Tuesday, July 13, 2004


Design plans for San Sebastian project closer

Members of the San Sebastian project review committee said Monday that they are about 60 days away from submitting design plans to the St. Augustine City Commission.

The project includes condominiums, a hotel, shops and a marina along the San Sebastian River.

Matt Merritt, of San Sebastian Harbor Partners of Ponte Vedra Beach, said he hopes to show designs to the City Commission and the public in about a month.

"Sometime in late August we'd like to show the architect plans to the commission," Merritt said.

He said once the building permits are granted, he wants to finish the development in 14 to 20 months. He said there was talk of building it in two phases, but that has changed.

"We'd like to start (construction) in December or January," Merritt said. "We'd like to do it all in one phase."

The commission approved the Harbor Partners contract to buy the Sebastian Inland Harbor property for $3.6 million in late May.

The contract is for 13 vacant acres at King Street and San Sebastian River. Merritt's plan is to build 128 condominiums, with about 20,000 square feet of loft and retail space, a 110-150 room hotel, an 89-slip marina and river walk along San Sebastian.

Not included in the purchase price was 1.25 acres for a 518-car parking garage at Riberia and Lorida streets.

The San Sebastian Architectural Review committee met for the first time Monday afternoon.

Don Crichlow and Merritt are the only committee members, but Crichlow said they met Monday to determine the third member.

"We chose Les Thomas and he accepted our nomination," Crichlow said.

Crichlow, who is a city commissioner, said he and Merritt needed someone who is independent from them to help make decisions.

"Les and I are both architects and he knows St. Augustine well," Crichlow said.

Thomas was unavailable for comment.

Mayor George Gardner said he is pleased to see the San Sebastian plans are on track.

"I'm just thrilled that we're moving along at such a good pace with such good public input," Gardner said. "The target date is still January for construction."

Jan Miller, owner of Butterfield Garage Art Gallery on King Street attended the meeting to see how the new development will affect shops, such as hers, surrounding it.

"We thought we'd be swallowed up by this project," Miller said. "I didn't want to get lost in the shuffle."

Crichlow asked Miller to help bring together property owners in the area and have them come up with a master plan of what they would like to see happen.

Merritt said he hopes to see the shops facing the back of Lorida Street turn around so they open up on the street. He wants to have a walking outdoor mall with shops and cafes.

Crichlow said the development will be unique and not match some of the older buildings downtown.

"We're not trying to make a historic village. It will have some elements of the buildings, but it will be different," Crichlow said. "We're not trying to recreate a particular architectural style."

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