Response from City on Riberia Point Guest Column


Apr182011_RIBERIA_8332Historic City News published a Guest Column last week that revealed a number previously unreported shortcomings and concerns in continuing the proposed relationship with St Augustine Aquarium and the St Johns Children’s Museum.

Our reader, Nancy Shaver, who lives in the neighborhood, said that the memory of the City’s last attempt to develop the Riberia Point property for Applied Coral Technology was still fresh in her mind — and that the still organizing aquarium is not worth the City investing $500,000 in services, let alone the $60,000 in a site plan which has prematurely been committed.

Her concerns were sent in an e-mail to City Manager John Regan. Historic City News followed up on Shaver’s request and received a copy of Regan’s response. The following is the text of the reply to Shaver.

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for your email regarding Riberia Point. We are about to engage in the evaluation of a site masterplan and the plans of both the Aquarium and Children’s Museum proposals for Riberia Point. The first meeting for public review and questions and answers will be April 10th at the Lincolnville Neighborhood Association meeting. This will be the start of an intensive public outreach process that will include multiple opportunities for the staff, the public, and City Commission to evaluate their proposals, business plans and ultimately the suitability for our community.

I will forward your letter to Shawn Heister so that he can prepare his team for the vetting process and give direct answers to your questions. Your direct interest in this project and the hard questions and the ability of the proposers to provide answers is invaluable. For example, the Coral proposal could not pass the litmus tests that you helped create so appropriately, it died on the vine. The children’s museum and aquarium must be able to provide an even increased level of scrutiny. No doubt traffic and parking is going to be a key issue for evaluation. Fortunately, we have are a vibrant community that has options on the ultimate end use (if any) of Riberia Point.

Great City spaces are planned under the control of the respective Cities and are anchored by amenities such as education, art, recreation. Look at Grant Park, Central park, and many other examples. In our case, we are looking at plans that center on children’s education, ecology, and the marine environment while preserving public access to the environmental interface between upland, spartina marshland and navigable waters. If we can bring a plan together that can accomplish such goals and increase the value of the CRA and other incomes to the City, create jobs, I think it is worth the effort to try. This is not easy work and it takes all of us to determine the best path to success, even if in the end we decide the best path is to do nothing. At least we will have tried.

I look forward to working with you. Please call me anytime

John Regan