Under the waterfront – An opinion

By Amy Anderson
September 2020

Perhaps in a restrained time of public life with a very unclear future for its economic health, a community might pause and reflect on the direction and timing of large expenditure projects.

The following are observations on latest offerings for the Fernandina Beach Waterfront project as shown in drawings of the 16 September 2020 Fernandina Observer article: FBCC updated on downtown waterfront studies, plans, costs by Suanne Thamm.

1. Is there a clear funding strategy for the waterfront transformation? Can the City underwrite a $20+ million waterfront project on top of $10+ million debt for the Marina? If no private funds are engaged, will all money come from grants? Does the City have a successful track record with Federal (FEMA?) or State agencies to assume that grants of this size will be considered? Assuming grants will be targeted with a resiliency focus, the Fernandina Beach Waterfront proposal must rigorously prove that agenda.

2. The information in the published drawings was presented as separate components:
Master Plan: a) color coded 2 dimensional location plan, b) menu of generic devices, c) color zoned 2 dimensional phasing plan. How do the generic devices actually work for this specific site? Where is the proof? Was computer modelling done to test the real impact of forces from different types of storms, especially since the device type changes quickly over short distances? Where is the accompanying economic analysis to show assumptions about acceptable risk based on projected storm impact?

Landscape Plan, three renderings: a) Centre Street, b) south end of park, and c) south end of park detail. The generic protective devices do not appear in these images therefore a strategy and implementation for resiliency is not obvious. Further questions arise in rendering (c) of the open space and boardwalk at the south end of the project. The image shows placid water, short manicured grass, and a low-lying boardwalk with no perceived foundation structure. Is this a solution to slow, redirect or contain the onslaught of storm surge driven by extensive rain and hurricane level wind? Perhaps the park gets replaced each time after a washout.

3. Contract compliance. Passero Associates received $394,000 for design services from November 2019 to April 2020. Are terms of design services met for approved waterfront contracts?

4. Fair process. Was the landscape contract awarded under the obligations of the Code of Ordinances City of Fernandina Beach (CoFB), Florida, Part I, Chapter 2, Article VII, Division 2: Purchases and Contracts and the overriding requirement of Florida Statutes, Title XIX, Chapter 287, Section 287.055, Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act? Was the contract competitively bid?

5.  MAB/Marina Advisory Board  Why has this group been kneecapped in the process of transforming the waterfront?  These business owners have much to contribute in experience and a good deal to lose by an inadequate plan at the waterfront to resist threats from sea level rise.

Amy Anderson, formerly professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University in New York and the School of Architecture, University of Hawai‘i, practices architecture and urban design in New York, Honolulu and Amelia Island.

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