St Augustine residents and Historic City News readers who rent an upstairs apartment from Dan Holiday in his historic building at 11 Aviles Street, like the fact that their homes are in the heart of downtown, yet out of sight to most tourists. Some are saying that now, that may be a problem because they feel that they are invisible to city management.
Most of Holiday’s tenants have been with him a long time. If you ask them, they will tell you they don’t want to think about leaving. But even with a good landlord like Holiday, who has owned the 1860 era building since January of 1977, they say the management of the City of St Augustine has failed to show them the consideration they feel they are due as long-term residents.
“How am I supposed to get my groceries upstairs,” one tenant asked news editor Michael Gold this morning. The tenant, who asked not to be identified, said that there have been two “loading zone” parking spaces in front of her apartment for as long as she can recall. “I relied on one of the two spaces being available long enough for me to collect my shopping bags and get them into the apartment before I had to move the car.”
Even though her apartment does not include on-site parking, she has a car, and pays $75 a month to a private parking lot about two blocks away. She says that she doesn’t have a problem walking to and from her car; but, it is too far away to carry groceries, and she would often have to make two trips.
When she saw a city worker yellow-striping half of the loading zone recently, she asked why — but says she couldn’t get a straight answer. She since found out that City Manager John Regan unilaterally made the decision to eliminate the essential parking space to accommodate drivers of the Ripley’s Red Sightseeing Trains who still drive their vehicles, loaded or empty as we found them this morning, down the narrow brick street.
Kim Kiff, general manager at Ripley’s Believe It or Not in St. Augustine, which operates the Red Trains, was quoted from an e-mail in The Record today. She reported that Aviles Street “often became impassible” and that “trains have scraped the side of Holiday’s building”.
“This has been an excellent solution,” Kiff was quoted, referring to the partial closure of the loading zone. “Aviles Street is such a beautiful and important part of our town and history and we love being able to show it off.”
One of the downstairs merchants in the building also says he depends of the loading zone to receive merchandise deliveries and for customers who need to pick up large pieces purchased in his store. He told Historic City News this morning that the sightseeing trains need to find another route and the city needs to reopen the essential loading zone for two vehicles.
Beautiful or not, the other franchised tour operator in St Augustine, Old Town Trolley Tours, who operate the green trolleys, do not attempt to navigate Aviles Street. David Chatterton, General Manager of the company’s St Augustine operations, told Gold today that his company has never attempted to make the Aviles Street trip from King Street to Bridge Street, after he checked with one of their long-time executive staff members. Chatterton explained that Old Town stops the trolley in a loading and unloading zone designated for the tours on King Street, at the intersection of Aviles Street. He said that it’s safer and more enjoyable for guests who might otherwise be stuck on impassable streets in the event of a collision.
The City’s parking coordinator, Tara Bennie, says, despite a petition circulated by residents and business owners on Aviles Street, asking the City to restore the loading zone, “The city has considered the request but plans to leave things as they are for now.”