PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – The City of Panama City held a public workshop Thursday to discuss potential locations for a new performing arts and events center.
The project is set to replace the original Marina Civic Center which was destroyed in Hurricane Michael. Locals packed the Panama City Center for the Arts Thursday evening to meet with city leaders and provide input on their ideal location for the events center. The city’s project team spoke about the process of selecting a location and discussed the factors that went into the decision. These included financial factors, technical factors such as noise and zoning, and project requirements such as open space and sustainability.
Ultimately, the team has narrowed it down to just a handful of locations.
“Of the 13 sites they now have narrowed it down to two sites. One being at the Panama City Marina, in the vicinity of where the current civic center is after we tear that down. And then the other one would be the parcel immediately behind the city hall,” Panama City Manager Mark McQueen said.
City officials stressed the importance of community involvement in this project. An extensive question and answer session took place, in which a handful of attendees expressed concerns with the potential size and location of the new project. Some argued that a venue of this scale would be better suited for a location outside of the city, where things like traffic would be less of an issue. Others believed the proposed locations were necessary to sustain the tourism industry downtown.
”From a logistics standpoint, if we built a new performing arts and events center out of downtown, we would have a repeat of when the mall was built in the seventies and we would have a vacuum sucking the business and the life out of downtown and we would be squishing the efforts that have been made out of the last five or ten years to revitalize the area,” Panama City Resident Ethan Brown said.
Officials hope to make a final decision on the location in August. They will then enter phase 2 of the process which includes selecting a company to design the new performing arts and events center. Then, construction will begin. If things go smoothly, McQueen said the entire process should take around four and a half years.
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