PC leaders say a downtown icon is coming back

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — An art deco landmark that was damaged by Hurricane Michael will be rebuilt.

City leaders say they are working with their insurance company and FEMA to bring the Martin Theatre back.

“It’s the perfect midsize venue. perfectly located in the middle of downtown. I’m excited to see what the next phase, its hard to be without it right now but excited to see it come back to its former glory,” said Jason Hedden, the chair of visual and performing arts at Gulf Coast State College.

Fans of the theatre and local performers say it is an essential part of the city.

“There wasn’t a bad seat in the house,” Hedden recalled. “It felt intimate but yet it was big enough that you could bring in some mid to larger size acts and really do something special. So it’s an essential sort of intimate venue.”

The city is already working to restore the outside of the facility. They say it will look nearly the same. Right down to the famous art deco glass.

“The reason we didn’t want to take it down have it demoed it’s an icon to this community its got immense local history associated with it. It’s got immense function that’s been enjoyed by this community and the arts community and helping to create that quality of life we’re seeking in the downtown,” said City Manager Mark McQueen. “So it was too important to this community to tear it down.”

City leaders say they also are going to make the building ADA compliant and expand where they can in hopes of making the Martin more than a theatre.

“We’re looking at modifying the layout of the Martin Theatre to help improve meeting space, receptions, having wedding receptions there. Having business after-hours events there,” McQueen said. “Just having it where it not just only for performances but have multiple facilities.”

This reconstruction will support other work as developers bring in new businesses and restore old ones.

“I think it could not be a more optimistic time for downtown Panama City,”

The ultimate cost and timeline for construction are still unknown.

City officials are asking FEMA to cover some of the expenses but say they promise theatre lovers will still love the Martin.

“Every downtown has a space like that of a city this size that one was ours and it’s special and I can’t wait for it to be back,” Hedden said.

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