Downtown Panama City took a major step in a year-long recovery from Hurricane Michael Wednesday mornings.

Construction of the Hotel Indigo in the city center began. The groundbreaking ceremony for the hotel took place on the site of the former City Hall, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Michael when it struck the Florida Panhandle on October 11, 2018.

The Category 5 storm-filled winds estimated the speed to be over 250 km / h and caused so much damage to the city’s old government building that it was eventually demolished.

Mayor of Panama City Greg Brudnicki said the public-private partnership for the hotel had the right idea.

“What we’re doing here today is an example of how the government is doing it right. It shows that people can come together, negotiate a deal, leave their ego at the door and create a win-win situation for the public, ”said Brudnicki.

At 1 Harrison Ave. in Panama City is the Hotel Indigo with 124 rooms, a restaurant and part of the hotel with a view of St. Andrews Bay. The waterfront location will be part of what is called “Opportunity zone. ”

Bay County is expanding the federally designed opportunity zone as an economic development tool in hopes of spurring economic growth and additional investment by other businesses in the area.

Opportunity zones are economically disadvantaged areas designated by individual states in which investors can invest their capital gains for a number of years in exchange for a tax break. The aim is to empower communities and investors to channel funds to communities that need it most. Bay County has three opportunity zones, all in downtown Panama City.

Owned by the InterContinental Hotels Group, Hotel Indigo was designed to fit in with the Panama City community that reflects the unique characteristics of this city. The real estate development group St. Joe Co. is overseeing the project, a joint venture with Panama City.

Opportunity zone efforts are being encouraged in other regions of the country and in the U.S. Senator. Tim Scott of South Carolina was a major leader in Congress in promoting the idea. He was there for the groundbreaking ceremony in Panama City on Wednesday.

“My own Hurricane Michael moment happened in 1989 during Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, South Carolina. I was 23, still poor, and wanted to do something to help my neighbors, ”said Scott on Wednesday. “I never imagined that opportunity zones today could help a community grow and come back to life, like here in Panama City.”

US representative Neal Dunn, whose second congressional district is Panama City, said the project came at the right time.

“The opportunity zone concept came at the perfect time for Bay County as we continue to recover from Hurricane Michael. Today’s project will add hundreds or even thousands of jobs to residents of northwest Florida and enable them to realize the American Dream, “said Dunn.

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