Over the last year, if you taken a drive down North Thomas Drive you’ve no doubt noticed major new developments beginning at the turn off Hathaway Bridge down to Grand Lagoon Bridge. You’ve seen more restaurants, banks, grocery stores and retail shopping centers added to the area community. Those updates may be but appetizers to a main-developmental-course. Stimulus money in the sum of $18.5 million and a combination of state and local funds, will be used to expand Grand Lagoon Bridge. The bridge will expand from 150ft to 250ft widening it from two lanes to four and increasing the height over water from 10 to 18ft.
For the last 18 months, planning has been taking place on the bridge expansion, but no funds had been earmarked leaving no definitive timeline for construction. However, with funding tentatively secured, we should begin to see some timelines released. The heightening will be a huge improvement as the current height has been historically limiting to the type and size of boat that property owners on the east side of Grand Lagoon could own.
Stimulus funds will also widen the adjacent North Lagoon feed into Thomas drive into a five-lane highway with room for bike-lanes and sidewalks down to Bristol Street. The area near Grand Lagoon has always been popular with locals, but the planned Grand Lagoon expansion may be an even greater pull for the tourism base as well, which brings us back to the original mystery.
That area being mowed down near Magnolia Beach Road and Winn Dixie is making room for a new restaurant. Another restaurant, whoop dee doo, right? Well, the type of restaurant and the space being allotted for it may surprise you. The huge area is making way for Jasmine Thai Restaurant. This isn’t big news until you consider that a Thai restaurant, somewhat unconventional for Panama City Beach, decided to purchase a long-sitting commercial lot to compete with the likes of Captain Anderson’s and the Treasure Ship. Not only will it compete, but from the looks of it, it has high expectations as three-fifths of the land is being flattened strictly for parking.
Future developments may become a trend if tourist traffic to that area is increased due to the Grand Lagoon Bridge expansion and proof of the location’s economic lure. With the addition of The Saki House II, Hooters, Donut Island and Bruster’s Ice Cream just north, what may have been a jewel area for locals could turn out to be Panama City Beach’s most eclectic and busiest dining experience for tourists. With the revival of the “West-End,” we may see a huge shot in the arm of Panama City Beach’s “East-End.”
Bay County Planning Department did not have a projected completion date or a total square footage but did acknowledged that the restaurant needed a variance for the parking and based on design the restaurant itself will be 50% kitchen and 50% seating, an unusual ratio for the type of establishment.