UPDATE: New Airport On Time and On Budget

Monday was Walton County Day and the Northwest Florida Panama City International Airport hosted the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce board meeting under a tent with the new terminal as the backdrop.  Of course, one of the cool things about events like this is that we usually get a pretty good update on how the construction is coming along at the new airport site.

Continue reading “UPDATE: New Airport On Time and On Budget”

NEW NAME for the Panama City Airport

At this morning’s special-called Airport Authority meeting, the only topic on the table was the new name for the new airport.  For months, this has been a topic of intense debate and we had a HUGE surge of interest here at pcbdaily just three weeks ago with over 100 comments on the article we published about it.

Clearly the most obvious favorite of the bunch was Emerald Coast International, and this name’s popularity rang true with the Airport Authority’s submissions as well.  5 names total were submitted to the board for review today: Emerald Coast International Airport, Northwest Florida International Airport, Florida International Airport, Florida Beaches International Airport and Beaches International Airport.  I was told today that Emerald Coast International could not be used for legal reasons, although I was not told what the reasons were.

Continue reading “NEW NAME for the Panama City Airport”

The New King of South Has Been Crowned

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Early Tuesday morning, a milestone was reached at the New Panama City Beach – Bay County International Airport Site. The capping of the control, a significant accomplishment in airport construction, was completed with nary a hiccup.

Dozens of workers, all using video camera cell phones to capture the event, lined the fenced perimeter to take a marked occasion in a very long process. Two huge cranes on either side of the 50 ton metal frame slowly raised the cab the 150ft to the top of the control tower.

It hovered under perfect blue skies before being bolted down atop the tower to be glassed in at a later date. While the whole event lasted a half hour or so, it was simultaneously the apogee to years of work and the crowning of Northwest Florida new king. If all goes according to plan, the new airport will be one of the signature southern airports, providing vacationers easy access to the “World’s Most Beautiful Beach” as well as low cost flights for residents. Seeing the control tower in place gave the airport a sense of tangibility, an air of “this whole airport-and-panama-city-beach-transformation thing is really going to happen, huh?” The ceremony was quite a thing to behold.

I asked Jeff Dealy, KBR’s program manager for the project, how many times in my life would I get to experience an event like the capping of the control tower. He smiled and said, “Once.”

15 Things to Know About the Development of the Old Airport Site

Leucadia National Corporation/CAR/SABLC: Leucadia National Corporation is the parent company of Community Airport Redevelopment, which was changed to the St. Andrew Bay Land Company.  Leucadia has home offices in Salt Lake City, UT and New York City.  Labeled as a “mini Berkshire Hathaway” as noted in their Wiki page, Leudadia was a $6.6 billion company in 2006 generating revenue in a variety of ways including mining & drilling services, telecommunications, health-care services, manufacturing, banking and lending, real estate, and winery businesses.  Other notable developments by Leucadia include Rosemary Beach and Draper Lake.

The community will be walkable: With 703 acres, the property consists of a little more than a square mile.  From the center, it would take approximately 10 minutes to walk to the edge of the property, and from one end to another a walk would take around 10 minutes; unless you’re a speed walker, in which it would take about 8.3 minutes.  Although little design conceptuals have been made, it is anticipated that it will be an open community that is very ped-friendly.

3,200 total residential units: The development has the capacity to hold 3,200 residential units with an expected spread of approximately 60% single family and 40% multi-family (including condos and townhomes).  Development time-tables will be completely subject to market demand and the expected build-out time is in upwards of 15 years.

Wide open community areas: Some of the discussions the other day included creating an area that Panama City could collect for events and holidays and enjoy company and the water.  Right now, Panama City has no area like Pier Park to hold these community events.  I believe Panama City could greatly benefit from this.  If they were to bring in the right marketing team and layout the initial public development right, they could create a community before there’s actually a community there.  Talk about buzz.

Multiple points of access: Feeding into the community are 8 points of access varying the ways with which to handle the out-flow and in-flow of the increased traffic.  Access roads include Frankford, Airport Road, Lisenby, Airport Circle, Baldwin, W 39th Street, and Jackson Way.

700,000 square foot of commercial/retail: Some mixed among the residential, others in concentrated areas, there will be approximately 700,000 square feet of commercial and retail area.  Right now, there are plans to have a “Town Center” in the middle of the community that will house the tallest of the structures, in addition to a higher concentration of retail.  There will be a small lake with a boardwalk around it and the buildings will have retail on the first floors, office space on the second floors with residential above that.

Height limitations set at 120 feet: I was told that even though maximum height is set for 120 feet as defined by the zoning (light industrial), the maximum planned height at this time is 80 feet.  In addition, the maximum height buildings will be in the center of the development, reserving the water-frontage for 2 and 3 stories.

Nothing available to purchase until 2012: The St. Andrew Bay Land Company will take possession of the land the day after the airport operations are moved to the new airport site.  Upon possession, it is estimated that infrastructure installation will take approximately 1 year with real estate product available to purchase last 2011 or early 2012.  The SABLC may build some, but it is expected that they will sell plats to developers to handle build out once infrastructure is in place.

Tons of green space: All the green areas depicted in the images will be open park-like areas that may have open grassy areas, trees, nature trails and the like.  The idea, again, is to create a pedestrian-friendly community that encourages the natural beauty of the Bay County area.

No water-front buildings: There will be plenty of water views to be had from residential units, but nothing will be right on the water, cutting off access from the general public.  The design is intended to keep the pristine areas pristine, and enjoyable by everyone.  There will be large open areas in between the buildings and the water.

All open to the public: The whole community will be open to the public.  Amenities such as shopping, dining and the marina will be open for everyone to enjoy and the community will not be gated.

150 boat marina: Quenching the thirst for much needed wet slip space, this new community will house a 150 slip marina capable of accommodating vessels up to 60 feet.  The marina depth will be 6 feet.  There is only one small spot on the whole plot of waterfrontage that will accept a marina without having a negative environmental impact; located at the top, close to where the runway terminates into the bay right now.

Marina to be developed first: Right now, talks include developing the marina first, in addition to around 10 shops and restaurants with some residential above around the marina.  The idea is to give something to the community that is usable right now (or in a couple years) until the demand for real estate product comes back.  The conversations I had were very interesting in that for once, I was talking to a developer that wasn’t acting like a developer, but a rational, reasonable person.  With my background in preconstruction sales and marketing I have quite a bit of experience working with developers and new developments, and it always seems like they are drinking their own cool-aid; not so with these guys.  They were very much verbal about the current conditions of the market and were very open with the fact that at this time its hard to tell where the market will be in two years.  This, by the way, is exactly opposite the outlook of most of the developers I’d worked with in the past.  typically with a new development such as this, you’d expect to hear aggressive development time-lines.  I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with their level-headed outlook.

The developmental options are plenty: They’ve kept the initial planned layout open so as to offer a wide variety of developmental options.  With plats around 500 by 260 feet, it will be easy to determine where single family versus multi family will go in the future, based on market demand.  The plats are large enough to accommodate an alley system, should they decide to go that route.

Sasaki Associates brought in to help with initial planning: Sasaki and Associates are known for their master planning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ruston Town Center in Virginia, The Woodlands in Houston TX, Charleston South Carolina Waterfront Park, and Harbor Town in Hilton Head, just to name a few.

PC Airport Construction Update – PHOTOS

The new Panama City Airport is less than 12 months from completion and the on site action is really accelerating.  With new construction milestones being made on a weekly basis, new things seem to be growing out of the ground all the time.

The main 8,400 foot runway is 100% complete with final approval still pending from the FAA on the 10,000 foot extension.  I have no idea what the hold up is, only that I’ve been told that it is expected soon (they’ve been saying that for months!).  Once the approval comes in, however, construction of the runway extension will take less than 60 days.  They are also seeding and mulching the main access road for grass.   Sand is being installed on the bottom of Pond C.

The terminal construction is making great progress with the metal framing of the exterior walls in Area A on the 1st and 2nd floor helping to define the overall shape of the building.  The roof decking in Area A, B and a portion of C are almost complete.  The excavation for the pedestrian bridge construction has begun and the fire sprinkler installation in Area A (baggage claim area) has begun as well.

The existing terminal is just over 55,000 square feet.  The new terminal more than doubles the size at 120,000 square feet with ample room for ticket counters, baggage claim, TSA offices, and offices for the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau and a business center hosted by the Bay County Chamber of Commerce.

The air traffic control tower is growing with the structure over 100 feet tall.  The final tower will rise 15 stories into the sky.

Video of Environmental Damage at New Airport Site

Having been up there, I was able to take video of the creeks and waterways that serve as the natural water run-off point for the new Panama City Airport.  Again, I was able to see no apparent damage or side-effects of any damage.  However, apparently, after the comments in the other post, I would need to be in a helicopter to observe the claimed negative effects the airport construction site is having on the environment.