Old Marie Hotel Not Becoming Affordable Senior Housing

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PANAMA CITY- The Panama City Planning Commission has rejected a local developer's second attempt to build affordable housing for seniors in the downtown area. Royal American present new plans Monday night to renovate the old Marie Hotel property.

Downtown Panama City business owners sent a clear message to City Board Members at the meeting that they don't want affordable senior housing in their neighborhood. "In short, it's an affordable housing project, which can be a very worthy goal, but the Downtown community does not believe that it's consistent with the revitalization of the Downtown area. It belongs in a different area other than the Downtown," Planning Board Member Waylon Graham said.

For that reason, board members axed plans to turn the old Marie Hotel on the corner of Harrison Avenue and 5th Street into low income housing. Harrison added, "We, as a board, will recommend to the City Commission tomorrow [Tuesday] night that they deny the issuance of the development order for that project."

This is the second time Royal American has presented the same basic plans, calling for a 5 story building, with commercial and retail on the first floor and 44 residential units on the top 4 floors.

A lot of business owners voiced opposition to the affordable housing aspect. Others are concern about a lack of parking.

"Seniors aren't going to park that far away from their home. They are going to want to park right there. So they are all going to park up and down Harrison, up and down Laverne, up and down 5th, up and down Magnolia, in the state attorney's parking lot. All those people won't have a place to go," Downtown business owner Julie Sombathy said.

Once again, board members encouraged Royal American to go a different direction, upscale residential units that will catered to younger people with disposable income.

The board also rejected Royal American's bid for another affordable senior living facility in the 1600 block of Florida Avenue. City Commissioners will take-up both proposals during Tuesday night's commission meeting.