PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Community leaders broke ground this morning on the area’s newest retail center.  

SweetBay Town Center will sit on 9.7 acres which used to be the main runway of the old Bay County Airport. Developers announced several months ago that Publix has committed to opening a supermarket in phase one, but there will be more. 

“That town center, in addition to Publix, will include restaurants and shops and will give us the first part of that lifestyle we’ve been waiting for,” said St. Andrew Bay Land Company Development Director Will Randle. 

When county and city officials sold that land more than a decade ago, they required developers to create something everyone could use. Not only will the town center serve SweetBay residents, but anyone can visit the variety of proposed shops and activities. 

“We can walk, we can take a golf cart. The residents who live around us are going to be able to access all of these amenities,” said Panama City Commissioner Brian Grainger. “Anybody that’s coming over into ward 3, they can also access these amenities through 390. This also is great because it represents another level of investment in Panama City, which is always a great thing.”

The center also gives the local economy a boost, as it will create hundreds of new jobs and promote spending locally. 

“Publix brings in a lot of jobs whenever they open a store. There’s quite a few jobs that come with that,” said Grainger. “Also, the commercial taxes that will be paid by all the different businesses that are in here and all of the jobs that they will create as well. It’s a win for the city. It’s a win for the residents in this area.”

Construction should begin before the end of the year, with phase one completed by Spring 2025.