Located on St. Andrew Bay’s beautiful coastal waters, Panama City’s original airport sprawled over 700 acres. In 2007, St. Andrew Bay Land Company, a HomeFed corporation, acquired the parcel with the vision of creating Florida’s largest adaptive reuse and infill project. SweetBay was born with the masterplan including shared community spaces, a walkable neighborhood, and thriving mixed-use areas, with an emphasis on its beautiful natural setting. Framed by over five miles of unspoiled bayfront waterways, planning and development began with careful attention given to preservation and impact to natural areas. After extensive planning and environmental studies, groundbreaking took place in 2015. Since then, over 1,500 native trees have been planted, transforming the previously bare airport site; where airplanes once roared, birds now chirp.
Protecting the Natural Environment
In addition to the newly enhanced tree canopy, over 140 acres have been set aside as conservation areas. These conservation areas host wildlife, as do the surrounding waters. The bay and bayou areas are flanked by seagrasses, which are also being preserved as part of the masterplan. In addition, the rare and unique Panama City Crayfish species was identified on site and a habitat was designated specifically for its preservation. SweetBay is also home to dozens of gopher tortoises which will be carefully transferred to sanctuaries so that they are not impacted by development.
Fostering a Love of Nature
Residents of SweetBay enjoy low-impact boardwalks throughout the preservation areas as well as a bayfront beach that has been renourished by the developer. Walking trails and sidewalks thread throughout the community, ensuring easy access to amenities and public spaces. Parks within the community feature one-way streets to organically slow traffic, furthering pedestrian safety. While walkability is prioritized in SweetBay, provisions have been made for low-speed electric vehicles and golf carts. The entire community, including the planned town center and marina district are approved for on-street golf cart use, limiting high-emission vehicle use.
A Sustainable Future
Upon completion, almost one quarter of SweetBay’s acreage will be green space, canopied parks, conservation areas, and wetland preserves. Smaller home sites and higher density residential districts allow for highest and best use while ensuring ample green space and amenities for Bay County’s families. The desirability of SweetBay has propelled it to be one of the panhandle’s top communities and an enclave of homeowners that appreciate and share the vision and concept of responsible development and building.