Pier Park Sold

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Within the next two years or so you will see some kind of development on the east side of Pier Park.

St. Joe sold the 93 acres of the park $26.5 million to Simon Property Group, who operates hundreds of malls across the U.S., including the Mall of the Americas in Minneapolis.

Since the city of Panama City Beach and St. Joe teamed up back in 1997 to create Pier Park, the design and development stages have run into numerous setbacks. There was a lawsuit by an adjacent landowner, failed negotiations with a company that had development plans that didn't live up to St. Joe's expectations, and of course there was September 11, which city leaders say set thing back.

Simon could change Pier Park's bad luck. The company has agreed to build an upscale open-air retail and entertainment center. St. Joe says Simon can buy up to an additional 125 acres of land in and near Pier Park. The news has city leaders breathing a sigh of relief.

"Our anticipation and their plans have found some consent with one another, but we have an opportunity to make some beautiful down there, and I get a sense that's what they've done at every place they've been in business. I'm pleased and excited, and I know everybody on the beach is a day past ready for something to happen," says Mayor Lee Sullivan of Panama City Beach.

Under the deal the city keeps about 100 acres on the west side of the park. That land can never be developed. Park facilities have already been built there as well as a small lake.