The City of Panama City takes next steps in turning St. Andrews School to a community center

Panama City

PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — The St. Andrews School is officially under the control of the City of Panama City.

Tuesday, city commissioners finalized the lease from Bay County so they can move forward in making it into a community center.

This building means a lot to residents. It’s been around for almost a century.

The community center the city is planning will include art classes, music events, and even a visitors center. It will be a place for the future and also look back on the past.

Panama City Commissioner Mike Nicholas said he is excited about this fresh start. 

“So if it is art programs, history classes, or like I said earlier the jazz program, what a great place to involve the community and the people that come to visit our area,” Nicholas said.

The city will lease the building from the county for a dollar a year. They will also be in charge of fixing the damage left from Hurricane Michael.

The cost is estimated to be around 1.5 million dollars. To cover that the city applied for a grant from the Department of Economic Opportunity. 

“We will get the keys from the school board and then we will go in and identify it and we need to get the money and that’s the key because once we get the money we will start that process,” Nicholas said.

Tracy Smith, the President of the Historic St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership said the building once served as an education center, and they are looking forward to it having that purpose again but in a new way.

“We are looking forward to perhaps having exhibits at the building to talk about the history of St. Andrews,” Smith said. “Perhaps the Wainwright Shipyard, our publishing museum that the St. Andrews Waterfront Partnership runs, could have exhibits there.”

She said they’ve talked about using it as a visitor’s center to help increase tourism. 

For those who live in St. Andrews, the city obtaining this lease is a big step.  

“The preservation of the school is just very dear to the hearts of many St. Andrews people,” Smith said.

Although it is official that the school will transition to a community center, all of the plans for how to use it are not yet final. 

As of now, there is no set timeline for when the city will start the renovations. They said once the funding is secured they plan to start right away. 

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