New Publix to Open in 6 months on Back Beach Road

_mg_6416_2wtmkWith vertical up and sheetrock going in, the new Publix on Back Beach Road across from Home Depot in Panama City Beach will be complete by April and open by May.

Located at the intersection of Beckrich and Back Beach Roads, the new Publix will replace the old one currently located at Middle Beach Road and Beckrich where Sonic and PostNet are located.  My sources tell me that they will lease out that commercial space as soon as it is vacated.

_mg_6416_2wtmkThe design and architecture will be just like that seen at the other new Publix on Thomas Drive at Magnolia Beach Road, going into Bay Point.  Featuring all new equipment, the employees are excited about the move.

In addition to a new Publix, this particular parcel will sprout an Office Depot as well as a Dunkin Donuts, finally.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Ultra-Modern Design comes to Laguna Beach

_mg_6324_2wtmkAs I pull into the driveway, I’m greeted by the charm of old-style cottage and contemporary modern blended together in this new world Laguna Beach Cottage. Covering the driveway and sidewalk areas are Florida native pebbles and small rocks that provide an aesthetically pleasing affordable alternative to concrete.  “I’m a sucker for modern, utilitarian architecture and loved the charm of Laguna Beach,” said David Reich, owner and designer of the newest home in Laguna Beach on the west end of Panama City Beach.

_mg_6243_2wtmkThe front door and accompanying windows, in addition to the back door and accompanying windows can all be covered by a sliding corrugated aluminum door.  “The whole house is hurricane proof,” said Reich, “all the windows are impact resistant, and the front and back of the house with the most windows can be easily covered.”

The doors are of his design.  He was trying to think of an easy solution to protect the windows in the event of a hurricane or tropical storm with out having to round the house bolting on planks or special and expensive shutters.  They have rollers on the bottom and glide on sliders that secure the door on the top.  On each side, there is a slide-bolt to keep it in place as the wind picks up.

_mg_6299_2wtmkThat same corrugated aluminum paneling adorns various other parts of the exterior finish.

Reich’s family has deep roots in Laguna Beach.  Having owned property in that area for years, his wife has ties to Laguna Beach from 1938.  This modern cottage is built on a ‘half-lot’ sized 50×65.

For years he had wanted to build something on this lot, and finally, in July 2007, his dream had become a reality with the permits being approved.

_mg_6294_2wtmkHe’d always wanted something modern, utilitarian, efficient and awesome looking.  The end result is a modern cottage constructed of Transconsteel planks with bare concrete floor, exposed wood cabinets, high ceilings, and very tall walls.

“The whole house is an igloo,” said Reich.  “Insuring was odd at first because the house is so resistant to everything the agent we were working with almost didn’t know how to handle it, our premium ended up being less than $750 a year.”  The house is hurricane, mold and termite proof with the only wood being in the trim work.

_mg_6260_2wtmkThe Transconsteel planks consist of a steel frame filled with polystyrene foam.  The outside is covered in stucco and the inside is sheet-rocked. The whole house was dried in in a week with the help of 5 guys and is held together with over 26,000 stainless steel screws.

Riech’s goal, along with his wife’s was to create an ultra modern look, hanging track halogens and a ceiling fan from an exposed steel beam in the main living area accented by an exposed a/c and heating duct.

_mg_6267_2wtmkAll the furnishings were purchased from IKEA.  “I fit everything in this house in the back of my suburban and drove straight from Atlanta.”

The whole house, including everything down to the furnishings including the pool but not the land cost $170 per square foot to build.  The energy bills are usually less than $100 and is perfect for beach-goers and loungers alike.

_mg_6314_2wtmkThe wade pool in the back is lit and accompanied by modern landscaping, flat surfaces, an outside shower and a chain to guide roof run-off water into a hammered finish, rock-filled pot.

The whole house was built with efficiency in mind.  The washer/dryer unit is located outside the heated and cooled space so as to iliminate heat disapation inside and keep inside cool.

for more background and pictures visit the Casa de Maraposa Blog.

First Ever New Year's Beach Ball Drop in Panama City Beach

Celebrate the start of 2009 with a bounce and a bang at the New Year’s Eve “Beach Ball Drop” in Panama City Beach, Fla.  Presented by Margaritaville and hosted by Pier Park, this first annual event rings in the New Year with live entertainment and fun activities for the whole family, including a spectacular fireworks display, amidst dazzling beaches and holiday lights.

Creating its own beachside version of Times Square, Panama City Beach will close the roads of Pier Park for pedestrian traffic only and host a street festival with live music, food, festivities and more.  To mark the start of the New Year, a larger-than-life illuminated beach ball will slowly descend from a 120 ft. tower, 12 stories high, at the stroke of midnight.

“The Beach Ball Drop is the first of what promises to become an annual tradition at Pier Park, Northwest Florida’s largest shopping, dining and entertainment venue,” remarks Felicia Cook, Director of Mall Marketing for Simon Property Group. “We are thrilled to play host to this one-of-a-kind New Year’s Eve event and look forward to ringing in the New Year in Panama City Beach.”

Festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with exciting activities for the entire family including live music, food, bounce houses, stilt walkers and face painters and a Florida Lottery “Prize Zone.”  The New Year’s Eve countdown celebration starts at 9:00 p.m. with more live entertainment, leading up to the awaited Beach Ball Drop at midnight.  The evening will culminate with a spectacular fireworks show over the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

“The New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop provides the perfect opportunity to visit Panama City Beach and become a part of history,” states Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.  “We welcome locals and visitors alike to join us for a weekend of cheer and celebration as we kick-off 2009 in the world’s most beautiful beach destination.”

Help a Family for Christmas

Please come out to Shorehouse Furniture Saturday to meet Burnie Thompson, Jason Lent and myself and donate $5, $50, $1,000, or whatever you can to help get Marissa Amora’s 4 brothers new beds.  Every penny donated will be matched dollar for dollar by Shorehouse Furniture.

Update 8:50am – I just received word that Marissa will be there as well, come out and meet her!

The beds they are in are barely sleepable.  Help a family this Christmas.

Anything over and above the amount that is needed to purchase the beds will go to other things the family needs.

pcbdaily.com has committed $200 and I’ll drop the check off today or tomorrow.

Again, come out to Shorehouse Furniture anytime today or between 10 and noon Saturday to meet any of us and donate anything you can to help these great kids get into new beds.

Taco Casa and Gyro Cafe Open on the Beach

Locally owned restaurants Gyro Cafe & Taco Casa have opened two new locations on Panama City Beach. Located at the Coastal Palms Village across from the Navy Base entrance, these two new locations bring the English Enterprise family of restaurants up to six.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said owner Geoff English. “After successful opening of the 2nd Taco Casa location on 23rd Street in late 2007, we knew that Panama City Beach was the next logical step.”

The new beach locations are situated side-by-side just as the locations in the 23rd Street Wal-Mart Plaza.

“We’re keeping the same popular menus and prices at each store,” said English. “Taco Casa’s mexican menu is best known for its sanchiladas and chili con queso, while Gyro Cafe’s greek-inspired cuisine has stand-outs with its gyro sandwiches and hummus.”

Locations: 944, 948 Thomas Drive (Coastal Palms Village), Panama City Beach:
Phone numbers: Taco Casa-249-0112; Gyro Café-249-0448

We ate at Gyro Cafe a couple weeks ago and loved it.

Bay County TDC Approves Bed Tax Increase

In a meeting that ended in great applause, the Bay County Tourist Development Council unanimously voted to approve the increase in bed tax collections from 3% to 5%.  With public comment from pillars of the Panama City Beach community, such as Charlie Hilton, Julian Bennett, Julie Hilton and Joe Tannehill, good arguments were made for and against the increase with a unified concern for our area.

The motion to approve suggested that one penny go towards marketing, including helping attract a low-cost carrier.  Half of the second new cent would go to beach cleaning, safety awareness and signage throughout the beach.  The second half of the second new cent will go to capital projects such as new ball fields at Frank Brown Park or the proposed improvements to Aaron Bessant Park in Pier Park.

“I think we should delay, not defeat the 5th cent increase,” Bennett Sr. said discussing that we need to put together a comprehensive plan as to how the 5th sent will be spent.

“We need to work on collecting what we have,” said Julie Hilton, “before we try and get more.”

Joe Tannehill, chairman of the Airport Authority board was the first to comment during the public comment portion of the meeting.  He voiced his support of the bed tax increase and assured the board and confirmed to the board and the audience that the airport was ahead of schedule and under budget.  He stressed that essential to the area’s success was the success of the airport and essential to the airport’s success was getting the word out to the rest of the country that we are open for business.

He emphasized that a growing number of travelers to our area will be from out of the country, but we need marketing dollars to underscore that effort. He also confirmed discussions with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Peter Yesawich from YPartnership presented on why we need to increase our bed tax stressing that any increase had no direct impact on his firm or his firm’s relationship with the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.

His presentation explained that we had advertising budgets that were 1/2 and 1/3 of that of our direct competitors.  He also stressed that we needed to have a vehicle in place to support the new airport and any low-cost airline that may come into our area.  He mentioned that these are perilous times for the airline industry and that any airline would find great comfort knowing they had some financial support here in Panama City Beach.  His presentation explicated the importance of having a harmonious allocation of marketing dollars and capital improvement dollars.

Yesawich said that our future visitors are not “legacy visitors” or those returning to our area, but new visitors.  He explained that we need to expand our marketing reach to outside our traditional market and that we need a broader visitor base.

Buddy Wilkes, owner of Shipwreck Island Waterpark underscored this point in saying that we’ve lost our legacy visitors already and that we must focus on new customers.

There has been much discussion elsewhere and here on pcbdaily that we need to work harder to collect the rent collectors that aren’t paying instead of trying to raise the tax.  I agree and disagree with this.

We need to change our collection process and the way it is enforced.  Actually, that is a false statement.  We need to enforce the bed tax collection as right now, it is not being enforced at all.  What happens to those that do not collect?  Nothing.  Period.  So, how do they figure out who is collecting rent, but not paying the bed tax?  I don’t know, but there are smart people than me that can figure this all out, and it needs to happen, NOW.

Bill Kinsall, Bay County Clerk-elect reassured the board and audience during the public comment section that he would do everything in his power to make their collection process and research to who isn’t paying more efficient.  He said the whole process will be under scrutiny and they will figure out how to fix the system.

Julie Hilton mentioned that she thought that we may be seeing 50% of the total possible bed tax revenue due to people not paying and that an increase may push more to not pay.  I cannot speculate on the number, but I totally agree with her in that the number is probably larger than we think.  We need to figure out a way to determine this.  I also think we need to enable some sort of enforced consequence to be imposed on those that do not pay.

Yes, we need a very comprehensive plan to exactly how we’ll spend each penny of the increase, yes we need to figure out how to collect from who isn’t paying right now, but we also need more money to be sure we are ready to spread the word about Panama City Beach to the world when the new airport comes online.  We also need to be sure we continue to improve our area at the same rate our competition is improving their areas, or we will become a has-been.

The argument that if we increase our rates that we’ll lose tourists just isn’t valid.  An increase of 2% will yeild an increase in room rates of $20 for a week’s stay at $1000.  Is someone going to be deterred by this?  No.  Will they even know about the change?  No.  Tourists don’t ask what tax rate they are paying and they aren’t going to change their mind for a measly 2%.

Good job TDC, Bay County Commissioners, please take heed, we need this for our area.

Related:  Bed Tax Increase Set in Motion

Monologue of a Laketown Wharf Buyer

If you are in the market for furniture, I have some for sale.  Actually, it’s a credit at Resort Interiors/Resort Ready Rooms.  I own $17,432.00 worth of furniture, accessories, custom window treatments, bedspreads and shower curtains.  However, I have never seen it (except in the store) nor do I have a condo to put it in!

You see, I’m one of the Laketown Wharf contract owners who decided, for us, the better financial decision would be to pay the developer an additional 5%, on top of the 10% we had put down, to get out of the contract rather than close.  We made that decision in July and signed the official termination agreement mid-August.  Now we have this furniture we do not need so the folks at Resort Interiors/Resort Ready Rooms are allowing me to transfer the majority of my credit (the custom window treatments, etc. are not returnable) to someone else who needs furniture!

You may be wondering why I bought furniture before closing on my condo.  I certainly wish I hadn’t.  If you want to read my condo story, then read on.  I bet many of you can relate :(.  If you just want to learn more about the furniture credit details, check out my craigslist ad.

History:
I’ve wanted a place at the beach for a long time.  I was never super serious, but in 2004, when the market was going crazy, I thought if we didn’t act soon, we’d never be able to afford a place at the beach so we jumped into the Real Estate frenzy by securing a contract at Laketown Wharf.

I had passed up a pre-construction opportunity in St. Pete Beach in 1998 that I regretted.  So, by golly, I wasn’t going to miss the PCB Real Estate bus!!  We couldn’t afford beachfront at the 2004 prices so we settled for what we believed (and I still do!) would one day be a very cool place to stay/live across from the beach.  We signed the hard contract in Feb 2005.

The ground-breaking ceremony was held in May 2005.  In August 2005, my husband shows me an article on msn.com titled “Condo market is showing signs of cooling”.  Ugh!

Nevertheless, I was still optimistic about Laketown Wharf.  In Sept 2006, I got my first mailing from Resort Interiors stating they were the preferred furnishing supplier for Laketown Wharf.  Since I was in Phase 2, I didn’t need to buy anything immediately but started my correspondence with them.  In Jan 2007, I got a second mailing encouraging me to choose and buy my furniture now because “I’d be able to rent my unit and make money on my investment soon after closing”.  They also had 2 other reasons why I should buy now and they even gave me a discount if I bought a package by a specific date!  So, I drove to Destin and visited their store in Feb 2007, finalized my decision, and bought my package that May.  I financed it free for a year but when my year was up, I had to write a check to the financing company and still no condo to put it in!!  BUT, by this time, the developer had starting coming down on prices.  In June 2008, I was notified that my unit was now only $299/sq ft., down from the contracted price of $376!  What a bargain!

But, my husband, being much smarter and less emotional than I, did not want to close.  I talked him in to going to Laketown Wharf, actually staying there, before making the final decision.  It was a nice stay even though many units were incomplete and there were no shops/restaurants open yet.  In fact, since I don’t like crowds, it was great – except for this obnoxious softball team staying there, but I won’t go into that.

The units are spacious and the staff/security guards were very nice and accommodating.  My son loved the two pools that were open.  The lake fountain show was wonderful and the walk to the beach was no big deal.  In fact, my son preferred the pools to the beach most days.  We talked about how cool the place will be once all the commercial space is occupied.  I was ready to close when we came home but after many hours of crunching numbers, we decided walking away from our deposit would be the best thing for us to do.

Present Day:
I’ve heard the current offer to those folks who still have contracts with Laketown Wharf (whether in a law suit or not) is $224/sq. ft.  Not sure where the bottom is.  The bank says they plan to furnish and rent ½ of the unsold units and I hear they are offering super low rent rates to get commercial business in.

In the meantime, I still have this furniture credit I would like to sell to one of you lucky folks who managed to time the market better than I.  Or maybe you’re looking to replace some of your current furniture.  Whatever your reason, you’ll save money by purchasing this credit.  The ladies at Resort Interiors/Resort Ready Rooms are wonderful to work with and I appreciate them for allowing this transfer of credit.

The amount of credit available for transfer is $15,027.  The window treatments are non-refundable but if you’re in the market for custom window treatments, bedspreads, etc.  I’ll be happy to get the measurements and see if they work for you.  I paid $2,405 for them and am willing to take $2000.  Check out my craigslist ad.

No Real Mortgage Relief Despite Government Efforts

To say 2008 has been a bad year for real estate is just a wee bit of an understatement. Property values have plunged by some 35% nationwide and foreclosures are expected to exceed 2.2 million for the year. Nearly 4% of all outstanding mortgages are currently delinquent and in Florida the rate of delinquent mortgages leads the nation at 7.82%.

The impacts of the sub-prime fallout, resulting credit crunch and global recession are all taking a serious toll on homeowners who often find themselves unable to sell or refinance as they owe more than their homes are currently worth. The Federal Government has made several impotent attempts to bring relief to homeowners and stem the tide of foreclosure and it seems more plans are bandied about almost daily.

So what options are available to struggling homeowners?

Early this year, the President announced an informal plan that brought together a coalition of banks, mortgage-servicers, credit counselors and investors to provide loan work-out solutions to borrowers facing foreclosure. The Hope Now Alliance, as it was called, was a non-governmental effort and since its inception has helped some 1.7 million homeowners through loan restructuring and modification. Unfortunately, the Comptroller of the Currency reported this week that, of all those helped in the first six months of the year, more than half were already back in default.

In July, The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 became law creating, among other things, the Hope for Homeowners program to be administered through HUD and offer a vehicle for borrowers who were upside down in the homes to refinance to a lower, more affordable interest rate. The plan, intended to help hundreds of thousands of homeowners relied on the current lien-holders of the properties willingness to write down the principal balance of the mortgage to 90% of the current market value. Second lien holders would have to also agree to re-subordinating their liens to the new first making them basically worthless.

As one might imagine, most lenders were reluctant and chose to pursue their own work-outs with borrowers on a case by case basis. As a result, only a handful of borrowers were helped by the plan. HUD has since revised the principal write down requirement to 96.5% of market value but still requires the borrower’s new payment be no more than 31% of their gross monthly income.

So what is on the horizon? Is there any real relief in sight for homeowners facing foreclosure? Several plans have been presented from a variety of governmental agencies but none yet have the full support of Congress and the White House. One plan offered by Sheila Bair, Chairwoman of the FDIC, would lower borrower’s rates to as low as 3%, extend the amortization period to as much as 40 years and defer a portion of principal to some future time.

Another plan proposed would have Fannie and Freddie offer a low fixed rate to both homeowners and buyers to not only help those with unaffordable payments but also generate demand for housing as buyers would presumably be drawn into the market – attracted by the lower rates. This would help stabilize home prices that ultimately are at the heart of the problem. The Obama transition team also is said to be working on a plan though no details have yet emerged.

So what help is there for struggling homeowners right now? Sadly, very little. The silver lining is that several robust plans that could have a real impact on the problem are being discussed seriously and the new administration will have the political capital to insure that whatever plan emerges victorious passes quickly. That is why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Governor Charlie Crist, have placed a temporary moratorium on foreclosures until January.  The hope is that by that time, after a new president is sworn into office and details of the plan are ironed out, there will finally be a real and workable alternative to foreclosure for millions of Americans.

To have any teeth, the final plan will have to contain several aspects of the plans already discussed. It will have to provide for a low fixed rate, a forty year amortization and some postponement and/or forgiveness of some portion of principal. It must also, and this is critical, offer the same terms to homebuyers with a minimum down payment requirement of 5% and a HUD backed mortgage insurance plan to safeguard banks so they will indeed lend. Without renewed demand for housing to stop home price decline, any new mortgage rescue plan will simply be buying time.

For this and more, visit my blog at www.activerain.com/blogs/hpalmer

Hunter Palmer

TDC to Discuss Bed Tax Increase on Wednesday – Agenda

Wednesday, the Tourist Development Council will discuss the possible bed tax increase.  

The TDC will hear a presentation from Marty McDaniel, the chairman of the Revenue Enhancement Committee and Peter Yesawich from YPartnerhship. 

Related articles: 

You can download the agenda here, or view it below:

 

Special Called Meeting

AGENDA

COMBINED BOARD MEETING

Bay County Tourist Development Council

Panama City Beach Convention &Visitors Bureau, Inc.

Panama City Beach

Wednesday, December 17, 2008                         1:00 p.m.               Council Room, PCB City Hall

I.               CALL MEETING TO ORDER

II.              ROLL CALL

A.    Invocation

B.    Pledge of Allegiance

III.            REQUESTS TO ADDRESS THE BOARD ON AGENDA ITEMS (3 Minutes)

IV.            PRESENTATIONS

 

A.    Presentation of the Recommendations from the Revenue Enhancement Committee, Mr. Marty McDaniel, Chairman, Revenue Enhancement Committee

1.     Presentation of the Trends and Status of Destination Marketing, Mr. Peter Yesawich, YPartnership

2.     Presentation of Capital Projects, Mr. Dan Rowe, President

B.    Presentation by Mexico Beach Community Development Council, Mrs. Lynn Marshall, President

V.             BOARD DISCUSSION

VI.            AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

VII.          BOARD ACTION

VIII.         ADJOURNMENT

Help the Family of Marissa Amora This Christmas

Many of you may remember the story of Marissa Amora that ran last year at the urging of Burnie Thompson, a local talk radio host on Talk Radio 101 FM.  When she was 2, Marissa was severely beaten and suffered injuries from her natural mother and her boyfriend that resulted in permanant brain damage.  She will live with this for all her life.

The State of Florida’s Department of Children and Families failed to act after multiple reports of abuse from the hospital that treated her injuries on multiple occasions.  The result was too gruesome for me to describe.  Having small children of my own, the thought of anything happening to a child nauseates me and makes my eyes water so bad I can barely see my screen. Marissa will wear diapers and eat through a tube for the rest of her life.

Dawn Amora and her husband of Marianna adopted Marissa when she was two and have been taking care of her every since. In addition to 6 other special needs children, Dawn works hard to ensure that these kids will never be institutionalized again.

A few years ago she was awarded a settlement from a suit against the State of Florida that was supposed to pay for Marissa’s medical expenses.  Two years later, the settlement hadn’t been paid and Dawn was still fighting with the State for assistance.

Last year, Burnie Thompson from Talk Radio 101 FM and his listeners raised an astounding 10,000 diapers for Marissa.  They loaded the diapers on a UPS truck donated for use specific to this purpose and delivered them to Marissa’s home in Marianna.

Dawn Amora and her husband own a small restaraunt in Marianna Florida called Cornerstone.  They work hard to provide for their 7 special needs kids, but it usually isn’t enough.  When Jason Lent from Shorehouse Furniture and Burnie Thompson went up to visit the family a few weeks back, they realized that the family was badly in need of new beds.  Four of the boys are sharing a room with old beds that badly needed to be replaced.

That’s when the idea hit him.  Lent, for the holidays, wanted to donate 4 beds to the family so the boys can have a new place to lay their head for the holidays.

We, at pcbdaily, are donating $200 to this cause and will drop off the check tomorrow at Shorehouse Furniture.  If you are looking for a way to give this Christmas season, please donate any money you can to the Amora family to get 4 new beds for the boys for Christmas.

All donations will be matched dollar for dollar by Shorehouse Furniture.  If you give $50, Shorehouse will match it with a donation of $50 of their own.

Donations started last Wednesday and will go through this Saturday.  I’ve been told by Burnie that he will be there on Saturday from 10 am to noon handing out pocket constitutions to anyone that donates to the New Beds for the Amora Boys Fund – regardless of amount.

I’ve been asked to stress that the settlement that Marissa Amora has received is specific to her medical expenses, meaning that the money cannot be used for anything other than the medical expenses of Marissa Amora.

Help these boys, donate for new beds at Shorehouse Furniture, located 1/2 mile east of Pier Park on the south side of Back Beach Road next to the Framed Picture Outlet, and please tell them you heard about it from pcbdaily.com.

Shorehouse Furniture – 1/2 mile east of Pier Park next to The Framed Picture Outlet
14301 Panama City Beach Parkway
Panama City Beach, FL 32413
850-236-0200
info (at) shorehousefurniture.com
www.ShoreHouseFurniture.com