In the last few months, Fernandina Beach discussed waterfront parks, marina repair, paid parking and density changes. Many of us see the changes coming as the rest of the county grows and population adds traffic to the island, potentially making everything a little more prosperous, but a little more crowded.
10:40 on a weekday morning August 2017
I miss the island as it was 40 years ago, but have enough perspective to know the memories are colored by nostalgia. We drove on the beach and had the run of Fort Clinch on the holidays. Using seine nets at night was an amazing thing, with enough fish for everyone. A favorite uncle brought a great recipe for beer battered shrimp from Georgia and no one passed down the recipe. I’m guessing cake batter or coconut cake mix, corn meal and beer. I had a great childhood and most of us did. I miss the island the way it was, but know we can’t go back.
Today, we have Sounds on Centre and great music downtown at places like the Green Turtle. Kayaks weren’t really a thing 40 years ago, but kayaks are an amazing way to explore the island. A huge improvement, at least to me, is the heated public pool. It might be a small thing, but it was pretty important to me when recovering from a shoulder injury. Think about the restaurants, sports and just the exceptional people. We have theatre groups and book signings with “Authors”. Famous people move here and we’re considered lucky to live here by almost everyone. I literally try to think of ways to talk my family into staying at home for a vacation, because there just isn’t as much to do when we leave.
I always hope to be a part of planning for the future, but will choose to be happy to be a local and feel lucky to call Fernandina home.
The rumors of tearing down entire blocks of Centre to build condos is impossible or extremely unlikely for a number of reasons. It stirred up a lot of people during an election, but amounts to fearmongering to people. I tried to explain to a group of people, including one person spreading the rumor, but instead of replying to the explanation, he said I must have some ulterior interest since I’m in the “INDUSTRY”. Fear brings out the voter, but the average person sees an issue in a newspaper story or hears about it from a neighbor. I was in a group for months looking at the change to density…what it would change and whether it would be a good thing for downtown. At the end of the day, in my opinion, it eventually changes the peak times parking is used and creates a path for use of upstairs areas for residential use…ultimately reducing the use and parking impact on the area.
The market would also not allow a profit with a large scale conversion to condos. The cost is prohibitive, the HDC restricts that kind of demo or makes it very difficult and there are mostly individual owners with very small 25’x100′ lots. Even with one property using 3 or 4 lots, the large scale demolition and conversion t condominium use is absurd. All the talk of huge changes, including closing Centre, stirred up everyone, but never was a real possibility.
So, what will happen? We’ll see renovation of older buildings, leading to preservation, because use can match the need for housing. We should see parking impact spread over more hours, leading to a reduced parking issue in the future. We should also see more projects like Harbor View and eventual development of the Standard Marine/Goodsell property. The CRA should begin to function and we should see logical opening of either Alachua or Broome Street. By the way, I support an Alachua Street opening over Broome as a more logical location, because I feel Broome is out of the highest point of traffic in commercial zoning along Alachua and because it offers a logical traffic circulation during events. Pushing a street opening another block toward the port is likely to create an issue with rail access to the port and pushes more traffic toward the 3rd Street residents and homes adjacent to the Port of Fernandina. Making Front Street one way toward the port and toward Center, with either possible at the Alachua opening, reduces traffic toward the port from Center, but still allows access for businesses located in a primarily industrial area between Alachua and Dade.
Doesn’t it make sense to consider ways to benefit all stakeholders, including the Port of Fernandina, the City of Fernandina Beach, the CRA and, indirectly, the surrounding private owners?
We’ve all been watching the building adjacent to the First Baptist Church on 5th Street for years. Deteriorating slowly, the square footage was a challenge to repurpose, but thanks to a little vision, money and a great plan by Silling Architects, the conceptual plan above may become a reality. The Harbor View development on South 2nd Street is another development with rooftop deck or features and great potential views.
As a broker and local, I can see the way Downtown Historic Fernandina is going through a kind of reset of value and expectations. With views like this, a potential improved waterfront and very intelligent changes to C-3 zoning, we’ll see more mixed use in the downtown area and, in my opinion, an extended period of viability to parking as uses create a need at very different times.
Downtown Fernandina on Amelia Island is the cultural and dining center of the island. My favorite lunch, by far, is the poke bowl at Timoti’s Seafood Shak.
Over the last year, I’ve made a point of eating less processed food and adding healthy options to my day. With fresh avocado, tuna, coconut rice, spinach, green onion, kelp seasoning and soy, this is my personal favorite.
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.
The headline in today’s paper, “Boom! Downtown development takes off” is something I’ve been waiting to hear for some time. In years past, a fairly small group of buyers existed, often picking up properties at a much reduced price. In slow markets, lowball offers work. As properties see a higher demand, prime properties or scarce locations become much more desirable.
The central business district is key. Reading through described uses, combine a location in a historic district with potential water views and as many as 2 dozen restaurants within walking distance…you’ll understand why so many are suddenly interested in being in downtown Fernandina Beach.
“2.01.13 Central Business District (C-3)
The C-3 District is intended for the development of land uses within the central business district as the City’s center for residential, financial, commercial, governmental, professional, and cultural activities. The Central Business District category is designed to accommodate single- family or duplex residential uses, either freestanding or in mixed residential and business use structures; offices; commercial retail; personal services establishments; restaurants; transient accommodations; commercial parking facilities; civic uses; and cultural uses.” http://www.fbfl.us/DocumentCenter/View/16365
I remember describing downtown as the “Heart of Amelia Island” and Fernandina, but it really is true. I know of no other downtown with the same quality and quantity of entertainment, recreation, food, drink and shopping in tiny, walkable area. Pick up a copy of the news leader if you want to see some of the proposed additions, but the price points are suddenly higher.
Three large projects were discussed in the article, but a number of others are potentially coming. The hotel site on North 2nd Street paused, but could come back. The site is prime and wraps around the Crab Trap, another location available at $2.5 million. The Goodsell Property aka: Standard Marine, is a potential residential/commercial mixed use site with fantastic potential. Think about the building, but the “many times larger” footprint with water views and proximity to everything. Across the street, two other properties, a little smaller, but no less attractive, offer frontage on 2nd and Alachua. All might be moving soon, but could be poised for development if the Alachua Street improvements are complete. Think about two new buildings at 2nd and Ash and one block away at 3rd and Ash, the renovation of the Historic Schoolhouse on Atlantic and Salt Life. When is Salt Life breaking ground anyway?
While we were sleeping, the attention shifted and Fernandina is in the midst of a boom in commercial redevelopment.
Reading a post on landscaping earlier, the only informative thing was the title, “10 Rules….” or something like that. Working with a great many new homes and existing homes to resell, I have my own set of rules to follow.
1) We live in Florida, so water and using native plants should be a consideration. Companies like “Reflections of Nature”, specialize in native landscaping or xeriscape designs. Taking the time to plan a yard around water and maintenance makes a huge difference.
2) Use some specimen size plants. While everything grows, do you want to wait 10 years or have the basic appearance of a landscape in place immediately? I learned to put money into 1-3 full-size focal points at the beginning. You never know when you might need a great yard/appearance and you’ll enjoy the landscape while living in your home.
3) Never plant too close to the structure. Plants retain water, but can also collect leaves and debris in a way conducive to wood damage or termite entry. Considering this before planting is important.
4) Scale should be correct. The size of plants changes over time and plantings can suddenly overwhelm an entry or walkway. Consider whether your newly purchased home is still landscaped with plants the right size and shape for the space.
5) How do you plan to create a border or edge bedding? The best tip I pass on to clients came from my wife. Use the shape of the edge of a bed to create the edge, not visible plastic edging or any other visible border. Using a “V” shape at the edge of a bed, to create a bed with depth along the edge and a flat area in planted spots, does exactly what you see with wood, concrete, stone or plastic edging. I also like pine straw for mulch. After a few weeks, the pine straw settles in and remains in place.
6) The biggest mistake I see is in new construction. Some plants will grow to double, triple or quadruple the size in a short time. Viburnum grows quickly and is cheap to buy, but is rapidly far too large for most spaces. I recently sold a home with the entire front of the home lined in viburnum, less than 12 inches from the structure. In less than a year, the shrubs will overgrow the are and the new owner will be digging, cutting or replacing the entire front bed. We have a 15 foot wall of viburnum at our home….but not 12 inches away from the foundation. Think about growth rates and placement. What looks good now might be bigger soon. Plan for low maintenance and common sense plantings.
7) Think about micro-climates. Most plants thrive in a specific environment. Using a larger plant, you can create shaded areas where a greater variety of plants might thrive.
8) Hardscape should be simple. I hate seeing a yard with so much hardscape it looks like a retail nursery display. Simple additions like a small entry fountain, bench, rock or other focal point should not be intrusive. Think about whether your feature enhances the home or becomes the only thing you notice.
9) If at the beach, don’t try to change the natural landscape. Dunes look great and native palms or grasses look better than anything you might change. Besides, most of the areas you might try to replant are considered protected.
We’re definitely spoiled. The island makes a wait in line or long drive seem like an unacceptable inconvenience, but this really didn’t hit home until we visited Kennedy Space Center earlier in the week. Lines were for, literally, a line to get in a line! Island time, for me, means having extra hours in every day. Why? We drive less, have few waits, can play near or during work and a vacation is whenever and wherever you have an extra 10 minutes to enjoy the place you live/work.
I’m at home working from a laptop this afternoon, texting to two agents, my wife and a client. Sitting on my front porch with a headset, noise cancellation makes it easy to have a conversation from almost any location, but the sync between my computer, phone and tablet make my mobile office a seamless thing of beauty. A few years ago, I transitioned to fully digital files. If I have paper, I scan it into a cloud drive, but even signatures are more accurate and easier to manage. Every so often, it occurs to me just how much changed in the years after my first sale. Contracts were shorter, but were often handwritten. Signatures were never electronic and files are still boxed at my office from my early time in the industry.
I’m posting an update for one client with pictures of a new build and the technology really does change the service. Every few days, I take a new picture of the construction progress. If she likes, I’ll even schedule time to “FACETIME” a walk of the property to save hours in travel.
Time is probably the best part of a place like Amelia Island or Fernandina. I spend so little time traveling and so little time waiting in line, I can’t even begin to add the value of the extra time I’ve added to my life. The odd part of living here is in adjusting your routine to move from play to work in short bursts. I chose to add mobile technology to every part of my business. Even a recent change to all Apple equipment came down to time and resenting the time I wasted in transition between operating systems. The other night, we walked out of a restaurant with a 30 minute wait. How many towns have 10 or 20 other restaurants within walking distance and with nearly equal quality on any given night? We’re lucky and most of us don’t notice…the occasional extra hours in each day.
They say you can’t buy time, but you can buy the location, or choose a lifestyle to save time.