Fernandina Beach seeks interest in riverfront redevelopment opportunity

Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
November 13, 2018 11:35 a.m.

Proposed redevelopment site

The city of Fernandina Beach, FL is hoping to improve the look and functionality of its Amelia River frontage by attracting interest from developers to transform the site of a derelict commercial building into an attractive waterfront asset.  The city is looking forward to reviewing responses to its Request for Expressions Of Interest (REOI) issued on October 19  following the December 14 submission deadline.

For a detailed copy of the REOI, contact [email protected]

Potential respondents are strongly encouraged to register their interest by sending an e-mail to [email protected] Please use “North Front Street REOI” in the subject line. Include the name of the primary contact, email address and telephone number. This information will be used to share answers to questions and updates on process. Follow up contact depends on registration. Registration does not obligate a response.

  • An informational meeting and tour will be offered on November 28, 2018. Respondents are encouraged, but not required to participate in the tour. However, this is the only time that Main Street and City personnel will be available to address questions in person. After this date, all questions must be submitted in writing to [email protected] and all questions and answers will be made available to all registered respondents.
  • During the Request for Expressions of Interest period, answers to frequently asked questions will be published at fernandinamainstreet.com and updated regularly.

The City of Fernandina Beach is looking to bring the Amelia River waterfront back to life as a working waterfront by providing a destination that creates a sense of place for City residents and its visitors alike.

  • This is an opportunity to provide a profitable private/public partnership to the right type of development for the City’s historic downtown waterfront.
  • This project is the first opportunity to bring back the glory of a waterfront that once hosted sailing captains as well as tourists during the grand Victorian age.
  • The Amelia River waterfront has remained dormant for years waiting for the first project to start what could be a great addition to the community. This project has the opportunity to set the standard for future development of the waterfront.

On behalf of the City, Fernandina Main St., Inc. (Main Street) is seeking Expressions of Interest in the redevelopment of 101 North Front Street, known as the “Island Seafood” or “Vuturo” building, along the Amelia River in historic City of Fernandina Beach. The focus of this request is the identification of interest from experienced development teams that can transform the parcel to best align with the working waterfront guidelines established by the City.  The City purchased the property in 2016 and has obtained a permit from the Florida Department Of Environmental Protection (DEP) which states:

“Replace a pile-supported, over-water structure that is approximately 5,077 square feet with 4,356 square feet of the structure waterward of the MHW line. The over-water portion of the structure will be placed in the same or smaller footprint (over surface water is entirely owned by the City of Fernandina Beach) located at 101 North Front Street in Fernandina Beach on the Amelia River, a Class III Waterbody, not an Outstanding Florida Waterbody, not an Aquatic Preserve, Section 27, Township 03 North, Range 28 East, Nassau County. Your request has been reviewed to determine whether it qualifies for (1) regulatory exemption, (2) proprietary authorization (related to state-owned submerged lands), and (3) federal approval that may be necessary for work in wetlands or waters of the United States. This project qualifies for all three.”

The ideal redevelopment will provide a distinctive water-related or water enhanced use that complements the existing urban fabric and potentially leads to the redevelopment of other waterfront parcels. The City will consider, under the right circumstances a sale or lease. Under either circumstance, the city will maintain all riparian rights.

For several years, the members of the local community have expressed strong interest in bringing the waterfront back to life. Several attempts have been made to renew interest in the Amelia River waterfront over the past thirty years. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew severely damaged the city-owned Fernandina Harbor Marina and repairs are anticipated to begin within the next 3-6 months. Additional setbacks were witnessed as a result of effects from Hurricane Irma in 2017. With the City’s marina in disrepair for nearly 24 months, there has been an increased focus on the waterfront and public outcry make something happen – QUICKLY!

The waterfront’s future has been described as bustling with water related activities that serve to provide a public space and may include dining establishments, educational facilities, performance venues, and passive or active recreation opportunities. The subject property was purchased by the City of Fernandina Beach for the purpose of gaining riparian rights in order to extend the existing municipal marina northward towards naturally deeper waters. After the damage to the marina, plans for the marina expansion have been put on the back burner. The uplands portion of the property was always anticipated for destination business that offered complementary use to the activities within the surrounding area.

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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