PANAMA CITY BEACH – A new hotel is around the corner for an area of the beach dominated by high rise condos.
Located east of Pier Park on Front Beach Road, is an active construction site for Embassy Suites by Hilton, a 255-room hotel run by the St. Joe Company that will include a swimming pool, meeting space, and gym and restaurant.
It was inaugurated last August and is expected to open next year.
“I think a lot of people find it a little easier to travel to hotels than to condos because all the management is under one roof,” said David Demarest, spokesperson for the hospitality for St. Joe. “Each piece is also uniform and meets the same standards. Instead of going into a scenario where you’re not sure what you’re going to get, in which case you know you’re getting a high-end product.”
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He also said St. Joe currently has two hotels open in Bay County – TownePlace Suites and Hilton Garden Inn – with three under construction. They include Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, and Hotel Indigo.
The Hilton Garden Inn opened on July 9 near the intersection of Venture Crossings Boulevard and West Bay Parkway, less than a mile from Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Demarest said it was already around 80% busy within a week.
He expected Embassy Suites to experience a similar type of request.
“It gives us a hotel where people want to be,” Demarest said. “It’s installed where people can come on vacation and they don’t have to drive a lot.”
Mayor Mark Sheldon agreed that the hotel is a “great opportunity” for the city as it is within walking distance of Pier Park, arguably in the heart of Panama City Beach.
This will reduce traffic on the roads which become very congested during the peak tourist season.
“We are really excited about the future of this hotel,” said Sheldon. “(It) absolutely fills a need as Panama City Beach continues to be a very busy destination.”
He also said partnerships with private companies like St. Joe, which owns large land in Bay County, are essential to spur the city’s long-term development and success.
One of these developments is Philip Griffitts Sr. Parkway, a limited access highway extending from State 79 to Nautilus Street, which was built on land donated by St. Joe. The road was designed to facilitate traffic on the Panama City Beach Parkway near Pier Park.
It was built through a public-private partnership between PCB, Bay County, the Florida Department of Transportation and St. Joe.
“There are so many developments to come that Panama City Beach will continue to thrive thanks to the excellent partnership from (St. Joe’s),” said Sheldon. “I know that Panama City Beach could not achieve any of the developments that (…) come without the partnerships (with) private entities.”
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