PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Wilson Butler Architects proposed its conceptual design for the new Panama City Performing Arts and Events Center at the city’s workshop on Tuesday.
The design features large windows for the waterfront views, an outdoor market, a theatre that can seat 1,600 people or accommodate standing room for 3,000.
Officials said this would be the biggest project in Panama City’s history with a projected cost of $150 million to $170 million.
“We’re going to have to figure out, is it probable,” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki. “What’s the probability of us being able to do that? Will we be able to fund it? Where do we get our funding from? Do we take in a public/private partnership partner?”
There is another option. Officials said FEMA would pay to rebuild the old civic center exactly the way it was before Hurricane Michael.
But Mayor Greg Brudnicki has his reservations.
“I would really have to research, understand and study and know and getting in writing before I did anything – before I relied on FEMA. I’m sorry, they hosed the people of Panama City,” Brudnicki said.
Panama City residents also shared their opinions of the PAEC concepts on Tuesday.
“I think that y’all have found that middle ground or at least I hope that we hear that and I’m very, very impressed,” said one resident.
Jennifer Vigil with Destination Panama City is concerned about how long it would take to find the funding for the concept presented on Tuesday.
“So if the choice is rebuilding it back exactly the way it was, knowing that we get it back because we start, because it’s four years later already or hanging in the balance and hoping somebody finds $150 million to $170 million,” Vigil said.
Panama City Commissioner, Jenna Haligas, said Panama City has a solid team of people ready to find the money to make the rebuild possible.
“Just to give an example of that we’ve spent 325 thousand dollars to 375 thousand dollars to go after infrastructure grants and we were awarded $300 million,” Haligas said. “So am I just gonna give up and not go for it? No. We’ve done it, we’re doing it and we still doing it with the civic center.”
City officials were adamant they do not want to saddle the taxpayers with this large expense.
Commissioner Haligas said this new Performing Arts and Events Center would contribute to the big picture goals for Panama City.
If the city officials were to go with the design presented on Tuesday, the architects estimate it would be complete in late 2026. However, no final decisions were made on Tuesday.