Guest Column: Oh Saint Augustine, Hear Our Cries!
by Susan Rathbone
St Augustine, FL
Special to Historic City News
Business owners along Anastasia Boulevard want to become a destination. I recently heard several Anastasia Boulevard business owners suggest that the City took away their ability to be a destination by calling them a corridor in the 2000 Design Standards for Entry Corridors.
Hearing this intrigued me, and I thought it was worth investigating.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, a “corridor” is defined as “a passageway or a traveled route,” versus a “destination,” which is defined as “a place people go to purposefully, with intent.” The term corridor is widely used in conjunction with transportation and zoning matters, often to refer to the road itself. Thus, in that context, it refers to the passage through an area, instead of the area as a destination. However, in many instances, the two terms are used interchangeably in different contexts. For example King Street and St George Street can each be referred to as both a destination and as a corridor. Thus, it seems to me that although the two terms have different meanings in different contexts, in common usage they are not mutually exclusive.
While some of these proposed changes to Anastasia Boulevard could be a great boost to making the area a destination in the long term, hoping for future improvements should not deter the Anastasia Boulevard business owners from taking steps to set the area apart as a destination now.
Slowing traffic even further in an area where traffic already backs up, as recently proposed, could cause locals to avoid the area altogether, which may serve to diminish patronage by City residents outside the immediate neighborhoods. Additionally, has anyone thought about all the potential business revenue Anastasia Boulevard business owners may lose if FDOT undertakes this massive reconfiguration project? We can look to the Riverside or Avondale areas in Jacksonville as an example of what businesses can expect. Although the area is recognized for its beauty and walkability now, many businesses were lost during the process. Thus, it is critical that affected businesses create a customer base that already recognizes Anastasia Boulevard as a destination now if they expect to survive the construction period and any further traffic restrictions or congestion that may result when it is finished.
To become a destination, an area needs to have great places (which it already does), unique community events, media and local support. Further, businesses along Anastasia Boulevard need the support of the City and local neighborhood residents, who need to embrace local businesses by attending their events and by frequently patronizing their establishments.
With a concerted effort by both the business owners and the local residents, eventually the area can evolve into a unique, welcoming area for locals (and tourists) to convene; without the hassle of the Bridge of Lions, traffic congestion and parking issues that downtown faces on a daily basis. Business owners can raise public perception and embrace local residents by doing such things as collectively branding and advertising Anastasia Boulevard as the City’s “no-hassle destination”, offering loyalty discounts for frequent patrons, and holding street-wide events.
The destination is not the corridor; the corridor leads to the destination; and the terms are frequently used interchangeably in common usage. Thus, it is doubtful that the City’s characterization of the area will have any effect on the evolution of Anastasia Boulevard as a destination. It’s up to the business owners to spark the flame and for the local residents to fan it while the perception that Anastasia Boulevard is a destination unto itself, and not just a corridor, takes hold in the minds of the public. Business owners need to focus on taking steps to become known as a destination now and to push for enhancements along the road (corridor) as a secondary goal. Anything that can be done immediately to increase business for Anastasia Boulevard businesses and increased patronage by locals is a step in the right direction.
Anastasia Boulevard business owners, we hear your cries and wish you well.
Susan Rathbone is a North Davis Shores resident and candidate for election to the St Augustine City Commission, Seat 2, non-partisan. She has approved and paid for publication of this article.