On The River, Crane Island Development

Southern Living's 2019 Idea House, Crane Island, Fernandina Beach, FL
Southern Living’s 2019 Idea House at Crane Island, Fernandina Beach, FL
– Amelia Island Real Estate & Development –

The August 2019 issue of Southern Living magazine shines a spotlight on Crane Island. It’s the location of Southern Living’s “2019 Idea House,” and Amelia Island, Florida is the doorway to Crane Island.

Aside from the publicity and marketing exposure the Southern Living brand brings to the Amelia Island area, there’s the backstory of Crane Island, a very long development saga spanning three decades. Crane Island was a controversial topic for many years in Fernandina Beach, and chock full of complexities, twists and turns. But past development obstacles are now “water under the bridge.”

The first Crane Island home closings with new homeowners moving in, will be taking place this summer. The Southern Living 2019 Idea House is open for tours during summer and fall 2019 (ending December 15, 2019, tickets cost $22).

UPDATE: Home tours reopened January 15, 2020 and will continue through March 29, 2020.

“Craney Island” & The Broadbents

As a local real estate development story, Crane Island will retain its place in time and also be entwined with its legendary homesteader, Sarah Alice Broadbent. She was one of the daughters of the only family to live on the river island. Sarah Alice Broadbent lived alone on what had been known as “Craney” Island for 25 years after her father died. Not a single other person has lived on Crane Island since “Miss Alice” disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1952.

Marsh Between Crane Island & Amelia Island
Marshland Between Crane Island & Amelia Island, FL
Separated By Marshland

The 2019 Idea House is called the “Crane Island River House.” Located on this small river island off the western side of Amelia, the 2019 Idea House overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. Separating Amelia and Crane is marshland. In the past, the lack of a road to reach Crane Island was one of the obstacles to development. Its location adjacent to the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport added complications for an access road, and required involvement of the FAA.

Through the end of the 20th Century, and right up until recent years, no access road to Crane Island existed. Additional land had to be acquired from the adjacent city-owned airport. In order to connect Crane to Amelia, Federal Aviation Administration approval was also required. It wasn’t until 2008 that the FAA granted a “letter of release” that allowed airport land (4.9 acres) to be sold by the city of Fernandina Beach to the Crane Island property owners at that time.

Porch view 2019 Southern Living Idea House Crane Island Intracoastal Waterway Amelia Island Living magazine
Intracoastal Waterway View From Back Porch, Southern Living’s 2019 Idea House
Deep Water Access

Crane Island offers deep water access, a coveted asset around the coast. Here along the Eastern Seaboard near the Florida-Georgia border, the island lifestyle is all about the waterways and the beaches. Having taken the Southern Living 2019 Idea House tour, from both inside the home and from its porches, upstairs and down, the riverfront views are captivating.

Amelia Island has both Atlantic Ocean beachfront along its eastern shoreline (over 13 miles of seashore), plus river frontage on its western side. However, Crane Island has river frontage only, with Amelia Island’s oceanfront beaches about three miles away.

Deep Water Availability

When shopping Amelia Island real estate, those with both the means and desire for a waterfront view, choose either the riverfront or the oceanfront. Crane Island brings to the Amelia Island marketplace new access to deep water — 29 boat slips.

Crane Island plat, Amelia Island development, Fernandina Beach, Florida
Idea House Listed At $3,995,000

Southern Living’s 2019 Idea House, located on lot #27, was listed for sale in July 2019, offered fully furnished, for $3,995,000.

Back in 2014, Crane Island was acquired for $9.9 million by the Range at Crane Island, LLC. Crane Island’s development partners are global businessman Saad Wallan, and Jack B. Healan, Jr.. Although Crane Island was entitled for 169 dwellings, a lower-impact plat has been designed, with 113 single-family home sites. Crane Island has now been annexed into Amelia Island’s city of Fernandina Beach.

The president of Crane Island, Jack B. Healan, Jr. is well known locally. He formerly led the largest golf resort and residential community on Amelia Island. With over 30 years tenure at the Amelia Island Company (Amelia Island Plantation), he played a key role in the property’s development. Healan was President and CEO of the Amelia Island Company (AIP) until resort assets were sold to Omni Hotels & Resorts in 2010. Those familiar with AIP know there’s an abundance of trees (around 70% of the tree canopy at AIP was preserved).

Crane Island development, river house, intracoastal waterway
Crane Island’s Community Clubhouse Is Under Construction On Intracoastal
Crane Island Entitlement

Building 113 homes (vs. 169) means more of Crane Island will be left in its natural state than might have been with the previous owner/developer. Reportedly, about 56% of Crane Island’s natural landscape is to be preserved. However, at one time, Nassau County’s comprehensive plan had designated Crane Island as “conservation-wetlands,” allowing for only 41 dwellings on the island’s southern area.

According to Crane Island’s website, the “community incorporates innovative water and energy conservation techniques such as bioswales that minimize its footprint on the environment.”  The neighborhood’s Alice Park is a dry retention area, said to “play a key role in the network of natural water management systems” on Crane Island. This is in lieu of water-filled retention ponds that are commonly utilized in new developments.

Palm Trees Planted Along ARTS Trail, Simmons Road Near South Fletcher, Fernandina Beach
Palm Trees Planted Along New ARTS Trail (Simmons Road Near South Fletcher)
New Public Park At Crane Island

Note that the new community includes the Crane Island Park. This new public access park is located on the river end of the Amelia River-To-Sea Trail (ARTS), a new off road trail estimated to be opening in September 2019. The ARTS Trail links the beachfront of Amelia Island’s Atlantic coast, to the Crane Island Park at the river. The trail is about three miles long (seen above, trail near the beach on Amelia Island’s Simmons Road).

Development Vs. Preservation

For those who tried to save Crane Island from development, it was a battle lost. However, elsewhere in northeast Florida, in St. Augustine, a different fate for another wild island recently unfolded. Being called “a miracle,” land preservationists managed to save Fish Island from development.” Governor Ron DeSantis, along with the Florida Cabinet, decided to use $6.5 million in “Florida Forever” funds to purchase the land.

Development controversies are a timely topic here in Nassau County during spring and summer of 2019. Souring public sentiment toward potential new, large-scale development projects on Amelia Island, has been on the rise. Due diligence is underway on two possible projects by Steve Leggett, of Signature Land, Inc.. One proposed site is located near Crane Island at Amelia River Golf Club, for developing an “auto-centric” resort and amenities. The other involves developing the last large, privately-owned oceanfront parcel remaining on Amelia Island. This significant land on Amelia’s south end (A.K.A. Riverstone parcel), is about 50 acres along the Atlantic seashore, entitled for 150 residential units.

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From The Archives

A Florida Times-Union article offers a recap of history, Development on Crane Island May Happen Yet,” published in July 2010. Also, Amelia Island Museum’s collection, is an assortment of old newspaper articles, editorials, and legal documents about Crane Island.

Amelia Island Living©

PERSPECTIVE — Observations of island life, news & opinion.