Preserving Fernandina’s Historic Buildings

One helpful conversation later, I understand the possibilities for preservation a little more.  Areas along Fernandina’s waterfront are filled with historic buildings pre-dating FEMA elevation requirements or built when the flood zones required less.  A prime example of a building “potentially” preserved by “dry proofing” techniques, is the Standard Marine property.  Instead of an extremely difficult change to finished floor elevation, this may offer a solution.

img_1119
Ideal Candidate?

Retrofit floodproofing measures for historic buildings need not be comprehensive to provide at least some degree of protection. The techniques listed below may have minimal impact on the historically significant features of the structure (FEMA 2008b):

  • Elevating electrical and mechanical systems and utilities
  • Relocating contents
  • Creating positive drainage, where the grade allows water to drain away from the building
  • Using flood damage-resistant materials
  • Filling in basements or wet floodproofing basements
  • Installing small floodwalls to protect openings such as window wells

Source: FEMA Floodproofing Non-Residential Buildings FEMA P-936 / July 2013 

I’m pleased to see possibilities for both preservation and, I would hope, reduction of insurance rates.  My next call is to my insurance agent to discuss potential benefits for historic non-residential property retrofitted with any of these FEMA flood proofing. Consider the picture below and how many older properties might potentially benefit.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0985.JPG

NewImage.png
Source: Nassau County Property Appraiser GIS

Amazing Oceanfront Views….Some Costs to Consider and Importance of Public Access

Are you considering buying or building a home on the ocean and have you considered, beyond the view and restrictions on construction, the importance of locating theScreen Shot 2018 04 30 at 10 09 32 AM“Coastal Construction Control Line” before moving forward.  A
number of areas with frontage are relatively high, while some areas might be located entirely seaward of the CCCL.   Knowing flood zones, including recent changes to these, is important, but the graph below, taken from Fema’s Coastal Construction Manual, is enlightening.  I was aware of the increased risk, but moving seaward from this line adds insurance, maintenance and, well to put it simply, a cost.

If you are willing to pay the cost to build, the views can be amazing, but locating the lines and considering the cost comes first.


Other costs might be the maintenance of a home near salt water, damage from occasional winds or sustained rain in a “Northeaster” or tropical event. and the privacy sacrificed when you live, essentially, on an area open to the public.

All considered, oceanfront living is amazing.  Watching the changes in weather, people and being able to swim, surf, fish or enjoy a beach steps from your back door is a great experience.   My family owned property on North Fletcher and in the 2400 block of South Fletcher for most of my childhood.  The experience of living on the ocean is worth every penny.

fullsizeoutput_7cb

In the last few months, we’ve all been watching a change to law, potentially having an impact on public beach access.  While we have been assured by our representatives, the potential for unintended consequences is driving a grass-roots effort to preserve any endangered beach access.  You can read more or become involved to protect any potential loss of access.  Senator Aaron Bean had the following thoughts and the concerns obviously have his attention.

Regarding HB631:

“The claim that this new law will turn public beaches into private beaches and therefore restricting the public’s access to beaches is simply not true.

The Tampa Bay Times, in evaluating this same claim, rated the claim that this new law would make all beaches private and restrict access as MOSTLY FALSE, stating “The law Scot

t signed would not result in turning more public beaches into private ones.” Read more here: http://www.politifact.com/…/did-gov-rick-scott-sign-bill-c…/

Further, FloridaPolitics.com also looked into this claim, citing a legal expert saying it is not as dire as some are stating. Read more here: http://floridapolitics.com/…/260737-controversial-beach-acc…

To explain, access to the beach is a constitutionally protected right that all Floridians enjoy and not a grain of sand will be treated differently.

This law is meant to stop government from being able to take someone’s beach front property without following due process.

I am a beach boy. I grew up on the beach and was a proud local lifeguard growing up. I would never support any legislation that prohibits our access to our white sandy beaches. And again, I don’t believe that this new law does that.

I will promise you this – if there are any unintended consequences to this bill, that I will personally lead the charge to fix them in the coming session. But I would encourage my fellow beach lovers to read up on the law, what it does and does not do – as I would never support a bill that limits access to our wonderful beaches.”   Sen. Aaron Bean

So where does this leave us? When growing up on the island, my memories of the beach were driving from one end of the island to the other.  Surfing or fishing on the island meant we had over 13 miles of beach to find privacy or a group of friends…  The grass roots efforts lead to an increased awareness, with groups like Citizens for the Preservation of Public Beaches signing petitions.

 

I started with considerations when buying or living on the ocean, but it is logical to understand the history of beach use here and understand the kinds of uses.  Beach driving ended on the majority of the island years ago.  A few areas are protected, as they should be, and all beaches are public, limited by the restrictions in place to protect native vegetation, wildlife and natural dunes.

Under Contract and Dramatic Transformation Coming

Change is coming, if you haven’t noticed.  The downtown area is becoming the hottest place to live, work and play, while properties are redeveloped to make more sense in the changed local economy.  Prime locations are everywhere, if you only take the time to look.   The Boat House is “under contract”, the old Pecan Roll closed recently and the old Picker’s Market will change in a very interesting way, I’m told.  We’re on the verge of seeing a very useful CRA and some needed redevelopment or repurposing of property in Fernandina.  The renovation underway at the Old School House is another example.  I can name a number of positive changes coming.

front view

With limited views and unique locations, we all drive by older buildings without considering the potential benefits.  Change in use means added vitality for downtown, tax revenue and a side benefit from the complimentary effect of nearby diverse, thriving businesses.

If you think about the potential changes and ways the downtown area evolved over the last century, you’ll understand Fernandina a little more.  Last month, the old First Baptist Church Sunday School building went under contract and is slated for redevelopment into high end loft space.  The demand is high for living space near commercial uses, so repurposing older buildings, a trend in most waterfront commercial districts, is becoming the biggest trend here.  The old Fernandina Lumber site is moving forward with foundations poured for townhomes.  Considering the website, the price per foot ranges are hitting new highs for an area approaching oceanfront demand.   An improved library, eclectic food and shopping and remaining available sites, just waiting for the right investor/developer, means Historic Fernandina is seeing a rebirth, with high interest in preservation and seeking a new logic for every area.

As a local, I still feel the nostalgia.  Shrimp Festival began in the same year I was born, so I grew up watching boats race and the town change from a kind of Mayberry, to something far more sophisticated.  fullsizeoutput_76aThink about value and what we see as desirable in a location.  We all think about proximity to work and play, but what about dining, shopping, history, libraries, a post office and interesting people?  What about views or the ambiance of a location?

I work in the historic district and generally walk to buy a coffee each day, walk a few blocks to the water and take the time to check new projects like the newest Artisan Homes project, Harbor View.  Pricing for a completed Harbor View home and the obvious interest tells me the demand was complete misunderstood by most.  I’m a broker and I didn’t anticipate quite so many sales this soon or the demand!

Remembering Fernandina and Appreciate Today

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.

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.

Center Street Condos, Front Street and Logic

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?

 

Dramatic Rooftop Transformation Rave Review

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 5.23.59 PM
Conceptual Drawing Submitted to the HDC on 3/19/18 Source: www.fbfl.us and HDC Agenda or www.silling.com for more of their work.

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.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0985.JPG

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.

fullsizeoutput_6b
Amazing Views and Sunsets

Healthy Choices in Fernandina

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.

6W4HCSJHTjeg6Nll2ZBcFg
Poke Bowl with Extra Ahi Tuna

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.

 

Complicated Issues in Standard Marine Property Re-development

img_1119-1
Standard Marine on April 15th, 2018

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.

img_0470
Once open, this blocked access may be a huge consideration in the future use for 101 North 2nd Street in Fernandina

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.

IMG 1122
Watercolor images don’t paint the picture or planning needed to correctly re-use this site.

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?

NewImage
Entire property…note flood zone AE BFE 10 and top showing 6′ Elevation from www.nassauflpa.com

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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 11.11.16 AM
Historic District and 101 N 2nd

“…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.

Screen Shot 2018 04 15 at 11 06 03 AM

THE STANDARD MARINE BUILDING IN BETTER TIMES. NOTE THE BURBANK NETWORKS BEHIND THE

BUILDING.

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.

img_1094
Another property on South 2nd Harbor View) currently being redeveloped.  Note extensive site work.

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.

While we were sleeping…”Boom!”…The Amelia Island Market Changed

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.

NewImage
Vacant lot soon available on North 2nd – 34×125 feet and Zoned C-3 Click image for sales information…

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.