Panama City Beach Adopts Improved Planning Codes

Imagine hidden parking garages, not of the Batman variant, but of the variant of being hidden behind facades or landscaped walkways.  Think beautified pedestrian walkways and shop entrance ingress and egress without risk of being mowed over by an auto.  Pretend you are one of those developers that don’t do any work and make tons of money (please note the sarcasm here).  Imagine reaping the rewards of not only high density, but planning codes that allow you to achieve that high density in a way that is very asthetically pleasing and doesn’t hack off the neighbors with behemoth towers.  Enter the new Form-Based Code Building Regulations.

Before last week’s Panama City Beach City Council meeting, there was a public workshop held at Beach City Hall discussing the future of land planning for our area’s beach community.  Attended mostly by City employees and a few developers and architects, the only other people there were media and the land owner of one of the example properties used for the analysis.

So, what are Form-Based Codes, you say?  Straight out of the 11×17 color printed packet I received at the workshop:

The Form-Based Codes Institute defines form-based codes as a “method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form. Form-based codes create a predictable public realm primarily by controlling physical form, with a lesser focus on land use, through city or county regulations.”2 While conventional zoning tends to focus on uses, intensities and setbacks, form-based codes focus on building scale and character. The key distinctions between form-based codes and design guidelines are that guidelines are advisory and often subjective, which frequently result in the need for design review boards. Form-based codes establish specific, measurable standards that require little discretion and limited architectural knowledge.

The best form-based regulations address site-specific challenges and conditions that are ignored by conventional zoning. They promote compatibility between adjacent uses through context-sensitive design. They also tend to do a much better job of addressing the interface between the public and private realms (streets and buildings). They also are better suited to addressing scale and building orientation in ways that improve compatibility between adjacent public and private uses.

Rather than focusing exclusively on “one-size-fits-all” setbacks and building heights, form-based codes may include different standards for different situations. For instance, height limitations and setbacks may depend on the proximity to lower intensity zoning districts. Conventional zoning commonly ignores the orientation of a building, allowing entries, garage openings and mechanical equipment to be located on any side. Form-based codes typically require entries to face the street, while garage openings and mechanical equipment are hidden from main streets.

Reference page 6 of the code packet available for download below.

Now, I know what you are thinking:  Where was this five years ago?  Well, my friend, I don’t have the answer to that, but it was conveyed by many of the council members that they had wished we had something like this in place years ago, and that if it wasn’t adopted, they would regret it in the future.

Some of the advantages outlines in the proposal are:

  • They describe what is allowed, in addition to setting limits and focusing on prohibited designs. This gives project designers a clearer picture of desired outcomes.
  • They better accommodate infill and redevelopment because of their focus on scale, orientation and other critical design elements.
  • They may specify specific architectural styles, materials and uses, which provides greater design predictability for property owners and neighbors.
  • They can be adapted to ensure compatibility in widely varying settings.
  • They are easy to apply in small communities because they do not require architectural expertise to use, interpret or administer.
  • They are more readily defensible than design guidelines and architectural review processes that involve more subjective decisions.

As part of the proposal, three independent site studies were conducted named Back Beach, Long Beach and Tidewater.  The Back Beach study is located on Back Beach Road, between Colina Drive and Pearl Avenue.  The Long Beach study is located on the north side of Front Beach Road, between Gulfside Drive and Henley Drive.  The Tidewater study is located north of and across Front Beach Road from the Tidewater Condominium Resort.  The study sites were used purely as examples with no necessary intention of this actually happening to these properties.

The Back Beach Road study sample currently consists of  24,000 sf of commercial space, 22,500 sf of manufacturing space and 0 sf of residential units.  Based on the Form-Based Code, the future development possibilities could include over 54,000 total square feet of commercial space and 14 residential units.  The actual building layout would be such that the parking would be in the back, away from pedestrian walkways with limited access.  This would enhance beautification and create a more pedestrian-friendly area.

The Long Beach study currently allows for 131,200 sf of commercial space and 27 residential units.  Based on the Form-Based Code, a over 249,000 sf of commercial space would be possible, with over 145 residential units.

The whole process would work on a tiered system.  Developers would be allowed greater density the more emphasis they put on beautification towards concealing that density.  One of the greatest examples of this in action is the way the Village of Baytowne Wharf was developed and the proposed plans for the Towne of Seahaven.  In Baytowne, the main parking garage is hidden on all sides and the top with walls, landscaping and residential units.  The side of the parking garage that is facing the “towne” part of the village is where retail is located and above that is residential.  In the center, which is actually the roof of the parking garage is the amenity area for the residential component, including lush landscaping, fitness center and the pool.

Look at Pier Park.  Notice the huge open parking areas in the back but where people congregate is beautified?  This is all intentional and is the direction the City of Panama City Beach is going.  This is an exciting step and much and long needed for our area.

Download the full Analysis of Opportunities here (7.3 mb)

Spring Break IS Upon Us

_mg_6742Every year, at the beginning of spring break, I’m always glad to see the life pumped back into Panama City Beach.  The Beach Wal-Mart is packed with young energy, the streets are pumping with life and local businesses are happy the winter months are over and they can start living again.  Of course, I’m always glad to see them go at the end as well.

“As little as four weeks ago, we were a little worried,” said Russ Smith, Vice President of Resort Operations.  He went on to say that over the last couple of weeks, things have picked up and it looks like at this time, occupation is right on par with last year over the entire spring break, but the times in which visitors are coming in have shifted.  “I don’t know if it was the recent warnings about going to Mexico that’s given us the boost or just late planning on the part of the college kids.”

“Everyone seems to be cautiously optimistic this year,” says Dana Lent, Communications Manager for the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau.  “The proof is in the pudding, we’ll see how the numbers really pan out when we see the bed tax collections.”

What is mostly empty now, Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant will be filled with spring breakers tomorrow night and in just 8 days time the local beach club will be jam packed.

For the first year ever, Sharky’s will play host to beach tennis and beach volleyball that will ultimately culminate in a professional tournament with professional volleyball players such as 2008 Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers.  Beach tennis will start off on Sunday March 1st and players can battle it out until March 18th.

This next upcoming week is really the first “big” week of spring break, with this past week having students from Michigan and Canada here in small numbers.  Next week just under a half million students will be on spring break across the country and the week after around 1.8 million will be on spring break around the country.  Note to other media that has gotten these numbers confused in the past – I said “around the country”, not necessarily coming here.

This year should be a fun year.  There is a lot of emphasis on family spring break (another article coming on that!) and there are quite a few family activities coming up.

Check below for a complete list of colleges on spring break this week, courtesy of TripSmarter.com:

March 2-6, 2009 (Mon-Fri)

College / University

Enrollment

Alverno College

2,654

Barry University

9,324

Beloit College

1,300

Bennett College

572

Bethune-Cookman College

2,895

Bishop’s University

1,817

Boston College

13,723

California University of Pennsylvania

7,728

Cambrian College

4,401

Clark University

2,883

College of Charleston

11,320

Duquesne University

10,184

Fairfield University

4,935

Florida A&M University

12,792

Florida Atlantic University

26,245

Georgia State University

27,134

Grand Valley State University

25,000

Greensboro College

1,233

Lebanon Valley College

1,906

Lehigh University

6,836

Loyola College, Maryland

6,131

Loyola University, Chicago

15,545

Mary Baldwin College

2,242

Moore College of Art and Design

493

North Carolina A&T

11,103

North Carolina State University

31,130

Pepperdine University

6,053

Rice University

4,195

Rocky Mountain College

898

Saint Cloud State University

17,173

Saint Francis University

2,121

Schoolcraft College

10,213

Silver Lake College

1,000

Stetson University

2,273

Universite du Quebec (Montreal)

40,624

University of Evansville

2,350

University of Virginia

20,190

Valparaiso University

3,874

Villanova University

9,335

Virginia Western Community College

9,000

Western Carolina University

11,000

Western Michigan University

24,433

Wingate University

2,041

Xavier University

6,500

TOTAL

412,581

Red Robin in Pier Park – Gourmet Burgers and Bottomless Fries

_mg_6588_2Adorned in bright red and various other bright colors the walls are covered with the likes of movie posters, new and old, posters from various bands, such as the Beatles, and other seemingly random protrusions that all help complete the feel of “wholesome fun and entertainment for families.”

Tom Sweet, hailing from the cold streets of Ohio was talked into coming to our quaint little beach town (without much persuasion, might I add) to participate in what some may deem a revolution of sorts for Panama City Beach – Pier Park.  Now, I don’t have to tell you all the great things about Pier Park, I have a whole category dedicated to that, but I will tell you that Red Robin is a welcome addition to the family.

When asked about the signature menu items, Sweet said it’s all about the gourmet burger, bottomless fries and shakes.  “Bottomless fries AND bottomless shakes,” I hopefully asked.  The answer was a quick “no.”  I had to try.  How are the fries?  “Insanely delicious seasoned steak fries.”

With the First Place Blue Ribbon across the top of their web site, Red Robin is proud that they landed on the “10 Best Family Restaurants” list.  The whole place is designed in a way that is fun for everyone, even the adults.  Right when you walk in, you are greeted by Mini-Lady Liberty.

The restaurant is sit-down style with menu items ranging from burgers to salads to healthy kids-choice menu items such as apples and celery.  Prices range from just above $9 to just over $12 and all burgers come with bottomless fries.  Seems kinda high for a burger joint, but we’ll see just how good they are next week.

They are located in the north side of Pier Park, right across from Baja Grill, in the same building as the Great American Cookies.

They are doing a soft training opening next week (that I’ll surely report on) with the official first day of business on March 9th.

The Menu

PCB Sand Sports Teams up with AVP for Beach Volleyball

021909_avp_logoPCB Sand Sports in partnership with AVPNext, the grassroots program of the Association of Volleyball Professionals will be developing a Beach Volleyball league and series sponsored by Barefoot Wine to launch at Sharkys the week of May 11th, 2009. The leagues will begin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday nights for men’s doubles and Friday evening for women’s doubles.

The leagues will run for 8 weeks and offer both the men and women’s winners a prize of $1000 in cash along with airfare and entry into competition for the “first ever” Barefoot Cup Championship in Hermosa Beach, CA. The top 16 teams from across the U.S. will compete in Hermosa Beach to represent their area.

Sharkys and Seahaven are partners with PCB Sand Sports to bring the “fun” of beach sports directly to Panama City Beach with programs, events and activities to showcase the white sand and ambience of the area. Roman Reese founder of PCB Sand Sports and Director of Nashville Beach Volleyball has been involved in volleyball for more than 20 years.

He has been a major influencer to develop the long standing Fud’s 4-Person Tournament that is located in the Destin, Ft. Walton area that has grown from 17 teams to more than 250 teams with a waiting list to play. This tournament is now a “regular” vacation for the players who began to come in the beginning and developed the event into a “memorable” tournament to meet friends and reconnect with players across the country.

The AVP Pro Tour will be hosting their first Tour Stop in Panama City Beach in front of Sharkys the weekend of March 28th-29th and will showcase some of the top players in both men and women’s categories to kick off the focus Panama City Beach has to bring FUN beach sports to the area. We hope to see the local community come out to meet the Pros.

PCB Sand Sports and Seahaven will be working closely with Bay Area Sports Association a non-profit focused to support sports programs for the local kids to set up visits with the Pros to promote beach volleyball.

PCB Sand Sports is also coordinating additional leagues for Sharkys to provide Co-Ed 4’s on Tuesday nights and Co-Ed 6’s on Thursdays. For more information on the leagues and beach volleyball events and activities contact Roman Reese @ beachresearch@yahoo.com

Seabreeze Jazz Festival Brings Nick Colionne

022609_colionneThe 2009 Seabreeze Jazz Festival coming to our very own Pier Park on April 16th through the 19th is bringing International Instrumental Artist of the Year for 2007 Nick Colionne.

With the warmth of spring in the air, artists in addition to Colionne such as Shilts, Boney James, Wayman Tisdale, Will Downing, Warren Hill, Eric Darius, Joyce Cooling, Alex Bugnon, and Four 80 East will fill their smooth music through the hearts and souls of all those attending. Colionne will also host the event’s All Star Jam.

As a guitarist and vocalist, Colionne’s live performances defy categorization. His shows incorporate all the music he loves best and the influences he’s had throughout his career. You are as likely to hear Nick sing the blues or some heartfelt R&B as you are to hear his blazing guitar licks, or even the hint of metal, recalling the beginning of his career as a heavy metal guitarist. From that diverse musicality comes an incredible live performance that showcases the talent, vocal ability and yes, comedic timing, of this charismatic entertainer.

Colionne was named International Instrumental Artist of the Year for 2007 by the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards and is nominated for this prestigious award again for 2009. He joined the ranks of today’s premier jazz artists with his TOP TEN 2003 Album “JUST COME ON IN” that included two mega hits “High Flyin'” and “It’s Been Too Long”. His 2006 CD “KEEPIN’ IT COOL” propelled him to the top of the charts once again with 3 TOP TEN singles. This CD was also TOP TEN CD of the YEAR for 2006.

His current CD “NO LIMITS” on KOCH Records was released in July 2008 and was named TOP TEN CD of the YEAR for 2008 by Smooth Jazz News. Says Colionne of the project: “No Limits” is my latest adventure. I wanted to explore doing some different things with my music and not limit myself to one genre or style of playing”. Colionne teamed up with two Grammy-award winning writers for the CD: Jim Peterik who wrote “The Eye Of The Tiger”, the theme from the film “ROCKY”, and Paul Richmond who wrote “Shining Star” for the Manhattans.

Chicago-native Colionne is also an endorsee for Epiphone Guitars and Gibson Strings & Accessories as well as prestigious clothier Stacy Adams and is featured in their global advertising campaigns.

According to Nick, “The most exciting part of all of this for me to that I am actually living my dream, getting a chance to perform for people around the world. The greatest moments come when I look at the faces in the audience when I play, and realize that I’m making them feel what I am feeling. That’s a fascinating level of communication.”

Related on PCBDaily

Seabreeze Jazz Festival Information
Nick Colionne’s Web Site

Photo Credits:  © Jacquie Patrick 2008

More Info on Pro Volleyball Coming to PCB

The AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour will kick off its 2009 season in a unique fashion; the Tour is holding its first-ever Spring Break event in Panama City Beach, Fla., March 27-29. The event will feature the world’s best beach volleyball players, including 2008 Olympic gold medalists Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, battling it out on the sand amidst the excitement of Spring Break.

Panama City Beach plays host to hundreds of thousands of college students each year, who descend on the Florida coast to soak up the surf and sand, and party on the beach. While the main event of AVP’s Spring Break will be the AVP Crocs Tour Panama City Beach Open, taking place March 27-29, the AVP will head to Panama Beach City on March 7 to start its three-week Spring Break experience.

“We are excited to bring the AVP to Spring Break for the very first time,” said Leonard Armato, CEO and Commissioner of AVP Pro Beach Volleyball. “The biggest beach party in the country is the perfect atmosphere in which to kick off our 2009 season.”

The finale of the AVP’s Spring Break in Panama City Beach will come as the AVP Crocs Tour Panama City Beach Open. A one-day qualifier will begin on Friday morning, March 27, followed by a live band in the evening. Men’s and women’s Main Draw action will start on Saturday morning with both men’s and women’s finals planned for Sunday afternoon.  AVP specifically chose the last weekend of March for their tournament because it is both the final weekend of collegiate Spring Break and the first weekend of “family spring break”.  The event will be a fun party for all ages.

Prior to the competition, the first two weeks of Spring Break will include numerous promotions and events geared towards Spring Breakers. The third week of the AVP’s Spring Break event will start off with the first-ever Collegiate Beach Challenge. Starting on Tuesday, March 24, college students from across the country will have the chance to participate in a two-day four-on-four beach volleyball tournament. There will be men’s, women’s and coed divisions competing for cash prizes.

The AVP Crocs Tour event will take place directly behind Sharky’s Beach Front Restaurant & Tiki Bar, located in the heart of Panama City Beach at The Towne of Seahaven. In an attempt to revert back to the sport’s beginnings, six of the courts will be set up in “old school” style. This set-up will include minimal bleacher seating, allowing plenty of room for beachgoers to throw down their towels and fully enjoy the beach party atmosphere of Spring Break.

About AVP, Inc.:
AVP, Inc. is a leading lifestyle sports entertainment company focused on the production, marketing and distribution of professional beach volleyball events worldwide. One of the fastest growing entities in the sports world, the AVP operates two of the industry’s most prominent national outdoor touring series, the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour (1983) and the AVP Hot Winter Nights Indoor Tour (launched in 2008). The AVP is set to stage more than 35 events throughout the United States in 2009 and features more than 150 of the top men and women competitors in the sport. AVP athletes won both the women’s and men’s gold medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing, marking the first gold medal sweep by a single country in the history of Olympic Beach Volleyball. AVP is headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. For more information, please visit http://www.avp.com.

Beckrich Road Opens New Lane

Working under the ever watchful eye of the warm sun, workers barely break a sweat in the mild 59 degree weather.  Clear blue skies with a light breeze make for perfect working conditions.

Recently new light posts have been installed along new sidewalks on Beckrich Road as part of the Community Redevelopment Area in Panama City Beach, also known as the CRA..  The posts are stylish and resemble something like what you would find in Stars Hollow, the sidewalks are concrete and whitish-grey in color and will one day very soon be walked on by the size 11 shoe of both tourists and locals alike.

Straining under the weight of the immense weight of the broken bits of road, a Caterpillar tractor lifts itself off the ground as the scoops grow larger and larger.  Heavy equipment has just gnarled the section of Beckrich that comes up to Back Beach Road in preparation for a new layer of hot smooth asphalt.

Sod has gone down, curbing is in place and bugs and other creeping things have a new home in the median vegetation that actually looks quite beautiful and refreshing.  Neat rows of palm trees add to the feel of modern sophistication Panama City Beach has for so long deserved.  No more power or phone lines either.  Sweet.

Workers labor diligently to get the new traffic lights installed at the intersection of Middle Beach  and Beckrich Road.  Panama City Beach Police Department employees have been directing traffic all morning.  “It’s pretty dangerous out here.  We almost get hit every now and then, ” one officer didn’t tell me earlier.

Starting today, northbound traffic on Beckrich used the newly paved lane with the southbound traffic using the same lane as was used last week.  Still only two lanes of traffic traverse the route.  The entrance to Edgewater Shopping Plaza was a mud pit as recently as last week, but now it is silky smooth pavement.

Construction should be totally complete in two months.