EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
___ STEVE’S MARKETPLACE ____
These are exciting times in Nassau County — even though we may not realize it.
With many people and businesses struggling to meet their needs, there are at least some investments happening in the community that will pay valuable dividends down the road.
Take the $80 million infusion into what is now Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Or the planning of the Rayonier developments within the Terra Pointe project in Yulee.
These both have significant ramifications for our area’s economy and way of life. They are clearly investments in our future.
Over the last 40 years, there have been numerous landmark developments here that impact our everyday lives. In the spirit of Top 10 lists, here they are:
No. 1: Omni Amelia Island Plantation project: The improvements (new conference rooms, recreation areas, etc.) will provide luxurious activities and attractions for future corporate conventions. These events draw in professionals with money to pour into the economy.
No. 2: Terra Pointe project: While Terra Pointe is not necessarily the name of this Rayonier project, it is how most people refer to it. The project encompasses massive acreage and will include residential (2,000 homes), industrial and commercial entities, primarily between I-95 and U.S. 17 — and with a lifespan of the next 50 years.
No. 3: Sea Pines Company constructing the original Amelia Island Plantation. The land on the south end of Amelia Island was converted from primarily strip mining operations into what is now the Plantation. This began in the early 1970s. Since that time, the Plantation has tasted glory, hosting a professional women’s tennis tournament for almost 20 years (that was televised on ESPN).
No. 4: Bankruptcies of Amelia Island Plantation and Smurfit Stone Corporation. This watershed events in the 2009-10 time frame could have sent the area’s economy reeling. But both entities emerged from bankruptcy with resilience and flair.
No. 5: The construction of the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island hotel. Even though the county commission at the time actually tried to prevent the Ritz from building here, the forces of free enterprise prevailed. The Ritz’s upscale presence changed the economy and the perception of this area forever.
No. 6: The widening of State Highway A1A from I-95 through Callahan. Even though this seems to be premature, the growth of the county is obviously on the west side (considering Amelia Island is pretty much built out). The widening of this major state highway will nimbly accommodate future growth.
No. 7: The commercialization of the A1A corridor through Yulee. Though this could have been planned better, the introduction of major retail chains has made our lives easier (without having to drive to Jacksonville). Target and Home Depot and Lowe’s kicked it off, with Kohl’s and T.J. Maxx the latest additions to the retail infrastructure.
No. 8: Retrofitting Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. This 1970s project, designed to return the idyllic corridor to its historic roots, initially met some resistance at the time, but has paid off handsomely.
No. 9: The construction of the Nassau County Courthouse Annex. Even though county taxpayers will be paying for this monstrosity of a building in Yulee for many years, it hopefully will be revered at some point for its magnificence. Next door to the annex is the Florida State College campus, which has also been an overwhelmingly positive development.
No. 10: The development of the Port of Fernandina and the Yulee Tradeplex. Even though these two enterprises were related in name at one point, they are both industrial breakthroughs for the area. Not only have they provided high-paying jobs, but they are examples of how industry can be introduced in a palatable manner to a residential area.