Feasibility Study Cites Potential and Obstacles for Panama City - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Feasibility Study Cites Potential and Obstacles for Downtown Panama City

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To urban developer Jason Combs Panama City has unlimited possibilities.

"Tons of potential," he said. "Tons."

He and a team of developers were brought together by RGB President Dan Gilmore to do a feasibility study on the city.

"Well it took us a while to get going once the team was formed," said Combs. "But, I would say we've been working on it about two or three months."

The results are a 180 from what has been Downtown Panama City for the past several years. It calls for expanding parks, walkability, and the residential capacity of the downtown.

"Basically, I would just like to fill up downtown with a lot of vibrancy and that means bringing in residential space, get people living in downtown, make it feel lived it," said Combs. "Student population can help with that that's why we talked to the school if they were interested in bringing housing down here maybe even some facilities."

But, one of the overwhelming obstacles for the city isn't anything new. The vagrancy issue.

"Pretty much every person that owns land downtown or has a business downtown considers that an issue," said Combs. "And it's also an issue with anyone considering investing in downtown is they want to know that something is going to be done to fix that situation and make them more confident."

And the solution is the same tune too. Moving the mission. But, according to Combs, it may be preventing development and investors from acting.  

"It's great to come up with plans for what you want to do, but sit on them until this issue is solved." said Combs. "Unfortunately, I think that's what happening is a lot of people are sitting on plans until this issue is solved."

But the study may provide some answers. Combs suggests bringing in a residential and maybe even a younger crowd to mask and camouflage the issue. Adding more people, he says, will eliminate vagrants being the only foot traffic downtown. Providing what he calls the eyes on the street effect.

"You don't get that unless people are living in an area 24 hours a day to make you feel safe in a neighborhood," said Combs. "Plus it gives retailers a built in customer base."

And the derelict buildings may not be a sour note either.

"Not being full of development or being full of depreciating buildings that's actually an asset," said Combs. "Cause that means you can come in and fill it up fairly cheaply--hopefully."