The Latitude Margaritaville Watersound community for residents 55 years old and older broke ground this week, and is the third of its kind following communities in Daytona Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Sometime next spring, Latitude Margaritaville Watersound will host a groundbreaking ceremony for its newest development near Panama City Beach.


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It will be a great way to formally introduce the Jimmy Buffett-inspired community on the site west of State 79 and north of the Intracoastal Waterway in West Bay that will include 3,500 homes with amenities and infrastructure for residents 55 years old and older that’s scheduled for completion.


It will also be largely symbolic. Work began at the site this week, hitting a previously stated goal to break ground by the end of 2019, with an official opening date of spring 2021.


"We’re actually turning dirt and have commenced on-site development activity," said Minto Communities’ Latitude Margaritaville President William Bullock. "We’ve been interacting with St. Joe since about mid-2018 and were able to work through a lot of the business arrangements and behind-the-scenes stuff like permits in that time.


"Now we’re seeing the fruits of all those activities. We were committed to start by the end of 2019, and we’re happy to hit that goal."


The Panama City Beach location will be the third of its kind following Latitude Margaritaville communities in Daytona Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina, and the first of its kind for Watersound-based land developer St,. Joe Company, which owns the land the community will be built on.


"After a period of planning and preparation, we are excited to begin development at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound. We believe that Northwest Florida is the perfect location for this Latitude Margaritaville community," St. Joe President and CEO Jorge Gonzalez said in a press release. "This region is uniquely suited to offer the type of lifestyle residents of these communities have come to enjoy."


The relationship between the parties involved in creating Latitude Margaritaville Watersound actually traces back to 2009, when St. Joe sold a piece of land in the Tampa Area to Minto Communities.


"Because of those prior relationships, it made it easy to start a dialogue," Bullock said. "I believe St. Joe has always been interested in developing an active, adult community and the research they’ve done in that regard and the research we’ve done goes back almost a decade."


Bullock’s group drew from a database of more than 300,000 registered users seeking information on Margaritaville.


"Panama City is a true destination location," Bullock said. "Take into account everything the market has to offer … they have some of the best beaches in the U.S. and maybe in the world, and that’s important to the people we’re after. The nature and the environment of where they’ll live."


The first thing up for Latitude Margaritaville is building an approximately 8,000-9,000 square-foot sales center for potential home buyers.


And when the community does open, residents should be open to meeting their neighbors if there’s an unexpected knock at the door.


Because you never know who it could be.


"(Jimmy Buffett) actually owns a house in the Daytona community and one day he came out, unannounced, and started knocking on random people’s doors," Bullock said. "That is something that just blew their socks off. I think some people are under the impression that it’s just the (Margaritaville) name that’s attached to the project and it’s just a sign you hang on the wall, but I can assure you that the Margaritaville folks are fully invested and involved with this.


"We meet with them on a daily or weekly basis. The brand is important to all of us, and Jimmy is a huge part of that."