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Secretary of State Announces Panama City Main Street as the Florida Main Street Community of the Month

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Florida Department of State
Kurt S. Browning
Secretary of State

For Immediate Release
November 03, 2008

Joan Jefferson

Secretary of State Announces Panama City Main Street as the Florida Main Street Community of the Month

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning announced today that Panama City’s Main Street Program administered by the Panama City Downtown Improvement Board has been designated as the Florida Main Street Community of the Month for November 2008. Panama City was among the first five Florida Main Street communities established in 1985. Programs are selected as a community of the month based on their active participation in the Florida Main Street Program.

“With supportive downtown cooperation, Panama City’s Main Street Program has invigorated public participation and entrepreneurship within the commercial district. The Panama City Downtown Improvement Board serves its community with pride and perseverance,” Secretary Browning stated.

Archaeological evidence dates Native American habitation of the peninsula between the St. Andrews Bay and the Gulf of Mexico back 12,000 years. The Spanish began exploring the area for a deepwater port in 1559. Incorporated in 1906, the area that became Panama City had, for decades, been a destination for settlers and tourists seeking the pleasant climes. Downtown was originally called “Park Resort,” then “Harrison” in the 1880s. Located on pristine St. Andrews Bay, Panama City became an important fishing village and port for lumber used in shipbuilding during World War II. With numerous restaurants, shops, and a thriving charter boat business, Panama City has remained a destination city for tourists for over 70 years. Today, Panama City is the county seat of Bay County and enjoys growing national recognition as a cultural hotspot on the Florida Panhandle.

However, such has not always been the case. In the early 1970s, downtown Panama City began unraveling as a center of community life when a large mall was constructed north of town, and nearby Panama City Beach grew in prominence as a tourist destination. The city responded quickly to these changing fortunes by establishing the Downtown Improvement Board in 1973. The work of the Main Street program and the Downtown Improvement Board has helped downtown Panama City rescue its rich cultural heritage and become a thriving 21st century city.

Since designation in1985, Panama City Main Street has seen a reinvestment of more than $43 million in downtown, as well as 278 new businesses and 727 new jobs. The renovated Martin Theater, a 1936 movie palace with a beautiful Art Deco façade that had been abandoned since 1978, was rehabilitated and re-opened in 1991 as a venue for live entertainment, community events, and conferences. Grants from the Florida Divisions of Historical Resources and Cultural Affairs supported improvements to this facility. The city hall/jail complex was rehabilitated by the Downtown Improvement Board, in cooperation with the Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida, and has helped establish Panama City as a cultural boomtown between Pensacola and Tallahassee.

Panama City Main Street stages several downtown events each year. Friday Fest attracts over 10,000 people each month. This year, 20,000 people participated in Oktoberfest, held on Harrison Avenue. The Krewe of St. Andrews Mardi Gras is one of the largest events in Bay County. The monthly Main Street After Hours event continues to be filled with fun and enjoyment for both merchants and patrons. The Downtown Farmers Markets, begun in April 2008, are thriving. “The community is thrilled to have them downtown,” comments Main Street program manager Deborah Jones.

Among other accomplishments and activities, the new Downtown Business Directory features over 20 new businesses in the commercial district. Panama City’s own Main Street Welcome Committee stays busy with many new businesses moving into the district. Main Street received a $19,800 grant from the Panama City Downtown CRA for projects like the Alleyway Cleanup and the Adopt-A-Pot program.

Florida Main Street is a technical assistance program of the Bureau of Historic Preservation, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. The Bureau conducts statewide programs aimed at identifying, evaluating, and preserving Florida’s historical resources. Main Street, with its emphasis on preservation, is an effective strategy for achieving these goals in Florida’s historic retail districts. Since 1985, the Bureau has offered manager training, consultant team visits, design and other technical assistance, as well as the benefit of experience gained by other Florida Main Street programs.

To learn more about Panama City Downtown Improvement Board, visit www.panamacitydowntowncom or contact Deborah Jones at 850.785.2554 or by e-mail at djones@pcdib.com.

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