Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
April 25, 2019 5:49 p.m.
With little discussion the Historic District Council of the city of Fernandina Beach unanimously approved a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) to install new wayfinding signage throughout the Downtown Historic District (HDC Case 2019-14) at their April 18, 2019 Meeting. They also approved unanimously the city’s request (HDC 2019-15) to construct a 4-foot high aluminum fence with rusticated block columns on the east side of the railroad tracks between Ash and Centre Streets.
The wayfinding designs, submitted by Fernandina Beach Main Street following consultation with business, government and public interests, were developed by Dawson Associates with grant funding. Main Street Executive Director Arlene Filkoff expects work to begin and end on this project in August. Project costs will be paid from impact fees.
This proposed new signage will replace the current sign program which was installed in the 1970’s streetscape project. Over time signage from that program was replaced and did not keep with the aesthetic design of the originals. Many new signs were haphazardly erected throughout downtown, adding to visual clutter in addition to confusion for drivers and pedestrians. The proposed program will reduce the visual blight caused by the abundance of signage currently present in the streetscape and create a harmonious design that will blend with the historic architecture of the Downtown Historic District.
There will be kiosks on each corner, and each business will be cited on five separate signs, including directories in city parking lots. Filkoff said that the plan is to avoid a piecemeal approach to introducing the new signs by doing all of it in a short time frame. The focus of the new signage is to direct visitors to public parking lots.
The approved fence between Ash and Centre Streets will be constructed on the west side of a new sidewalk which will be constructed east of the railroad tracks. Although the fence currently only runs along one block, it is hoped that it might serve as a model for additional fencing along the railroad track in the future.
First Coast Railroad has expressed concerns over pedestrian safety downtown in the absence of a sidewalk connecting the two streets. Pedestrians tend to walk on the railroad tracks or on Front Street, neither of which is a safe option.
Editor’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.