Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 23, 2019 3:11 p.m.

224 N. 2nd Street structure now slated for demolition.
Location of subject property

The Historic District Council (HDC) of the city of Fernandina Beach met on April 18, 2019.  Two of the cases they approved related to property  located at 224 North 2nd Street owned by David and Kim Page (HDC cases 2019-06 and 2019-07).  The HDC denied the original case for demolition of a historic structure on October 8, 2018.  The Pages appealed that decision to the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) at their first meeting in January 2019.  The FBCC voted to remand the case back to the HDC for further review, allowing the applicants to submit new evidence into the record.

The structure, located at 224 N. 2nd Street, in its current form was constructed between 1897 and 1903. The structure was originally the site of Oliver Oak’s planing mill, which most likely worked in conjunction with the Duryee Saw Mill a few blocks north. 

Example of interior framing deficiency

This property was identified as having deficiencies caused by owner neglect dating back to 2009, prior to the Pages’ ownership. As this historic structure does not lie within the Downtown Historic District, it is not subject to Demolition by Neglect regulations. Code Enforcement had been attempting to get the previous owners of the property to properly maintain the structure without success. 

Although initially recommending against demolition, staff changed its recommendation following receipt of detailed photographs and professional assessment of the condition of the building, which is located in the Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and faces port warehouses.  The HDC has jurisdiction over properties in the CRA.

Compromised piers supporting structure

Although staff believed that the residential structure is an important link to this neighborhood’s history and also represents the last residential example of this architectural style, the deteriorated conditions of the structure made saving it moot.

Staff and the HDC take the demolition of historic structures very seriously and applications face a high review standard to ensure that demolition is warranted. The applicant has provided details attesting to the level of deterioration present in the structure, the lack of historic fabric present on the structure, and the economic feasibility of rehabilitation. 

Exterior shots of the structure

An interested party had come forward earlier this year and proposed relocating the structure. But upon further investigation, the party found it to be infeasible. 

The HDC voted 2-1 to approve the demolition on the condition that the owners further consider options to incorporate the structure into the redevelopment project and that materials be salvaged to the greatest extent feasible for incorporation into the new project.  Approval was also contingent on conceptual approval of redevelopment plans for the site (HDC 2019-07).

The lone negative vote was cast “in principle” by member Michael Harrison, who believed that cases such as this should be caught earlier on so that demolition will not become the only option.

Consistent with the Central Business District (C-3) zoning for the property, the Pages presented plans for conceptual approval of an approximately 10,680 square foot mixed use project in two buildings.  Architect John Cotner presented preliminary, conceptual plans which would provide affordable housing options, including handicapped accessible units on the ground floor.  Parking would also be included on site.

Early conceptual drawing of proposed buildings to be built on site.
Preliminary concept for siting of two structures on site of demolished residence.

The HDC granted conceptual approval to these plans with the proviso that the case return for at least one more conceptual review prior to considering final approval.

Suanne Thamm 4Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.

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Betsie Huben
Betsie Huben (@guest_54894)
3 years ago

Let us all hope we can get past the “conceptual” and see a project actually come to fruition that really meets the need for affordable housing options.

Teri Springer
Teri Springer (@guest_54897)
3 years ago
Reply to  Betsie Huben

Agreed!! It looks good, on paper. How about a written commitment as to what they plan to charge for rent.

Teri Springer
Teri Springer (@guest_54896)
3 years ago

I agree 1005 with this:

“The lone negative vote was cast “in principle” by member Michael Harrison, who believed that cases such as this should be caught earlier on so that demolition will not become the only option.”

Just curious as to when the Pages purchased the property.

Teri Springer
Teri Springer (@guest_54898)
3 years ago
Reply to  Teri Springer

100%….apparently my brain is moving faster than my fingers.

Gerald Decker
Gerald Decker (@guest_54899)
3 years ago

Sometimes decrepit eye-sores are just that and need to make way for the new….the HDC often oversteps the bounds of reason……they should think more pronounce less.

Stephen Coe
Stephen Coe (@guest_54900)
3 years ago

PA records show the Pages bought the property 2 years ago. They have a track record of beautifying property and increasing aesthetics and real estate values as substantiated by their renovation of their residence on Atlantic Ave.

Teri Springer
Teri Springer (@guest_54905)
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Coe

Like I said, I was just curious. I have also taken blighted properties and restored them. It’s an expensive proposition and not every building is worth it. Despite being the “last example of this architectural style” I see little if anything that would make this home worth pulling out all stops to save it. It’s a shame the previous owners allowed it to get this bad but what’s done is done. I look forward to seeing the Pages follow through with their promise of affordable housing.

Philippe Boets
Philippe Boets (@guest_54901)
3 years ago

Very pleased to hear that common sense prevailed. I look at this building every single day, from my warehouse, next door. Even considered buying it at one time, because it does look quaint, but I realized quickly that it is falling apart, and has no future (even if restored, for an astronomical amount) in this particular location.
To folks who claimed it was a “Gem to be preserved!”, I replied: “Why don’t you buy it?”. It was on the market for almost 10 years, at a reasonable price. No one wanted it.
As a neighbor, I’m happy to see the property is now in good hands, of people with a proven track record. Wishing them all the best with the new building.

Dave Lott
Dave Lott (@guest_54903)
3 years ago

David and Kim are highly regarded members of the FB community who, as others have noted, have a proven track record of living up to their word. I have no doubt in my mind that this project will serve as an overall benefit.

Courtney McCranie
Courtney McCranie (@guest_54904)
3 years ago

“caused by owner neglect dating back to 2009, prior to the Pages’ ownership. As this historic structure does not lie within the Downtown Historic District, it is not subject to Demolition by Neglect regulations. Code Enforcement had been attempting to get the previous owners of the property to properly maintain the structure without success.“

I purchased this property in 2003 or so. It was in terrible shape, worse than 2009. I spent tens of thousands of dollars every year holding it together. A proper renovation would have cost $3-400,000. I had it listed for sale for years because I could not afford a total renovation.

The neglect came when it was excluded from the historic district to benefit the construction of the port, not being across the street from a historic district.

We won a statewide award for “Best renovation/redevelopment” for Wicked Davey’s at 232 North 2nd Street In 2006 even with City Hall working against us at all times. In March of 2006 the city gave us a list of three things that needed to be done before the restaurant opened and that list of three things blossomed into a much longer list taking six more months of review at City Hall. It cost an extra $80,000.

Read about Code enforcement on the Amelia Island brewing company Facebook page you’ll see the example of a double standard. Anyone who experiences redevelopment or development of a project with City Hall understands how inconsistent things are down there. I like each individual person at City Hall but as a group it has always been dysfunctional.

The house is almost 200 years old. It was a bordello and a boarding house. The neglect happened well before 2009 and well before 2003.

Good luck to the Page’s and to John Cotner!

Courtney McCranie

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