Decision for Spanish Quarter not to be made by City

Without a doubt, the City of St Augustine has a continuing interest in revitalization of the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum; a collection of properties on the north end of St George Street that were once managed by the city’s Department of Heritage Tourism and then closed because of continuing financial losses to the tune of $250,000 a year.

That interest, however, is subordinate to the interest of the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of the State of Florida; the legal owner of those properties.

And, since October 1, 2010, the University of Florida, not the City of St Augustine, has been the holder of the state lease for the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum; part of 37 historic properties and parking lots located on St. George Street, Cuna Street, Treasury Street, Aviles Street, Spanish Street and Charlotte Street.

The university created a direct service organization to administer those properties; University of Florida Historic St Augustine, Inc. The DSO is governed by the Board of Directors who met yesterday in the Government House Museum, to discuss, among other things, the future direction for the Colonial Spanish Quarter.

Although City Manager John Regan sat in on yesterday’s meeting, neither he nor the mayor, nor commissioners of the City of St Augustine, hold a seat on the governing board.

When Director of Business Affairs for the university, Ed Poppell, addressed the Board, he made it clear that, under the school’s management, he expects to see a different outcome from operation of the Colonial Spanish Quarter Museum.

Poppell laid out what the university will be looking for in the selection of a prospective, private operator for the historical attraction. Some of the school’s criteria in the final selection of a tenant will include:

• Must feature “authentic” history
• Provide an on-site monitor to ensure historical authenticity
• Must be “expense neutral” for the city and the board
• Commitment to a long-term lease, “maybe up to 10 years”
• Commitment of enough capital to operate until it becomes profitable

Despite presentations made before the city commission after Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield first announced the decision to close the Museum, Poppell made it clear that it is the new UF board, not the City, who is driving the bus.

“The state’s lease of those lands goes to this board and the University of Florida, not the city,” Poppell emphasized. “They do not have to approve it.”

Proposals from Historic Tours of America, Inc., and Grand Marana, LLC were discussed and the date of May 22nd was set for tandem interviews and negotiations with the applicants.

“This board will have to approve that contract,” Poppell said.

Board of Directors of University of Florida Historic St Augustine, Inc.

Allen Lastinger, Board Chair
Roy Hunt, Vice Chair
Kathleen Deagan
Michael Gannon
Rick Gonzalez
Jorge Hernandez
Suzanne Lewis
Daniel Ponce
Larry E. Rivers
Don Slesnick
Tracy Upchurch

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