Front Beach Road CRA Updates in Panama City Beach

by September 29, 2007 • 13 comments

This past week, I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Ben Faust, the Vice President of DRMP, the consultant firm that is handling all aspects of the Front Beach Road CRA or Community Redevelopment Area.  The goal of the CRA is to upgrade the infrastructure and beautify our area using monies leveraged from the increased development over the last several years. 

Currently there are two projects underway with several more on the board to begin soon.  The first to be started was the Churchwell Drive project.  The project began in April and is expected to be completed in the summer of 2008, although I was told that they are ahead of schedule.  This particular project was started first, not because of priority, but because the state had funds for the bridge replacement now.  Rather than wait and risk those funds being reallocated elsewhere, the city agreed to begin the project first.  Project details:

  • Widen existing roadway
  • Relocate the overhead utilities underground
  • Build a parking area for the nearby beach access point – 127 spaces
  • Build sidewalks and bike lanes
  • Replace old bridge (paid for by FDOT)
  • Landscaping

The Beckrich Road project began at the beginning of September with an estimated completion time of 22 months, set to end summer of 2009.  Project details:

  • All overhead utilities relocated underground
  • Roadway widened to four lanes
  • Construction of bike lanes and sidewalks
  • Center landscaped median
  • Landscaping on either side of the roadway

Those of you that are familiar with Beckrich know that this will be a huge improvement over the existing two lane traffic ridden roadway. 

One of the cool things about the CRA, is that every project involves the relocating of all overhead utilities underground.  Many don’t realize this, but this comes at an extraordinary cost and logistical preparation.  Involved is not just moving, but rebuilding and then switching so as not to interrupt service.  Coming from Plano, TX, I was not used to seeing power lines everywhere, but here, they are a constant interruption of the beautiful views to be had all along our beaches.  Underground utilities will add big time value to our area and make the Front Beach Road experience all the more enjoyable. 

All along Front Beach Road, many of the roadways will have landscaped center medians, dedicated bike lanes, sidewalks, street lighting and a dedicated tram lane on both sides. 

CRA Information - Image at street level of new roadway on Panama City Beach

CRA Information - Image as looking from above of a typical streetscapeAll along Front Beach Road, there will be small outsets for the trams to pull over and pick up passengers.  This is what a typical layout will look like in the tram-stop areas. 

The next project on the drawing board will be the north Thomas Drive area.  The north Thomas Drive area is defined as the area from the intersection of Front Beach Road, Middle Beach Road, and Thomas Drive (where the Ripley’s Believe it or Not ship is) to the intersection of Thomas Drive and Joan Avenue (where Wendy’s is).  Currently this is two lanes and is considered a “restricted roadway” and will be four-laned as part of the CRA. 

Next will come the Front Beach Road area from Walmart to Beckrich Road, and then the south Thomas Drive area. The south Thomas Drive area consists of the roadway from the Circle K (in between The Shores of Panama and Laketown Wharf) past Boardwalk to the stop-sign just before Club LaVela. 

Currently there is a proposed tram station to go in on the north Thomas Drive roadway, across from Ripley’s.  The land has been aquired, but funding will not be coming from the north Thomas Drive CRA allotment, nor has the station been approved with finalized plans.  There are currently conceptual ideas on the drawing board with more definitive information to come out in the next 6 to 8 weeks.

There is actually quite a bit of information at

Also, below is a link to the PowerPoint presentation given at the Beach Chamber Event a couple of months ago, including project specific details with imagery and financial facts.  Also, there is a link to the Project Design Manual that includes specifics on the street-scape design with pictures of materials to be used and street design concepts.

Design Manual


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1 Mikie October 1, 2007 at 4:24 pm

This is all great, but it is still just another waste of Bay County Tax payers money. The county & city of PCB needs to get together on improving utilities and city works on PCB first. Before they go building all this foo-foo landscaped road beautifying crap. We need to pave evry street on PCB and put all utilities under ground. This type of project will beautify PCB without all the need for foo-foo!!!!! Thier plan pretties up one or two streets for how much? 22Million plus..??????? What!!! Where are the real brains in Bay County? I think they have left!


2 Mikie October 1, 2007 at 4:26 pm

Sorry for grammer problems, but this just makes me sick!!


3 Richard October 1, 2007 at 5:05 pm

I agree. Pave the streets, complete the utilities. Complete Pier Park, after all what good is it if we still shut down the city for winter. We need a viable year-round economy, with a solid infrastructure.


4 Johnothan Jones October 2, 2007 at 3:39 am

I disagree with the previous comments. This is just the beginning of much needed improvements for the beach infrustructure. Beckrich and Churchwell are just the beginning of the 4 laning of the cross streets connecting Front Beach to Back Beach. Alf Coleman, Clara, Hills and Powell Adams will be in line for the same expansions and improvements.

Also, in the 7 years I’ve lived here this is the first honest effort I’ve seen any of the county/city governments actually using tax dollars to improve the infrastructure in a consertive effort. So often things continue to procrastinate to the point anything that is done is years behind.

Now if we can just get the county/city governemtns to work together for a change and 4-lane Hwy 390, Transmitter, East Ave and Baldwin Rd. then we might be able to move into the 21st Century.


5 g October 2, 2007 at 7:59 am

I agree with improving infrastructure, however, how about some balance. All the tourists will love all the pretty things coming as
will many who live here full time to be sure, but shouldn’t we use some of this “extra” money to keep the water bills and other bills reasonable for the people who do live here all year?
Seems a bit unreasonable to have to eat huge increases in utilities, taxes etc. while we spend millions.


6 Linda October 2, 2007 at 11:36 am

All the “foo-foo” is what brings tourists here to rent and buy the new condos which are paying all the new tax dollars. These second homes and rentals do not enjoy a HO exemption and pay full boat. As the values increase, the tax dollars which ultimately benefit the whole area go up.


7 Lance October 2, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Where is our revenue generated from? Possibly property tax $s and sales tax $s? Who pays the majority of these $s? Look that # up. I’d bet it’s the tourists and beach property owners.

Don’t you think it’d be smart to improve the areas that support the businesses by which the majority of the county’s residents make their livings? Look at Orlando…do you think they bite hand that feeds them…tourism.

I believe in smart, controlled growth. I was glad to see that PCB brought in an urban planner. That’s smart. Let’s stop with the negativity and start working together to do things right and well for the benefit of the residents…and the tourists.


8 Johnothan Jones October 2, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Some of the issues concerning taxes and impact fees would significantly decrease and improve for a vast majority if 2 major things would happen for this county. Firstly, the property appraiser’s office needs a huge overhaul concerning appraiser’s actually getting out in the field and physically inspecting properties and addresses. I know from personal experience that on numerous occasions I have discovered residential and commercial properties still listed as vacant land, which of course casts a huge inaccuracy of properly being accessed.

Secondly, this hits home 100% with a previous article Jason posted here on PCBDaily, which is the 100% need for a consolidated county/city based governement. This would completely streamline the tax base, planning & zoning departments and guidlines along with countless other public services.

I would encourage anyone to look into either or both of these situations and you’ll see these are viable realistic things that would impact our area as a whole and better all of us in the long run!


9 Jason October 2, 2007 at 4:46 pm

Paving all the streets and putting all utilities underground in PCB is just not feasible. go to any major city and tell me every inch of their utilities are underground, they’re not. This is expensive, and it just isn’t going to happen. However, what will happen is the relocating of underground utilities and other infrastructure upgrades along major corridors. This is what makes sense and is in line with many other successful urban plans. The bottom line is, sure, we need to take care of our residents, but the bread and butter for this community is the tourism industry. Maybe in a few years when the airport is done and larger corporations see benefit in moving operations here bringing in more industry then the county revenue source may change, but right now, the revenue source is the tourism industry, and this needs to be taken care of. We need to catch up with other tourist based markets and upgrade our infrastructure and beautify our area.


10 Richard October 2, 2007 at 5:24 pm

I don’t think anyone is against making the area attractive to tourist. After all, you are all correct that the majority of our income comes from tourism. I am just asking for balance. We are still a community that is very seasonal. The trams, widened streets, and beach access will be of very little use October through mid-March. We need to do both; attract tourist dollars, and work toward a viable 12 month a year economy.


11 Mikie October 4, 2007 at 12:25 pm

I think you are all wrong on my ideas. Sure we have to make the area nice looking for the tourists. However, I work with the bulk of these tourists every season, and the comments I hear justify my suggestions to fix the city before the foo-foo. The folks that visit all seem to be turned off by the all of the visible power lines & power cuts during light storm bursts. This area has too many power related problems due to exposed infrastructure. The tourists comment on this daily, as well as asking why we still have un-paved roads? Why do we have so many run-down streets? Destin is very nice and PCB looks rundown? This is what they say…then I ask, “What would you suggest we do?”. The typical response is to put utilities underground while you re-surface all remaining roads on the beach. Everything else can wait! Truthfully, who would use a walkway/sidewalks on Beckrich between Middle & Back Beach Rds?? The truth is, not enought to warrent the cost. 4 lanes is also ridiculous due to the traffic swing that will direct from the Beckrich area to Pier Park next year. The Hwy 79 block between Back & Front Beach Rd is the one that needs a face lift, come on! This is the area of PCB that will need this money…not Beckrich & alf Colman!! The cost of these CRA improvments is just to much for what we are getting and take forever. I’m all for repairing and extending the city Pier, expanding mass transit, re-nourishing the beach, and increasing the amount of new event attractions for this area during the tourist season. I am against these worthless CRA improvements that will take forever, and cost miilions of tax payer dollars. With the introduction of these proposed upgrades gives evidence to the painfully brainless spending of the local lawmakers. It reminds me of Washington DC? Hello! We need to improve our area for the folks that pay taxes and live here first. If there is anyone out there who seriously believes these specific CRA improvements are the best choices for our money? You need to come forward into this debate. I really think you will re-consider your opinion once you sit and really think about this whole thing. Remember, this city and the infrastructure will continue to suffer as long as taxes dollars are wasted on crap like improving a block of road nobody even notices!


12 Jim October 7, 2007 at 5:16 pm

In reference to comment number 11: Those of you who believe that lightning and outage problems will go away by placing power lines underground, are mistaken. Lightning will be ‘more’ likely to damage underground conductors because of their proximity to ground; and the problem will be hidden 4 feet underground where no one can see the broken or damaged conductor. Outages will be extended because of the special equipment that is required to find these faults. Outages will also increase. Look around you at all of the equipment that is digging the earth around construction sites. They dig into underground cable, water lines, sewer lines, etc. on a daily basis.


13 Bob October 11, 2007 at 7:24 pm

I would like to echo the comments of #7. Very well said! The CRA projets are long over due, and I have to believe that the CRA leadership is in the best postion to decide what happens when based on funding oppoetunities and the very complex chess game of rebuilding and beautifying an operating city. If I have any concern it is signage control. It was great seeing King Neptune go away, but how did the big billboard sign get approved in that area? I find it hard to believe that fits PCB’s streetscape vision. Can someone address the future signage plans for PCB?