PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Downtown Panama City is in the midst of a major comeback.

Dozens of new businesses opened up in 2021. The first was The Press Downtown coffee shop. 

“We actually opened January 1st of this year, so we are coming up on our one-year anniversary. The year has been absolutely amazing,” Owner Kevin Mitchell said. 

The Press was one of 37 businesses to open in Downtown Panama City this year. 

It’s a variety of new business ranges from arts to office spaces, to boutiques. 

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Mitchell said opening a new business is always a risk, but he saw a lot of potential downtown. He wasn’t alone. 

“It’s fun to watch it,” Mitchell said. “It’s fun to conceptualize that we were a part of it, in the beginning, so I guess put your neck out.”

The growth this year has brought in a new customer base paving the road for events and tourism in the future. 

Panama City officials also invested in the growth, awarding around $138 thousand to business owners with CRA grants. Mayor Greg Brudnicki said the bulk of these grants go towards improving the exterior of the buildings.

The city has also started phase one of the streetscape project and invested nearly $400 million into infrastructure repairs using federal funding. 

“It takes private investment, people believing that we could do something downtown and it would flourish,” Brudnicki said.

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Brudnicki said this growth has increased property value in the area by 30 percent. He believes this number will continue to rise. 

“Getting more tax dollars in gives us the ability to do more things downtown,” Brudnicki said. “The values encourage people that if you do still have a building that nothing is being done with it, somebody else is probably going to buy it now.”

He said the investment downtown is trickling to the surrounding areas as well.