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?
This is a recent shot of the changed landscape behind City Hall. Whether you love change or not, uses change and adjacent properties can benefit. City Hall is nearing the end of it’s life and efficiency. It began as a fire station years ago, but transitioned bays for fire engines into the current commission chamber. Seeing and anticipating the changes, will we have an opportunity to sell at a profit, consolidate to one location and finally see most city services in one location, while preserving a historic structure?
After, literally, years of effort, final approval to open Alachua Street is here. Alachua
doesn’t look like much now, but considering the impact of an opening and the plans dependant upon this added access, this is the single key to a working CRA, development of the surrounding property and management of traffic during events on Centre. It also allows for an added rationale to stabilize the waterfront and change Front Street to a “one way” street, leading traffic away from the port at the Centre/Front intersection.
Thinking about the waterfront and marina, the recent purchase of an added area north of the current marina, took an opening of Alachua into consideration and adds even more logic to the change. Eventually, the marina will move and expand northward, moving larger slips away from the disaster of a mud flat and negligent marina placement years ago….a cost we’ve been covering with tax dollars.
Endorsements mean a lot, but endorsements from a former opponent can be particularly welcome in a runoff. I found this compelling and, although Amelia Island Net is already in favor of Orlando Avila, the note from Mr. Monzon below says quite a bit about Avila’s class and volumes about a gracious opponent.
Beyond the endorsement, one particular sentence stood out. Medardo Monzon says, “I believe that Orlando will continue my efforts of working collaboratively with the mills to reduce their environmental footprint, while his opponent will attempt to weaken the two largest employers in our city, thus threatening the livelihood of about 1000 families.” Essentially, Avila’s opponent opposed one of the cleanest and most environmentally friendly project ever proposed for Amelia Island. Lignotec’s new facility is currently under construction and is not only environmentally friendly, it stabilizes one local mill by reducing waste and makes use of a complimentary byproduct.
Anyone we elect as a commisioner should understand the value of local industry and understand why we should nurture a diverse local economy.
So, I would urge you to vote on December 12th and vote for common sense, economic diversity, deep ties to the community and Orlando Avila. Jobs and diversity make it affordable to live on the island. We’re one of the rare Florida coastal communities with an economic base extending far beyond tourism.