PANAMA CITY BEACH — Flashback to Valentine‘s Day of 2008; Pier Park opened up for the first time amid mixed emotions from locals about it.

RELATED: New pizza restaurant opens in Pier Park

Martin Horak, operations director of Pier Park, came into the mix late 2007 and was at the opening of the shopping complex. Stores like Dillard's, J.C. Penny, and Target were among the first stores to open up there.

“This land was kind of sitting here for a while and not much was going on,” Horak said. “I remember when we opened it was a big deal for this area and people were excited.”

RELATED: Tex Kitchen: Food truck drives Pier Park restaurant

A few years before its opening, the discussion of Pier Park started and it was met with locals who were dead set against its opening. Some residents wanted the beach to continue to be a local spot that families could enjoy.

“I remember a lot of people not wanting it because it brought a lot of tourists and it would be overwhelming,” said Shannon Luck, who has been a Bay County resident since before Pier Park opened. “People just wanted to come for the beach, but then it became more than that.”

Luck added that she wished they kept the beach “the beach.” With Pier Park coming into the fray, the condos came with it.

According to Horak, he didn‘t know about the mixed emotions from the opening, but understands that residents wanted to keep the beach how it was.

“We probably still have some folks that would like to see this beach as it was back in the day, but you can‘t stop the progress,” Horak said. “You can see the city hall, the fire department, and they’re capitalizing on that. We pay taxes and that helps with the city‘s budget and it’s just a domino affect.”

Since its opening, Pier Park has grown to host a total of 141 stores and added Pier Park North and Pier Park West. Panama City Beach has benefited from its growth, but it was a big investment.

“We talk about it sometimes internally, it was a pretty big risk to invest a large amount of money of a shopping center of this scale in Panama City Beach when the population was like less than 10,000,” Horak said. “You have to convince somebody to make investment to build this, so it was a big step.”

Even though there were residents against the development of Pier Park, there were some who were excited about it. Kara Tabo, Bay County resident, said she believes it‘s been great since Pier Park was added.

“I think most of my friends were excited because it brought more shopping into the area and the mall in town had been run down since like 2005,” Tabo said. “I think the high rises (condos) have ruined the beach more so than Pier Park.”

Even though Tabo was excited about the addition of Pier Park, there are still some things that have disappointed her.

“I thought there would be more kid-friendly things to do because of my 10-year-old son Cam, but that hasn‘t happened,” Tabo said. “They brought the Miracle Strip back, but now it‘s gone and they have the big Sky Wheel that isn’t that fun.”

Tabo‘s only complaint about Pier Park’s development is there aren‘t enough kid-friendly things to do and traffic. Other than that, she likes to go with her friends, people watch and have a good time.

Pier Park will keep the development train going as there is still land they can be developed in the future, but Horak didn‘t give any indication on what that might be done.

“You‘re just going to have to see what happens with retailers, but right now we’re just mixing it up for different tenants and locations that make sense,” Horak said. “We look at the customer flow too and we want to make sure we spread it out, so we don’t have one of something in one area.”