Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
There are some good things happening in Fernandina Beach. And sometimes we focus too much on the bad.
It was a wise decision by city commissioners to leave Centre Street alone within their grand downtown plan. Commissioners listened to the opposition of business owners and residents alike, and decided against closing Centre Street at the waterfront.
In other words, they listened to the voters. What a concept for government. You know, elected officials representing the people.
This is a movement going on nationally. And this populist wave is extending to Europe even. People want elected officials to listen to them, to do what is best for them. Not to act for self-interests or for their political careers.
Also, people do not want a big government controlling them, or dictating how they live. This was never intended to be. So city officials should be commended in this instance.
Now, for other good things. For beginners, our downtown continues to be the crown jewel of Amelia Island. The business climate is electric, and has charged our economy by attracting tourists (with help from our superior resorts and natural amenities).
Tourism is a clean and desirable industry. And high-class tourists come here. Who have pockets of money to spend in our local economy. Tourism dollars trickle through the economy like water in a mountain stream.
Without tourists, we wouldn’t have many of the amenities we enjoy, like fine restaurants and nice shops and golf and water sports. And the city is contributing more than its share to the tourism equation.
There is a united effort to improve the waterfront right now. Not only to repair the temporary damage from Hurricane Matthew, but to make permanent, profitable changes. Like moving the marina to the north, so that the currents purge the silt that hangs here.
The new kayak/canoe ramp at the Egan’s Creek park is a nice addition. Other improvements are also being made at this scenic park, funded in part by private investment (you can see the on-site banners of the companies sponsoring the work).
A long-standing eyesore — the old healthcare facility on Atlantic Avenue — has been razed. And negotiations are underway for a mixed-use complex to be built there, with private money.
Several other private ventures are proceeding in downtown. Townhouses are being constructed at the old Fernandina Lumber property, and a boutique hotel is planned near the Alachua Street corridor. While opening Alachua Street is a priority of city commissioners, the costs and the benefits should be carefully weighed. Apparently there is an old agreement specifying that CSX railroad would pay for opening Alachua Street, or maybe at least contribute toward it as a corporate partner.
And converting empty space at Main Beach into an upscale Salt Life restaurant makes plenty of sense. The site has been vacant since the old water slide was torn down years ago. This is valuable property, indeed.
So let’s keep the good going. The U.S. economy seems to be heating up, and roaring-good times appear to be in front of us. If the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossing 20,000 for the first time ever is any indication, more prosperity is indeed at our doorstep.
We just have to answer the door, when the bell rings.