By Anne H. Oman
May 21, 2021
Some 33 years ago, Robbie Young came to Fernandina Beach to help open the Publix supermarket on Sadler Road. In his spare time, he taught Sunday school in the First Baptist Church’s education building on N. 5th Street.
Later this year, Mr. Young and his wife of almost fifty years, Sally, will move into a three-bedroom home in that same building, which has been “re-purposed” to house nine luxury condominiums. The red brick structure, “Erected to the Glory of God 1963,” as the cornerstone reads, will henceforth be known as Lofts on 5th.
“We started in December, 2018, and gutted everything,” said Realtor/Developer Sherri Rinker, leading two reporters on a tour of the work-in-progress, which is expected to be completed in July.
The space will house 5 two-bedroom apartments and 4 three-bedroom units. All will have access to a roof terrace with views of the Post Office, the old Courthouse, the Amelia River, Tiger Island, the port, and downtown. The terrace will incorporate a “living garden,” with plants being grown for the project by the University of Georgia, according to Ms. Rinker.
“The view from the roof is the ‘wow’ factor,” she said.
The units, which are priced from $895,000 to $1,755,000 plus a monthly $800 condominium fee, feature an elevator, high ceilings, Italian tile, quartz countertops, cantilevered balconies, state-of-the-art air conditioning and top-of-the-line appliances, according to Ms. Rinker. She stressed that “people will like the location – you can walk to thirty restaurants or ride a bike to the beach.”
An additional amenity is a one-bedroom ground floor apartment, where owners can put up guests. The ground floor will also include storage spaces and bicycle racks.
One amenity not provided is parking. The building has no garage or dedicated parking spaces. Ms. Rinker pointed out that there is a county lot adjacent to the building, later adding: “It’s downtown living.”
In 2015, when local restauranteur-entrepreneur Tim Poynter sought to convert the same building into short-term rental units, parking was the sticking point. When attempts to secure agreements for off-site parking failed, Mr. Poynter abandoned the project. Short-term rental units are considered “lodgings,” a commercial use under the zoning ordinances, and require dedicated parking.
Kelly Gibson, Fernandina’s Director of Planning, told the Observer that “at the time the Lofts on 5th project was approved, there was no requirement to provide parking,” adding that if a similar project is proposed in the future, there would be a requirement to provide parking.
Director Gibson lauded the Lofts on 5th development because “it supports the economic vitality of downtown,” and furthers the city’s goal of promoting downtown living.
In January, 2017, the City Commission voted unanimously to increase the approved density of buildings in the Central Business District in order to encourage downtown living. According to Ms. Gibson, to date only two development projects have taken advantage of the density increase: Lofts on 5th and a building on the corner of Ash and S. Third Streets that has two apartments above a restaurant.
The Youngs, the first to purchase a unit in the building, cited two strong motivating factors:
“it’s part of the history of our family – our family life started in Fernandina,” said Sally Young, “And we love downtown. I could walk those streets all day and think I was on vacation.”
The Youngs, who previously lived in the Ocean Ridge subdivision, moved to other locales due to job requirements, but, said Mrs. Young “we’ve been going back to Fernandina for years – it’s our happy place. I just came across an old photo of us and our kids on the corner of 5th and Centre. It’s déjà vu since we’re moving back to almost the same spot.
The night we put money down on it – we were staying at the Hampton Inn Downtown – we went back to the hotel, and what was on television? The movie Back to the Future. It was almost predestined.”
For more information about the condos, go to www.Loftson5th.com.