Panama City CRA board approves multiple improvement projects, grants to renovate city

Panama City's CRA board members approved several projects May 21, including a public restroom in McKenzie Park.
Panama City's CRA board members approved several projects May 21, including a public restroom in McKenzie Park.

PANAMA CITY — To help boost property values, a wave of improvement projects is slated to soon crash upon Panama City.

In a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting held May 21 at City Hall, board members approved a variety of partnerships, projects and grants to help revamp blighted areas of the community.

"We're trying to rethink the philosophy of the CRA and the future of the CRA, and that's a shift away from small project and small grant programs, and really focus on physical improvements, infrastructure improvements and quality of life improvements," said Grey Dodge, director of economic development and CRA for Panama City. "We really want to invest in the physical environment (with) projects that will hopefully increase the tax base."

Dodge noted the meeting featured a packed agenda. Some items approved by board members include:

  • A bid to build a restroom at McKenzie Park. This will mark the first public restroom downtown.

  • A renewed partnership with World Changers to renovate more homes in Glenwood. Through the partnership, the CRA pays for the needed supplies and materials, and then World Changers provides the labor to complete the renovations. This is the eighth year the city has partnered with the organization.

  • A $500,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for landscaping improvements along Beck Avenue in the St. Andrews area. This will need final approval by the Panama City Commission.

  • A $150,000 grant from the FDOT for landscaping improvements in Millville. This also will need final approval by the Panama City Commission.

  • A three-year, $40,000-a-year contract with a consulting company called Retail Strategies to help with retail economic development in the Downtown North CRA district. It will focus on two areas: the Panama City Mall and the intersection of 15th Street and Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

According to the city, there are four CRA districts within the city's limits. They are the downtown district, created in 1984; the St. Andrews district, created in 1989; the Downtown North district, created in 1993; and the Millville district, created in 2004.

According to the website, money generated by property tax growth within the districts is used to fund projects in these areas.

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The website also states that "each district plan is designed to make targeted improvements to remove blighted conditions, improve infrastructure, provide better safety, transform building appearances and work on attracting more investment opportunities."

"The CRAs were created through the state as a tool to help eliminate slum and blight," Dodge said. "To even get a CRA designated, you have to (show) these conditions ... and we had that for a long time between the four CRAs. (CRAs) add some flexibility and additional funding to try and tackle those slum and blight issues.

"This is just another tool in the toolbox of the city to help see positive change and growth, and improve our neighborhoods for all of our residents."

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Panama City CRA board approves multiple improvement projects, grants