This column will be divided into good news and bad news, and conclude with some news that is nothing but good.
Let’s begin with the good news. The real estate market on Amelia Island is soaring like a seagull on a windy day. Unless you have been in a deep slumber for the past few years, you have seen the evidence of this. The signs are as prevalent as azalea blooms right now.
Local real estate agents have some complaints, however — that there is not enough of an inventory of homes, condominiums, land, etc. for sale. This is bad, but can be a good problem. A limited supply of existing homes on the market drives up prices. Higher prices benefit existing residents, since their homes and buildings increase in value. It is a true wealth creator.
This brings us to the purely bad news. Fernandina Beach city officials are apparently aware of this cause-and-effect equation. And that more tax revenues are coming their way, due to higher assessments of properties within the city.
And they appear ready and willing to spend this newfound inflow of tax dollars. On some unusual projects, so put it diplomatically. Like a new airport terminal in the bizarre shape of a plane and a price tag at $2 million above where it began. And to think the idea started as a basic reinforced hurricane/evacuation shelter paid for with public funds.
Or how about a dogmatic pursuit to open Alachua Street at Front Street in downtown, to the tune of $1 million? When no one can cite the value of the project, especially when tax dollars are paying the freight.
And then there was the movement to close Centre Street at the waterfront at an undetermined price. For one thing, when you start re-directing traffic, there are always unforeseen costs. Not to mention reshaping and renovating the “walking mall” that would take up the last block of Centre Street under these now-disbanded plans. (The costs had to approach $1 million.)
There are still other inclinations to spend the new tax receipts. Like moving City Hall to the old post office building on Centre Street, or building a park along the downtown waterfront. And even negotiating back a lease that affords the city $200,000 a year in revenues, because maybe they don’t need it now. This harkens back memories of the failed Forward Fernandina initiative.
Now, the nothing-but-good news. The new Main Street program is up, running and humming. Manager Jeffrey Kurtz regularly communicates positive thoughts to residents and business owners through a “Main Street” newspaper column. It makes for great reading.
Main Street is a decorated program that has success stories strewn around the U.S. It is designed to propel economic development and assist local businesses through its time-tested resources. This happens through Kurtz working all day, every day on economic issues, specific to downtown Fernandina Beach.
As competition continues to beckon from off the island, for restaurants and shops and office space, downtown must stay at the top of its game. And Kurtz and Main Street and a coordinated team of volunteers can provide a missing ingredient, especially when the next recession hits home.
So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the real good.