Something you notice immediately, when looking at an aerial view of Fernandina’s waterfront, is the success of the area south of Centre and the under-development of the area to the north. Why? Well, the most obvious reason is access. Northward, the access to the water and traffic circulation are forced past an industrial and working waterfront area. While this, in itself, might seem like a good thing, the photo below shows years of neglect and underutilized property.. Consider the tax revenue from buildings constructed to take advantage of the view. There have been multiple projects planned, including a hotel planned for the right side of this picture, in my opinion, sidelined for various reasons. Cost is always a consideration, but having access and good traffic flow through Alachua is likely the final piece of the puzzle to move the CRA forward and create tax increases allowing for waterfront improvements. Moving the marina north to reach deeper water, eliminating the silting issue, opening Alachua and improving the infrastructure are all pieces of the puzzle for investors and developers, interested in our waterfront.
Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin has released the following letter from FDOT dated October 9, 2017:
Dear Mr. Martin,
I am writing on behalf of the Florida Department of Transportation (Department) regarding the opening of the highway-railroad at-grade crossing at Alachua Street in Fernandina Beach. It is the understanding of the Department that the City of Fernandina Beach, First Coast Railroad and the Department have agreed in principle to open the rail crossing at Alachua Street in Fernandina Beach upon the satisfaction of certain conditions. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the acceptance of drawings for the planned crossing by the Department, the City of Fernandina Beach and First Coast Railroad. Upon acceptance of the drawings by all the parties, the Parties shall enter into a formal stipulation to opening the crossing at Alachua Street in Fernandina Beach. The opening of the crossing at Alachua Street will remain subject to the satisfaction of any other applicable regulatory conditions.
Florida Department of Transportation
Source: Fernandina Observer https://fernandinaobserver.com/2017/10/11/fdot-approves-opening-of-alachua-rail-crossing/ 10/13/17
I see the changes as essential to the CRA and, combining this change with the release of funds for the marina, expansion of the marina and change to density downtown, we will see tax revenues from previously vacant or very underdeveloped structures. When you change a vacant property like the Goodsell/Front Street Property, LLC, also known as the Standard Marine property, at the corner of Alachua and 2nd, into a highest and best use development piece, tax revenues skyrocket. This one parcel could go from a taxable value of about $1.6 million to something 10 times higher. 2016 taxes on this piece, vacant and nearly unused for years, was $32,298.83. We could easily see $200,000 in additional annual tax revenue, before considering the hotel site on the other corner. Think about the residential use and vitality added to downtown businesses. Considering funding for front street improvements, we’re at the verge of seeing a very, very successful CRA!
Years ago, this is what the waterfront looked like at the foot of Center Street. Things always change. Looking for a way to insure a waterfront continues to benefit the rest of the city is important. Using this resource as an economic driver and to improve other businesses is far more desirable than vacant land with a million dollar view.