Downtown's Jewel

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A local developer is still trying to gain support for his vision of downtown Panama City's future. City commissioners told Bob Blackerby they'd consider a proposal to swap part of the city marina for land off Beach Drive if Blackerby could educate the public about the plans and gain more community support.

Bringing a condominium to the Panama City Marina doesn't raise much concern among downtown business owners. Karen Randall owns Lee's Designer Consignment shop on Harrison Avenue and she says allowing residents to live downtown will only bring more business to the area.

"Essentially, whatever brings people downtown will be good for the downtown," Karen says.

Monte Dauphin, owner of The Sun Spot, agrees with Randall, saying business can only flourish with regular customers.

"I think it would be very beneficial to the downtown business. It would bring in a lot more customers and a lot more business," Monte says.

They all agree if you build the condo, don't close the marina to the public. Developer Bob Blackerby says that was never his plan. Both the marina and the proposed village near Johnson Bayou will be filled with public sidewalks and open park areas.

"We're actually increasing the amount of public space. We're not touching that marina. We're not touching access to that marina. There are no long-term plans to privatize that marina; DEP has made it clear we can't do that, we're not trying to. We're not touching the Civic Center. We are only trying to benefit the area. We're not trying to hurt anything."

Blackerby says the four-foot sidewalk on the marina now will be replaced with a 25-foot promenade circling the development for all to use.

Greg Morrison owns Cooper's News and says the marina is already open to the public, but it's a rare sight to see anyone there.

"If it does nothing else, it drives people's interest in the marina. Right now, the marina has not been utilized by the city or by the community for this wonderful jewel they talk about at the end of Harrison Avenue," Greg says.

It’s a jewel that is now under the spotlight and becoming more valuable each day.