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 Front Beach Road CRA in Panama City Beach is set to change the face of the beach and reset the perception of all those that visit our beautiful area. Right now, driving up and down our main travel corridors is non-to-pleasing to the eye, what with the towering out of the ground utilities and lack of proper sidewalks and landscaping. BUT, that’s all in the process of change. Change is good, right?
Yesterday evening a community workshop was held at the CRA office to show off what’s in store for the next phase of the CRA (community redevelopment area), including South Thomas Drive, a section of Front Beach Road and the intersection of Front Beach Road, Middle Beach Road and North Thomas Drive.
Tip: You can learn more about the CRA, or you can read below for more details on this portion.
I’m going to warn you, what you are about to read will be long, but super rich with multimedia. Hopefully you’ll have a great idea as to what this portion of the cra will actually involve.
This roadways covered in this portion of the CRA form a loop, if you will around Laketown Wharf and a portion of the Signal Hill Golf course. The road runs right by Boardwalk Beach Resort, then passes by Pineapple Willies, through condo canyon (Laketown Wharf/Shores of Panama), goes right carrying you right past Wal-Mart and through the intersection just a little where Walgreen’s, Ripley’s and Backyard Burger rest. Included also is a little bit of the roadway called North Thomas Drive that would lead you down to the camp ground across from Club La Vela.
Here are the 57 Reasons the New South Thomas Drive will Rock
Front Beach, Middle Beach, North Thomas Drive Intersection
- This is the intersection described above that plays home to Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
- They will completely redo the whole intersection, traffic lights and all
- The new intersection will have an emphasis on pedestrian friendliness
- Currently it is difficult for peds to cross because of the wide road ways
- They will redo some of the existing pedestrian islands
- Also, an additional pedestrian island will be added by Backyard Burger
- Existing ped islands will be beautified
- The famous dedicated right turn lane from west-bound Front Beach Road that turns onto Middle Beach will be done away with, median curb and all
- But, that lane will still be a turn only lane, just not dedicated
- Actually, they will ad an additional right turn lane making the total number of right turn lanes from Front Beach to Middle Beach TWO
- Right smack dab in the middle of the intersection will be a huge decorative paver insignia of the Panama City Beach logo surely marketing the busiest intersection on Panama City Beach. Could Wal-mart have anything to do with that? hmmm
- The right turn from North Thomas Drive onto Front Beach Road (by the Ripley’s museum) will be pulled back to make it a larger radius. You may have noticed their new sign and how it has recently moved back. They were getting it out of the way!
- Pedestrian walkways will be very clearly marked
- My favorite: all those ugly utility lines (power, phone and the like) will be moved UNDERGROUND!
- Sidewalks will be installed
- Cool street lamps will be installed
- Lovely landscaping that will hopefully be taken good care of.
The Circle K Intersection of Front Beach Road
- This area covers the “curve” by Laketown Wharf and the entrance of Shores of Panama.
- This area is well known for its traffic during peak seasons
- Many in attendance were not happy with the plans as they did not seem to address the current problems
- I talked with the owner of Pineapple Willies who was telling me that teh traffic problems there greatly effect his business every year
- Many property owners there expressed their concern that during peak seasons it was very difficult for them to come and go from their residences
- Some of the suggestions included widening the turn so that there would be two dedicated turn lanes because all of the traffic is broken up to turn right or left at the Circle K
- The plans include a dedicated Tram lane for the multi-model transportation device
- Many suggested to do away with this all together, but this route of the Tram service is integral in the Tram “looping” back to return to the west end of Panama City Beach
- The goal of the Tram is to get people to park their cars and ride mass transportation systems, this could work great, if done correctly.
- I think cars would be able to travel in this Tram lane, so they could use the Tram lane to turn right, right?
- Of course, all utilities will be moved underground
- Sidewalks will be installed
- Landscaping will be installed
- There will be clearly marked crossing areas with pedestrian medians
- There will be periodic cut-outs for the Tram loading and unloading stops
South Thomas Drive, North Thomas Drive Intersection
- Located right by Alvin’s Island
- They actually (they, as in The City of Panama City Beach) bought a huge chunk of land between Alvin’s Island and Signal Hill Golf Course
- This land will be used to build a retention pond and a cut through roadway
- The retention pond will be designed to be a beautiful amenity
- Sidewalks all around with sitting areas
- Landscaped and lighted
- It looks as thought there may be a little roadside parking for those that may want to enjoy
- The roadway cut through will be charged with the goal of easing traffic into North Thomas Drive
- Intersection will be “signalized”
- Right now, the turn just sort of “juts” out, giving more bias to turning right then left, and is actually quite dangerous if you’re not paying attention.
- The new intersection will have pedestrian walkways clearly marked
- There will be a little right off-shoot to cover access still to boardwalk and thee other “local” businesses.
- This will alleviate some of the traffic pressure during peak seasons and times of high traffic *cough* little wayner
- Alvin’s Island will actually be a little “island”
Huge Retention Pond in Place of Old Homeless Camp
- This retention pond will actually be behind McDonalds in front of the Wal-Mart parking lot (bet you were always wondering what was behind all those shrubs at the end of the Wal-Mart parking lot, weren’t you?)
- Right now there is a fence along the McDonald’s parking lot
- I was told that this lot was the former site of a homeless camp, even though it is right in the middle of the action, it was actually well secluded. That is before the city came in and ruined the fun and cleared it all out.
- I was also told that McD’s is anxious for this as when it is build, they will tear down their fence and open it up for their customers to use
- This retention pond will be quite large and will feature landscaping and sidewalks all around
- A “viewing” platform will be built with seating areas so that people can enjoy the view of the retention pond
- Lighting, landscaping and sidewalks all around (did I say that already?)
- The public will have access to the amenity from both Middle Beach and Front Beach Roads
Below are some high-resolution renderings of the different aspects of the project.
I know what you are thinking – what’s this rubbish. Why is jason posting pictures of plantlife, is he going all botanical and what-not? This my friend is a picture of the new shrubbery planted in the median of Beckrich Road. That’s right, they have plantlife in the median. Panama City Beach is moving on up in this world.
Started in September 2007, the Beckrich Road portion of the CRA is coming closer to completion each day. On schedule to be done by May, landscaping is being installed and final measures are taking place on the original, yet newly rehashed side of the road.
The final product will be four lanes of landscaped, medianed, sidewalked, street lamped roadway extending from Back Beach Road to Front Beach Road going through the intersection of Middle Beach Road or Hutchison Boulevard. All existing underground utilities were replaced and all electrical utilities were moved underground.
The east side of the stretch of Beckrich south of Middle Beach Road is dirt right now with preparations being made for paving.
This is what we can expect all of the main travel coridors of Panama City Beach to look like. All along Front Beach Road, the power and phone lines will be moved underground, the street will be widened and sidewalks and landscaping will be installed along the sides.
The Churchwell Road CRA (Community Redevelopment Area) is pretty much done. They were painting the yellow stripes last week and painting the 127 space public parking lot yesterday. The ribbon cutting is on April 16, 2008 at 10:30 am on the new Churchwell Bridge, unless it rains, in which case it will be under a tent in the new parking lot close to Front Beach Road. More after the break.
The Front Beach Road CRA, or Community Redevelopment Area is moving ahead and on schedule. The current projects underway are the Churchwell Road rebuild and the widening of Beckrich Road.
The Churchwell Road improvements included rebuilding of the bridge, widening the road and adding 127 public parking spaces on the north side of Front Beach Road to provide parking for the public beach access point. Construction began in April 2007 and is on schedule to be completed early spring this year with the ribbon cutting to be sometime in March.