CRA Says Marina Redevelopment Project 'On Schedule' - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

CRA Says Marina Redevelopment Project 'On Schedule'

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Panama City, Fla. -

A splash pad, an amphitheater, and a lighthouse are just some of the planned features for the upgraded Panama City Marina. Now, we're a getting a dynamic 3D look at a project many say will transform the downtown area.

A good bit of the attention has focused on the proposed lighthouse. It's a towering achievement for Pat Sabiston and her supporters with Panama City Lighthouse Project Inc.

"Something that is so much bigger and so much grander than any of us ever, ever thought it could be," Sabiston said.

She says it's hard to believe a lighthouse that started out a decade ago by the Rotary club as a way to honor local maritime families has grown to be that and more.

"It's going to brand Panama City," Sabiston said. We really don't have anything right now that brands us to the state or to the nation or to the world."

Sabiston says the lighthouse will stand at 65 ft. tall and cost about $780,000. Between admission into the lighthouse and events, she says it could pay for itself within a year. She says the lighthouse will help the downtown area unlock it's potential.

"It's an untapped resource of fun things to do, and this will just make it even more fun," Sabiston said.

The lighthouse will be located the corner of the marina, in the space that the ice machine currently occupies. It's just part of the overall marina project that will kick into high gear next year.

Community Redevelopment Agency director William Whitson is leading the charge. As he checked off his to do list on Thursday, he says the project is on schedule. Design plans will be finalized in early January, and the city is already working with banks on loans.

"We're looking at a groundbreaking in March with construction starting in April," Whitson said.

This 3D look courtesy of the CRA (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vDYqgSJAzpo) shows off the finer points of the $5.6 million effort.

"The splash pad, the glass community building, the amphitheater...it should be quite a project," Whitson said.

Whitson says after much public input on the project, they're trying to strike a balance.

"It's going to add elements, then balance the preservation of things that are already good about the marina," Whitson said. "You want to keep the good, you want to keep the things that are working, and then add to them. That's what we think this project will do."

As for the lighthouse, the city is paying 80 percent of the cost. Sabiston and Lighthouse Project Inc. 20 percent. They're set to make a good faith contribution of 50,000, and an overall contribution of $250,000 over the 5 years of the project. 

The group is raising money for their portion of the project by selling bricks, pavers, and cornerstones that will be placed at the lighthouse.

Whitson says with the city and citizens coming together to fund the lighthouse, it will belong to everyone.

"It'll be an icon, it's a real statement piece for us," Whitson said.

"This will spread a light of hope to our downtown," Sabiston said.

Whitson says they are looking to go after BP funds to help with not only the lighthouse, but the overall marina project. To find out more info, including how you can have your name etched in one of the pavers or bricks at the lighthouse visit http://www.panamacitylighthouse.com/ 

To read more about the overall marina project, visit http://www.pcgov.org/residents/panama-city-community-redevelopment-agency-cra