Sunday, October 17, 2004


Harbor project on track for construction

The Sebastian Inland Harbor project will go before the St. Augustine City Commission and the city's Planning and Zoning Board in November, putting the development on track for construction in January.

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 will show his designs to the zoning board Nov. 2, and to the City Commission, Nov. 8.

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

Merritt said there are a few changes in the design plans since then, including one significant detail.

"We'll have a one-story parking garage under the condominiums," he said. "It's a huge improvement."

The old plans had a 518-car parking garage on 1.25 acres.

The entire project will be built on 13 vacant acres at King and Lorida streets and the San Sebastian River. Merritt's newest plans have 106 condominiums, 85 hotel rooms and an 65-slip marina and river walk along the river. There is also a 10,000-square-foot spa.

Merritt will ask the zoning board in November to grant him a Planned Unit Development to keep from having to follow several of the city's development ordinances during construction.

"This way we're trying to handle all the details in one fell swoop," he said. "We don't want this process to drag for months and months."

City Commissioner Don Crichlow, an architect, is one of three members on the project review committee. The other two members are Merritt and St. Augustine architect Les Thomas. Crichlow said another change in the plans is that the hotel will now face Lorida Street instead of the river.

"I've always wanted this project to orient that street because I know it will spur growth on the north side of Lorida," Crichlow said.

Merritt said he will provide landscaping, lamp posts and wide sidewalks on both sides of Lorida Street.

"It will be a real retail corridor," Merritt said.

Crichlow hopes to collect input from the existing shops in the San Sebastian area.

"We should not turn our backs on them," he said. "We should talk to the landowners along King Street and decide how they would like the whole block to develop."

Lynne Doten owns Rembrandtz on King Street and said she's been waiting for this kind of development for years.

"I would like this area to be a destination for tourists," she said. "We're anxious to have this project happen."

She said local business owners are meeting next week, where she hopes to bring up the San Sebastian project.

--St. Augustine Record

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