Landmark Downtown Panama City Buildings Could See Changes

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PANAMA CITY - Two downtown Panama City landmark buildings could soon be converted into apartments and condominiums. Owners of the historic Marie Hotel and Buccaneer Beach Motel have development requests submitted with the Panama City Planning Board.

Local business aren't sure they're on board with the plans. Jane Lindsey owns an antique shop in downtown Panama City. She's seen businesses come and go, including the Marie Hotel a few doors down.

"We've loved the Marie being here. We've used it at Christmas time for the Dickens of a Christmas and we've really appreciated the families letting us use it and set it up."

The hotel is a piece of downtown Panama City's history. Built in 1938, it was one of the first local businesses with air conditioning, but the building has been vacant for at least 30 years and has become something of an eyesore.

Past face lift plans have failed, but owner Royal American has a new plan, an 80 unit apartment building, with funding from the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. The apartment would be considered affordable housing.

The plans don't specify if Royal American will use the current building, or level it in-favor of a new structure.

"I probably will not be able to support that because having been on the planning board for years, I know what affordable housing can do to an area and that is not what we need in the downtown area," said Waylon Graham, a member of the Panama City Planning Board.

"We wish they could do something with the building as it is, but I don't know that we're looking for low income housing," said Lindsey.

Both Graham and Lindsey say they support the redevelopment plans for the Buccaneer Beach Motel. Owner Jason Counts plans to level the old motel rooms, built in 1960, and build a 12 story, 117 condominium unit.

Planning Board members are scheduled to discuss and decide on the plans Monday afternoon. If approved, they would go to city commissioners for their consideration.