PANAMA CITY, Fla., Oct. 5, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In the two years since Category 5 Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle on October 10, 2018, the recovery and rebuilding programs driven by the City of Panama City and its citizens have achieved impressive results – even as a wide range of funding from federal and state programs, along with private sector development, are poised to accelerate in 2020 and beyond.
"From short-term disaster recovery assistance to the opportunity to fundamentally re-imagine our community for the next century, the challenges and opportunities of the last 24 months have been extraordinary," Mayor Greg Brudnicki said. "Without the unparalleled collaboration our community along with strong state and federal leaders, this progress and momentum simply would not have been possible."
To implement its Long-Term Recovery Plan, Panama City is leveraging a myriad of federal and state recovery programs to deliver results, including:
- More than $100 million to reimburse the cost to remove 40 years of debris in the 18 months following the storm; initiate the repair and replacement of the city's water, sewer, and other key and vital infrastructure; and repair the city's parks and playgrounds.
- Close to $40 million in state funding to establish the ReHouse Bay initiative to help Panama City and Bay County residents secure affordable housing. With direct financial assistance of up to $50,000 for down payments and closing costs, to repair and recovery aid, to help preventing foreclosure and short-term mortgage assistance, to short-term rental assistance, along with other options, these programs are key to the city's long-term growth and position as a desirable and affordable place to live. Launched in June 2020, ReHouse Bay, has already provided help to more than 300 applicants with hundreds more in the pipeline.
- More than 5,000 houses currently in development or under construction.
Given the length of time required to apply for, and then receive these funds, the Panama City government has regularly had to invest in these efforts directly and then apply for substantial reimbursements, which continue to be received.
In parallel, the City has seized the momentum to turn the massive rebuilding effort into a positive opportunity to reimagine Panama City for generations to come with a wide range of initiatives:
- In April 2019, the City embarked on a citizen-driven effort through its ReBuildPC program to shape anew the City's historic downtown and waterfront that brought hundreds of members of the community together through in-person participants via open microphone sessions, bus tours, surveys, and hands-on work with maps to draft this critical blueprint (and even more got involved via social media). Over the summer in 2020, similar design charrettes were held in three more of the City's historical neighborhoods.
- Proudly, there are 3,288 businesses operating in Panama City – 171 more than there were before the hurricane, with 436 businesses opening in just the last two years.
- From Suzuki Marina Technical Center; to Clark and Son Inc., a cabinet company located in Port Panama City's Intermodal Distribution Center; to Eastern Shipbuilding's expansion; businesses of all sizes are moving into Panama City.
- Inauguration by Verizon of its 5G service in Panama City, one of the first five cities in the U.S. to have this high speed connectivity.
- In August 2020, The St. Joe Company and Panama City announced a long-term land lease to bring a new hotel and restaurant to Panama City's downtown waterfront district. This agreement comes after nearly two years of planning, discussions and public meetings between St. Joe, the City and local residents. Under the terms of the lease, St. Joe will pay rent to the city based on the performance of the planned hotel and restaurant. St. Joe intends to fund the hotel and restaurant project without any City or public funding.
- A planned $55 million investment in the Port of Panama City will expand the facility and, with dredging, make it a deeper water port.
- Addition of new municipal parks and playgrounds, including a skate park and Ninja Warrior-style equipment.
- A new boat ramp at Carl Gray Park, with additional improvements on the way for 2021.
- Launch of the City's ReTreePC initiative that, to date, has planted or given away 5,100 new trees and is on track to meet its 2023 goal of planting 100,00.
"Along with my City Commission colleagues, our City Manager, and most important of all our residents and businesses, thank you for the incredible work you've done over the last two years," Mayor Brudnicki said. "And with the sturdy foundation of added financial resources, community engagement, growth across the business community, and expansion of housing opportunities, Panama City's ascendance as the premier city in the Florida Panhandle is assured."
SOURCE City of Panama City