The Historic Marie Hotel downtown is the oldest hotel in Panama City. One of the first, in fact, that provided it's residents with air cooled rooms.
Owner of the property Royal American Management Company is trying to move forward with a project that will fill the Hotel's vacancy. It's sat vacant for more than 40 years.
The project would offer low income housing partially funded by tax credits. The proposal is for low income senior housing which caters to those over the age of 62, according to the developer. But, John Lewis was met with strong opposition from the planning board Monday after some concerns from business owners and board members.
"I'm an attorney in the system," said Planning Board Member Waylon Graham. "I deal with criminal work all the time and most of these affordable housing projects are hot beds for criminality."
"They are on social security and make between $24,000 and $31,000 a year," said Lewis. "If that's a criminal element to the downtown of Panama City I would just have to differ with you."
"We would need an tremendous amount of police presence if we had another "low income senior development," said one resident from The Towers downtown.
"As it is if somebody cannot afford to live on their own and their subsidized in any way by the government they, therefore, have no extra income to spend anywhere," said Jim Hayden, a downtown business owner. "Be it downtown, at the mall, it doesn't matter."
The opinions and discussion were such that the issue was tabled by board members to provide more data from the developers. Lewis says a conceptual design for the project must be approved before plans can be carried out and financing made available by the Florida Housing Financing Corporation.