One of Panama City's oldest and largest churches is offering to swap land with the city.
The First United Methodist Church wants to build a community center adjacent to the worship center where Palo Alto Avenue now runs. The church wants the city to close the street in exchange for a piece of property several blocks away.
The church has plans for a beautiful new $4 million Family Life Center to be built as close as possible to the church's sanctuary. There's one problem.
One of the city's oldest streets, Palo Alto Avenue, runs through the middle of those plans. Church officials are worried about their members crossing the sometimes busy street, so their proposing a land swap with the city.
The church thinks it's a fair trade to exchange a piece of corner property for the strip of Palo Alto. But Monday, Panama City Planning Board members voted 4-1 against abandoning the portion of Palo Alto.
Walter Ford is a member of the Panama City Planning Board and said, “I offered the motion denied the request to close Palo Alto because there are too many variables that have to be worked out. You can't just close a street and later say 'this might work or this might work.’”
Church officials have even offered to pay to move the Palo Alto intersection to the corner of Business 98 and merge with Mercedes Ave.
Panama City Fire Chief Jerry Prater says doing away with the sharp turn that's there now the new intersection could assist in fire rescue.
“It would allow the people ion the neighborhood to go east west and it would allow a better turn for us going down in the section as well.”
David Warren is the church’s senior minister and said, “We want to be an asset to the community because the building that we are building will be for all ages and races.”
The planning board's decision will serve as a recommendation to the city commission when it address the issue next week. If the trade falls through, church officials say they'll redesign their plan.
Panama City commissioners will have the final say at the August 24 commission meeting.