Guest Feature: Developer for Children’s Museum still pushing



Guest Feature: Developer for Children’s Museum still pushing

Nancy Shaver
St Augustine, FL

The development plan for the St Johns Children’s Museum does not make sense to me, and it shouldn’t to the City Commissioners or the administration at the City of St Augustine, either. For a minute, let’s not use the term “Children’s Museum” and instead, say “developer”.

During a public meeting on April 11, city officials met with city-wide opposition voiced by our residents. Given clear guidelines from the Department of Environmental Protection making this project unsuitable, and additional traffic burdens complained about by the residents, I believe the decision announced on April 14th, not to move forward with this project, is clearly wise, sound, and follows a reasonable path.

There was, however, considerable enthusiasm for green space that could be used by all, including children.

The proposed developer for Riberia Point:

• Has been working on this project for seven years without success; attempted to build on the Island but was turned down
• As of June 30, had $185,000 in assets; claims pledges over 5 years of $1.5 million but unsubstantiated
• Proposes building a $6M facility (without accounting for the much higher building costs on a landfill)
• Claimed on its website to have secured a 30 year lease with the City (in violation of provision 5 of its memorandum of understanding with the City)
• No revenue to the City
• Taxpayer expense for site preparation and utilities currently estimated at over $500K

The public has yet to see a viable business plan. In order to operate the planned building, an estimated 85,000 visitors are needed annually. Only 25-30K children live in the County, primarily in the north and northwest quadrants, with only 1,800 living inside the City.

About 60K-100K children are likely in the tourist mix.

Here’s how that would play out using standard business plan analysis:

• Local market: Assume a 20% penetration in the local market (a high assumption, given the 600 square mile geography), and 1.5 visits per year, also high. That would yield 10K-15k children. Being generous assume 5k caregivers/parents.
• Local market likely yield: 20,000 annually.

• Tourist market: One of the few known tourist numbers in St. Augustine is the number of school children who visit the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument — it’s about 60K. About 200K people visit the Alligator Farm, and we can assume generously that half are children. So 100K is a high tourist assumption (taking the higher of the two). Assuming 20% capture, which given the many competing activities –beach, ships, Pirate Museum-is very high, that would be another 20K.
• Tourist market likely yield: 20,000 annually

• Total market likely yield: 40,000 annual visitors, less than half of what is needed

Thanks for your consideration.

© 2014, St Augustine. All rights reserved.