Panama City continues to see growth

It's hard to believe it's been more than four years since tragedy struck the Panhandle with Hurricane Michael.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 8:20 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s hard to believe it’s been more than four years since tragedy struck the panhandle, with Category 5 Hurricane Michael wiping much of the area clean. But those in Panama City saw a silver lining in all the destruction. Many saw it as an opportunity to build new and better than before.

It’s been a slow climb to the top, but visible signs of progress are everywhere you turn.

“We are making our way up, climbing up the ladder,” Panama City Commissioner Billy Rader said. “So many things are coming back. So much new development is happening. And I like to call it responsible development. We’re excited about the future. It’s growing.”

Those developments checked off some boxes on what city leaders said was much needed.

“We’ve needed a hotel downtown we really have. St. Joe stepped up to the plate. And they said we’ll do it. They built a restaurant on the city marina that’s called the Harrison Restaurant,” Rader said.

There is still room to grow.

“More is to come on the city marina that’s not been decided yet,” Rader said.

Right across the marina, Downtown Panama City has a whole new look, with a slew of new places filling empty spots.

“I’m so proud of all the new businesses that are here and the young people that are stepping up to the plate and investing,” Rader said.

Similarly, the city is beginning to show its own investment in the north side of town.

“Expanding Panama City for the future for housing on Star Avenue, on John Pitts Road, for additional apartments, for new grocery stores,” Rader said.

With new businesses also come more people looking to call Panama City home.

“Every day I meet new people that have just moved here, relocated here, retired here,” Rader said.

Living options for those residents continue to expand, with Residences at SweetBay holding its grand opening Thursday. The complex is comprised of six buildings, with 360 apartment units in total.

As the area continues growing, those renters will have plenty to do.

“You could spend an entire afternoon and evening here and not do half the stuff you wanted to do,” Rader said.

Not only is there more development in the area, but there are also big industries moving in. One of the more recent ones is Suzuki Motors of America.