Citizens tour Downtown Panama City as part of city's initiative to rebuild the area

DOWNTOWN PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Monday marked the start of a week filled with events for Panama City citizens to make their voices heard. Panama City is using a devastating event to improve the downtown area.

Residents of Panama City gathered around a destroyed Family Dollar to talk about what should replace the dilapidated building. (WJHG/WECP)

City Manager Mark McQueen said, "Hurricane Michael was a terrible, terrible event, it so tragically impacted our area, but the silver lining in it, and the one thing that can come from that, is that we can rebuild ourselves and we can rebuild ourselves bigger, better, and stronger."

Community members piled into school buses Monday morning and rode around Downtown Panama City and talked about their ideas for the area.

Lesley Fontaine, a local, said, "I want to see wider sidewalks Downtown, I want to see street trees, I want a canopy put back Downtown."

City officials say they hope events like this will get citizens involved in the rebuilding process.

"We want to hear our citizens' ideas so that we can put the plans in place and resource those plans to rebuild our city," said McQueen.

Most importantly, they want the public to know their voices matters.

"This is our town, collectively this is our town, and we all have a voice in this and we all have an interest in what takes place in our city," said McQueen.

Residents say they're grateful for the chance to make a difference in their town.

"They are wanting public input, what do we want, and that to me is the most important part of all of it," said Fontaine.

And while the storm tore a lot of the community apart, efforts like this are helping to bring it back together.

For the full list of events to make your ideas known this week click here.

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