Every since The News Herald ran an article stating that the CRA progress will slow due to the economic downturn, we’ve been fielding a seemingly endless stream of questions. Concerned residents, condo owners and vacationers are worried that the existing CRA construction would halt, leaving gaping holes in road-work progress and landmark eyesores all over east Panama City Beach. This article should offer some clarification along with a warm cup of good news.
The existing CRA is under construction, on time and scheduled for completion by January 2012.
The existing project consists of South Thomas Drive (the road between Boardwalk and Laketown Wharf) and a small portion of Front Beach Road (from Laketown Wharf to the big intersection to the immediate east).
In a meeting this afternoon with the CRA Director, Mario Gisbert, he assured me that the all existing and under construction projects would continue until completion. So, no doom and gloom, no eye sores, only beautiful paver walkways, underground utilities and sweet landscaping is on the horizon for the South Thomas Drive area. Oh, and need I mention the greatly widened (and much needed, too) roadway.
So, what’s this economic downturn chatter that led up to all the questions?
Well, it’s no secret, we are experiencing an economic downturn. And, the CRA is funded through property taxes – property taxes are down, and have been trending that way for the last three years. As for funding specifically for the CRA, their revenue peaked in 2008 bringing in $10 million. In 2009 their revenue was down 20%, to $8 million. And last year (2010 ), they brought in $7.2, which is only 10% down indicating a stabilization trend.
What all this means is that starting future projects could come slow. Since revenue is down, funding could be more difficult. The next portion of the project is the section of Front Beach Road from Laketown Wharf to R. Jackson Blvd. In the tradition of past projects, they’ve historically not started on the next major project much before finishing the current project. And, typically in this stage of the “planning-the-next-project” game, they would still be seeking funding anyway. So, in retrospect, at this point, there still aren’t really any setbacks.
What’s paid for already.
In the beginning of the CRA development, the City of Panama City Beach obtained funds through a bond to the tune of $54 million. This paid for the plans of all the projects through the Front Beach Road to R. Jackson section and the construction of R. Jackson, Churchwell, and South Thomas Drive. The plan all along was to secure additional funding as the entire CRA project rolled on. And that’s what they are in the process of doing.
There are a variety of grants and other funding opportunities the city is methodically considering and they are hoping realistically to get the next CRA project up and running by the first part of 2012.
Note: the CRA is not affiliated with the Grand Lagoon Bridge project – two separate things.Print Story