed. The city retains this portion of the park and has already built public park facilities and a small lake.

The commercial phase of the land is only in the very preliminary stages of design development, but we can expect something similar to an upscale outdoor mall. Construction probably won't begin for another two years or so.