Stage Set for Progress on Old Airport Property

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Owners of the old Panama City airport property say they're cautiously optimistic about the deal that could result in more than 3,000 new homes in the city.

When airport officials moved out in May 2010, they didn't leave much behind, then what they did leave, demolition crews leveled last year. Now the owners of the old airport property are ready to transform it into something special, but that will only happen if Panama City commissioners go along with the city's planning board and approve the St. Andrew Bay Land's development plan.

"When you look at a project of this size, 3,200 homes, 700,000 square feet of commercial, the establishment of a new school in the old terminal building, our crystal ball is not completely clear about what's going to happen as we roll out these new homes," said William Harrison, the attorney for St. Andrew Bay Land Company.

The plans are ambitious, but city planning board members are apparently confident in the project, unanimously approving it Monday night.

"That's pretty substantial. I mean, right now Panama City has roughly anywhere from 16,000 to to 17,000 units, and so when you look at adding 3,000 more to the mixture, you're talking about probably 25% of our housing stock will be added," explained planning director Mike Lane, last week.

Panama City commissioners take their initial vote on the plans Tuesday afternoon, with a final vote coming on May 28th. If all goes as expected, Harrison says the owners will being construction soon.

"We believe that probably November or December of this year we will begin construction of homes,” he said. “They will be available for sale in the spring of next year."

But that all depends on the city commission’s votes over the next two weeks.

"Hopefully we can celebrate the final approval from the city and we can put a shovel in the ground and start creating our dreams here."

Most of the new homes in the first phase of the project will be in the $200-$300,000 range. Plans call for about 275 homes in the first phase, Harrison says the work could add anywhere from 600 to 700 jobs locally.