City leaders are planning for Panama City’s future

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 6:38 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Panama City is still recovering after Hurricane Michael nearly five years ago. County commissioners still have several major renovation projects, but with only so much money, now, they’re having to decide which ones to prioritize.

The city has four projects that are a main concern, all were damaged by Hurricane Michael.

“Really figure out the most important projects for us to complete and how are we going to tie funding,” said Jenna Haligas, a city commissioner.

The commission had a lot of discussion on Tuesday. The big factors they were looking at were affordability and time.

“The MLK and Martin Theatre we could be out to bid in the next month to two months max. We are ready to go on that we are just right out the door,” said Haligas.

“Hopefully we start on some groundbreakings on both of those,” said Janice Lucas, a city commissioner.

The commissioners still have to officially vote and decide how they will cover the funding gap.

Martin Theatre is estimated to cost around 31 million dollars with nearly 14 million coming from FEMA.

The MLK Rec Center is estimated to cost just over 20 million dollars with more than 13 million coming from FEMA.

“We needed to figure out to today how can we do that, how can we do these projects without any debt basically,” said Haligas.

They still have not decided on how they will fund both, however, they made a commitment Tuesday to move forward with these two projects.

“The theatre gives us hope to return to downtown for plays and for other events,” said Lucas.

We are told it will be the city’s first theatre to re-open after being hit hard by Hurricane Michael.

The Cat 5 hurricane also damaged the MLK Rec Center, and they’re looking at making it new again.

“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art rec center. It is very needed in the community so we can get our kids into leagues and into classes and they will have state-of-the-art equipment to work with,” said Lucas.

The MLK Rec Center qualifies for a program based on where it is located.

“With MLK it is [an] ideal project for the new market tax credit which will bring us about 4 million dollars,” said Lucas.

The other projects discussed are the Panama City Marina and the St. Andrews Marina.

“Huge projects that will best be accomplished by partnering with others in industry and in out of community.” said Lucas.

They briefly talked about the Marina Civic Center, but its future is still unknown. However, they will need to make a decision soon at their next meetings.

The city has the bid to demolish the Marina Civic Center, however, that expires in November.

That leaves them with two choices: tear down the center or leave it. They will have to accept or reject the bid.