The Cost of Community

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The Downtown Improvement Board and Community Redevelopment Agency is responsible for the success so noticeable in Downtown Panama City, but they also maintain the St. Andrews CRA and North Downtown on MLK Boulevard.

The board has allowed the Waterfront Committee of Volunteers in St. Andrews and Nancy Wengel, the project director, to gear the revitalization of their community, but not everyone is thrilled with the effort.

David Jackson, the executive director of the Downtown Improvement Board, says changes are coming.

"After three years of close watching and study, economic development is not progressing as it should in St. Andrews."

St. Andrews is not sharing the same success enjoyed Downtown and just north of Downtown with property values actually decreasing in the past year by $1.6 million, while increasing by almost $1 million in value downtown.

"Now the board wants to come in and bring in a proven program and within four years, we expect St. Andrews to be looking as good as Downtown and Downtown North."

Doris Brown tried to open a the "This and That" gift shop in the area a couple of years ago, but after intense advertising and community involvement, Brown says she had to go Downtown if she wanted to make money.

"The project director tells me that St. Andrews was community oriented and Downtown was business oriented. At that point, I knew I had to leave."

The Downtown Improvement Board has told the city manager it will continue to use St. Andrews CRA funds to pay for the project director's salary come October 1. Earlier this year, several business owners sent Panama City Mayor Gerry Clemons a letter complaining about poor management in St. Andrews.

Newschannel Seven has learned that at Tuesday's city commission meeting, Commissioner John Pilcher is expected to recommend that the St. Andrew CRA be removed from the Downtown Improvement Board's umbrella, therefore negating the DIB's plans to change management of the area's revitalization project.