We can talk about neglect of buildings or redevelopment, but in areas near the historic district or near the waterfront, some issues become more complicated than it would appear at first glance. The Standard Marine Building is an example of a potential change in use along the water. I use the phrase “change in use” intentionally, since it does have an impact on older structures and the common interruption of a previously viable use. This property is or was configured to be used as a location to manufacture netting and sell marine hardware. A part of the building was warehouse and a large fenced area exists behind the structure we think of, when remembering Standard Marine. In fact, the site is far larger than you might expect, extending from Alachua to Broome and from 2nd Street to the Railroad, adjacent to Front Street. Changes to use and a long interruption of use can mean an entirely new set of considerations, beyond ordinary maintenance or re-use of a property.
Rezoning might be required to continue use for marine repair, net construction and warehouse space. I’m guessing the location might lend itself to a boating use, but the view, cost to develop, cost of land and changes to the area dictate something far different. Mixed commercial and residential uses, a hotel or high-end loft space seems far more likely. Local government and zoning to the property seem to encourage this change as well.
Elevation changes required for flood insurance and other requirements, not in existence when the structure was originally built, may mean a change to the use or reopening the property without a way to change the finished floor, could make it considerably more difficult to save the structure, without significant burden to an owner. In spite of this, the owner of the property is investing significant thought and resources into study of preservation options. As a broker, I would ask a few simple questions. When preserving, what will be the use for the property, considering a simple preservation may mean opening a Pandora’s Box of code, elevation and historic preservation issues? I can see why an original (prior) owner might want to decline inclusion the historic district. What can be done with the building, whether re-use or preservation, and can it be done in a way making economic sense for the owner? Does current code and an interruption of use create an insurmountable obstacle for the owner?
Current efforts by the current owner, including a significant investment in securing the property have been largely hidden costs from the public’s perspective, as a challenging project takes years longer than originally planned. An economic downturn, access at Alachua supposedly opening and then in limbo for years, changes or interruption in use and now scrutiny based on the historic nature of the building, might add to cost and time for an owner or developer.
“…being allowed to show what I have done in the past year toward preserving the SM building. The biggest threat was fire by vandalism, vagrants, and other nighttime activities. I have spent in excess of $26,000 cleaning out everything left by the marine hardware co which created a fire hazard and attracted vandals and thieves. Since the basic structure was NOT collapsing my first priority was to secure the building and perimeter fencing which was done and I have pictures to illustrate this clean up. I hired Construction Solutions to assess the structural integrity of the foundation and walls. I felt that this effort represented more than neglect on my part. I plan to hire a historic preservation architect to detail what it will take to restore this building. Construction Solutions (construction engineers) will be asked to update the construction integrity to combat…….assertion that the building is going to collapse. In order to make an intelligent approach in determining the viability of saving this building will require considerably more time than I am being allowed (May2). I want to save this building more than anyone…..” Source: Dick Goodsell Current Owner
The building was not included in the local Historic District at the request of its owners when the District was established in the late 1970’s. However, while owned by the Standard Marine enterprise, the building had been well maintained and treated as a historic building.
THE STANDARD MARINE BUILDING IN BETTER TIMES. NOTE THE BURBANK NETWORKS BEHIND THE
Following its sale to other owners the building has been the centerpiece of various development plans that have never materialized. The building has remained unoccupied for many years, as time, weather and lack of maintenance have taken their toll on the once attractive building. Sources: Fernandina City Commission Agenda Packet April 3, 2018 www.fbfl.org taken from a post by www.FernandinaObserver.com on March 16th, 2018.
As a local, I understand each and every building will not lend itself to preservation and does have a lifespan, but we should empathize with an owner trying to find a way to preserve an old building, but often finding criticism from those unaware of the investment of time, thought and money or obstacles in the way of even reusing/repurposing the structure. I reached out to this owner on behalf of an interested party and I still remember the owner’s preference to include the original structure. As long as the market took to recover and as long as the Alachua opening or waterfront improvements have taken to materialize, I think it might be fair to consider the need for improvements to streets, long-awaited improvements and failing infrastructure, before finding fault.
If anyone reading this is inclined, a smaller property is being redeveloped on South 2nd Street, behind City Hall. The elevation is higher than the Standard Marine site at 101 North 2nd, but it does give you some idea of the kinds of changes needed to sites prior to construction and challenges faced, when redeveloping or using a property in an area near the water. Noticing the existing curb and condition of roadway in the picture above, it is worth assuming a neglected street, missing improvements, deteriorated access or blocked access, can become a kind of cost to an owner.