THE REALLY BIG CRANE
By Sacha Martin, Correspondent
As you cross the Vilano Bridge, the larger than life approximately 100 foot tall crane looms in the skyline, as the Vilano Beach Town Center Hyatt Place has reached another critical path milestone.
According to Robert Reyes, Site Manager for Collage Construction, “With cooperation and pre-review by the County Road and Bridge Department through a Maintenance of Traffic permit, there was minimal disruption with well-executed coordination and meticulous planning by Collage with a detour routing plan for Vilano Road. To stage and erect the tower crane, two small mobile assist hydrocranes were needed. The process was completed within four ten-hour days. The removal process about 120 days later will be similar, in reverse.”
In order to construct the upper floors of the hotel, the crane will lift large steel beams on top of the lobby level, hollow core concrete panels, palatized concrete block, drywall, metal frame members, HVAC units, air handling units, kitchen hoods, backup generator, and more. The exterior construction is expected to be finished in January. The interior will then take three to four months, all subject to changes and weather.
This 120-room hotel will have a roof top deck bar and restaurant. There will be four corner suites, a pool and fitness room on the second floor and a fine dining restaurant and guest-only breakfast room on the first floor, plus an underground garage with valet parking. They will offer one of the largest meeting or event spaces in the county, with three adjustable portions to serve a total of 500 people.
Under the same ownership, the Holiday Inn Express across the street, with a middle entrance to parking at the rear of the hotel, will have remarkable architectural elements, including white marble tile and floors. There will be 50 rooms with an indoor pool, and a restaurant and coffee shop. It is now projected to open, subject to change, in October, but they are not rushing because of the Covid situation.
The Hyatt, like the Holiday Inn on Vilano Road will be signature hotels for both chains and will be welcome destinations in a resort environment where guests will be able to leave their cars, walk to the beach, fishing pier, nature greenway boardwalk, restaurants and Publix and attractions in Vilano Beach, take a pickup trolley at the door, or take a proposed water taxi to the City of St. Augustine, the lighthouse, waterfront restaurants and other nearby attractions.
Vilano Beach named Florida Main Street Program of the Month
As one of about 50 Main Street Communities in Florida, the activities of Vilano Beach Main Street (VBMS) have been recognized by the Florida Department of Historical Resources as Main Street Program of the Month for April. Vilano Beach Main Street, Inc. has again gained National Main Street Accreditation for 2020.
Hosting of State Programs by Vilano Beach Main Street
Before COVID-19 restrictions, Vilano Beach was scheduled to host the Florida Main Street program’s Spring Leadership Development Workshops on April 27 & 28. These were to include educational sessions on topics such as use of strategic press releases and entrepreneurship following natural disasters, plus a walking tour. Below is the link to the revised Webinar series.
SPRING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT - WEBINAR SERIES
APRIL 27 – 28, 2020
Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8380804587531246861
Webinar ID: 786-847-203
Phone number: (631) 992-3221
Access Code: 988-512-330
FREE to all interested
In preparation for the scheduled State Program to show off the highlights of our community to representatives from around the state, VBMS worked in partnership with County Facilities Maintenance, Parks & Recreation and the Sheriff’s Prison Crew for a complete review of the Town Center streetscape and landscaping for maximum walkability and to make repairs. Some of our signature benches and trash cans were revitalized, especially at the pavilions, pressure washing done, and sidewalk drains checked. These landscaping improvements will continue to prepare for summer.
“Sharrows” Painted on Town Center Roadways
It was important as a designated Trail Town to have “Sharrow” markings painted on our Town Center roadways indicating shared bicycle/vehicle lanes. The marking warns motorists that this is also an important bicycle route, and it encourages cyclists to use more of the lane where there is potential danger from parked cars, but not enough room for a dedicated cycle lane.
Thanks to Publix for its Community Support
Our Board has expressed to Publix management gratitude for our Publix grocery, pharmacy, and liquor store personnel with their help for us during trying times. Publix Corporation is now the direct owner of their retail complex and they have offered the businesses there a special abatement program for rent to help them during these difficult times. The citizen’s vision committee which began in 1997 spent 15 years of planning effort specifically to bring Publix to our community before it opened in January 2012, because we knew it would be a well-deserved convenience for all of us. Now, true to our vision, it has become a major part of our personal survival.
Greenways & Trails Summit Participant
As an officially designated Florida Trail Town and member of the East Coast Greenway, Vilano Beach Main Street had been invited to host the Southeast Greenways & Trail Summit bus tour of the East Coast Greenway from Jacksonville to St. Augustine to include our Town Center the first week in April.
To view the presentations for what became a virtual event, see the information and link under A1A Multi-Use Trail on this site or see www.Greenway.org. Find out how Charleston, SC and Richmond, VA planned their trails, challenges and accomplishments of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Trail, bicycle tourism, and about fostering a legacy of conservation, connectivity and community partnerships for economic benefits, health and quality of life through trails.
Feasibility Study for our A1A Multi-Use Trail
We are working by phone and email with the FDOT and the County regarding the feasibility study for the East Coast Greenway Trail proposed from Vilano Beach to St. Augustine on the South to Mickler’s in Ponte Vedra on the North. The committee has requested that prior to the completion of this study public meetings will be allowed, to be certain the community has input on the trail.
Our Main Street Helps Local Businesses
We are committed to working with our local businesses which are dealing with closures and restrictions, helping them with a variety of options for assistance, and checking on their plans for reopening. National Main Street America is helping us to assist businesses, frequently updating access to free information, navigating short- and long-term impacts with webinar series updates. We have a link on our VilanoBeachFL.com site under Covid-19 Resources, or visit America Main Street at www.mainstreet.org.
Hotel Construction Continues
The Hyatt Place and Holiday Inn construction did not stop during the Covid-19 restrictions. A large crane had to be brought in for construction of the top floors of the Hyatt, beginning on April 20 and continuing for about a week. This resulted in closure of the south end of Loja Road abutting the project and east bound lanes of Vilano Road, which were managed for least impact by the contractor’s traffic controllers at the intersection of Coastal Highway and the intersection of Vilano Road with Poplar Avenue.
Please feel free to reach out to me, our Board Members or our Executive Director, Sallie O’Hara, if you have any suggestions about how Main Street can help you or our community. We welcome you to join us in this effort. The best is yet to come.
GIRL SCOUT TROOP 2030 DONATES RAIN BARREL
TO NORTH SHORES COMMUNITY CENTER
By Sacha Martin, Correspondent
Ketterlinus Elementary School hosts Girl Scout Troop 2030, which includes Daisies, Brownies and Juniors from Kindergarten through Grade 5. All ten Brownies and one Junior of the 21 girls in the Troop decided to do a project to earn a “Wonders of Water” Journey Award, which has badges to apply to their sash or vest called Love Water, Save Water and Share Water. To do this the girls learned about the uses and conservation of water, studied the different types of bodies of water and the wildlife associated with them, how to recycle it, and engaged their families and friends in using methods to save water. They did on-line tutorials and sowed seeds to see how water makes them grow.
As part of the learning program, and to show the results of their new knowledge, ten of the Troop members decided to make a rain barrel from a trash can, with each girl assigned a task, like deciding where to put the faucet, making holes for the faucet and overflow, putting in a screen so mosquitoes cannot breed. On March 4th they donated their completed rain barrel to the North Shores Improvement Association to use for the raised beds at the community center.
Troop leaders are parents of the girls who volunteer their time to help young girls learn new skills and have new experiences, explore nature and the world, work together as a team, make a difference in the community, and earn badges for accomplishments. Troop 2030 leader is Jessica Misterly and co-leaders are Alison Neumark, Sandi Zeljko and Rhyan Tierney. Rhyan is a STEAM teacher at Ketterlinus. The girls who accomplished the WOW and rain barrel project are Grade 2: Evie, June, Katie Mae, Lourdes, Lucia; Grade 3: Anna, Ella, Landyn, Sofija; and Junior, Summer.
Troop 2030 meets during the school year every other Wednesday with special projects on alternate Wednesdays. The last day this year was to be May 20 (Wednesday before previously scheduled school year end), but it depends on what happens if and when schools re-open by then. The Troop is still hoping on May 30 to be able to have a Ft. Wilderness at Disney campground experience, an adventure camping out in tents.
The rain barrel was welcomed by North Shores Improvement Association President Amy Gilbert and Vilano Community Garden Director, Jean Miller. Troop members and their families were given a tour of the Vilano Community Garden located on the West side of the Community Center and invited to sample edible plants growing there. Beds in the garden are adopted by residents in the Community who get to paint their own box and incorporate garden art. There is a special herb bed, one managed by Guardian Ad Litem volunteers, one for a trial nursery for local sand oak trees. Visit www.NorthShoresFL.com +Community Garden, or email [email protected].
VILANO BEACH MAIN STREET
DESIGNATED APRIL PROGRAM OF THE MONTH
BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE
As one of about 50 Main Street Communities in Florida, the activities of Vilano Beach Main Street are being recognized by the Florida Department of Historical Resources as Main Street of the Month for April. Before COVID-19 restrictions, Vilano Beach was to host Florida Main Street program’s Spring Leadership Development Workshops on April 27 & 28, which were to include educational sessions on topics such as strategic press releases and entrepreneurship following natural disasters plus a walking tour.
The Vilano Beach Town Center is also an officially designated Florida Trail Town, and as part of the East Coast Greenway Conference on April 2nd was to host a bus tour of our Town Center and the East Coast Greenway from Jacksonville to St. Augustine. These events will probably be postponed until the fall. Visit http://dos.myflorida.com +Florida Main Street +Events and www.VilanoBeachFL.com.
NEWS & NOTES
Activities at the North Shores Community Center: There are many opportunities for learning and enjoying activities here at our two centers at the corner of Meadow Avenue and First Street in Vilano Beach. Two new ones are Jazzercise at 9:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday at the Firehouse and K9 Fitness for you and your dog, Saturdays at 8 a.m. in the ball field. For details and contact information go to www.NorthShoresFL.com +Calendar of Events and click on an individual entry in the calendar. Click on Art Program and Health & Fitness for an overview. Health & Fitness includes Yoga, Pilates, Chair Pilates, Cardio/Strength, Evening Stretch, Boot Camp, Jazzercise and K9 Fitness. The Art Program has a wide variety of offerings from Basic Drawing to Interior Design. Supporting the quality of life in our community.
Vilano Bridge Run:
Beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the park behind the North Shores Community Center, 120 Meadow Avenue, Vilano Beach, at the ball field next to the Community Garden and dog park. Saturday, March 21. It’s the 24th annual scenic 5K, 10K and Fun Run over the Vilano Bridge. The 10K goes through the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. The Run is followed by a family-friendly PARTY IN THE PARK with food, music, reptiles from the Alligator Farm, animals from S.A.F.E., plants for purchase, a silent auction with great art work and 50/50 raffle, along with kids’ activities and games. Come to Run, Stay to Play! Run finishers get a bling medal for their neck.
Register at www.1stPlaceSports.com/Races/VilanoBridgeRun/. To volunteer contact [email protected]. Bright orange tee shirts guaranteed for runners who register by March 1st. Proceeds benefit North Shores Improvement Association projects to improve community quality of life, and a portion goes to Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. The Run is made possible by Title Sponsors Bob Holmquist and Charlene Garra of Watson Realty, Partner Sponsors Flagler Health+, Serenata Beach Club, Vinny’s Pizza, the Dilbeck Clan, Beach 105.5, Ancient City Brewery, Dog Rose Brewery and 11 Gold and 18 Silver Sponsors who want to help our community programs.
Share Fitness With Your Dog:
8:00 to 9:00 a.m. every Thursday and Saturday, weather permitting, in the ball field on Second Street behind the North Shores Community Center, 120 Meadow Avenue, Vilano Beach. By Certified Master Trainer, Michelle Trainor. You and your dog get fit together. All fitness levels welcome. $25 for the beginning class. Wear closed-toe comfortable shoes. All canines must be at least six months old. Proof of vaccinations required. No flexi or retractable leashes or prong collars for the class. To register and for more information and requirements: www.K9FitClubStA.com, questions to K9FitClubStA.com. Also listed at www.NorthShoresFL.com > Facility Rental > Calendar of Events.
Vilano Fest Tour of Homes features water views
Posted Wednesday, November 27, 2019 12:00 am
By Christine Rodenbaugh
The third annual Vilano Fest Tour of Homes on Nov. 3 highlighted water views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. The traditional festival is a celebration of the history, future, individuality and community of Vilano Beach, conceived by a group of residents who are passionate about their small, eclectic and growing neighborhoods. In 1997, residents partnered with St. Johns County to build a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly Vilano Beach Town Center. Vilano Fest is a fundraiser to underwrite the continued initiative.
Tour of Homes Chair, Elisa Hill, selected a variety of structures that represent Vilano living, intentionally including smaller cottages as well as palatial estates.
“I walk up to the door and ask if they want to be on this year’s tour,” Hill said. “Usually it’s a positive response.”
The tour began at Magic Beach Motel, which was featured in the TV series, “Safe Harbor” in 1999. Built in 1951, the motel has undergone a recent renovation that also restored each room’s unique mural depicting coastal and historical scenes.
Next on the tour was 313 Porpoise Point Drive, a townhome with views of St. Augustine Inlet, the lighthouse, Bridge of Lions and downtown. Having lived in Europe and the Middle East, owners Bruce and Andrea Andrews settled in St. Augustine to raise their daughter, Mattie.
Farther north at 3741 Coastal Highway, the trolley stopped at a three-story home with separate six-car garage housing a Model T truck, vintage gasoline pumps and other collectibles. William and Betty Porter have 5,800 square feet of living space to host extended family for holidays and celebrations. Their third-floor master suite features works by Emmett Kelly and other collections.
Title sponsor Generation Homes recently built 3780 Wahoo Drive for longtime Vilano residents Bill and Kai Long. The 1,780 square foot home has a mid-century modern feel with high ceilings with large windows that flood the space with natural light. A woodworker by trade, Bill Long created functional and artistic pieces featured throughout the home, including a traditional wooden boat hanging in the living room.
There were eight stops on the 2019 tour, which included refreshments provided by local restaurants at the North Shores Community Center at 120 Meadow Avenue. For more information, visit www.vilanofest.com.
BEACH DRIVING PASSES
St. Johns County Beach Driving Passes go on sale Monday, December 9th and make great stocking stuffers for the holiday season. St. Johns County resident passes are $50, non-resident passes are $100, and handicap passes are $40. Passes will be available during normal business hours at the following locations:
• Tax Collector’s Main Office – 4030 Lewis Speedway, St. Augustine
• Tax Collector’s DuPont Center – 6658 US 1 South, St. Augustine
• Tax Collector’s Julington Creek Office – 725 Flora Branch Blvd., St. Johns
• Tax Collector’s Ponte Vedra Office – 151 Sawgrass Corners Dr., Suite 100, Ponte Vedra Beach
• St. Johns County Beach Services Office – 901 Pope Rd., St. Augustine
• St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier Gift Shop – 350 A1A Blvd., St. Augustine
Residents must present a valid I.D. with a St. Johns County address or present proof of property tax payments in St. Johns County to purchase a resident pass. When requesting a handicap pass, a handicap hangtag or proof of qualification must be presented. Disabled military are eligible for a free annual pass by presenting military I.D. or a letter from Veterans Affairs verifying disabled status. Vehicles accessing the beach do not need a beach pass until March 1, 2020. After March 1, 2020, beach passes will be available for purchase (at the same rate) at the tollbooths.
For more information about annual beach driving passes, please call the St. Johns County Beach Services Office at 904-209-0341. Visit the Reach the Beach Mobile App or http://www.sjcfl.us/beaches for current beach access updates and beach driving conditions.
Guest column: County asks for community’s help with renourishment
Posted at 12:01 AM
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida are working with St. Johns County on a beach renourishment project in South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Beach that will provide residents, visitors and oceanfront property owners an improved beach experience. State Road A1A and homes along the beach will also be better protected from the ocean with a widened beach and a fortified dune system.
However, this beach renourishment can only happen with the cooperation of those who own properties along those beaches. In order to proceed with this project, as well as any necessary emergency repairs in the future, St. Johns County must collect easements from oceanfront property owners to allow the sand to be placed on the beach. Temporary easements are also required from several oceanfront property owners to allow a pipe on the beach for a few months to bring sand up from the St. Augustine Inlet.
This project is the best possible solution to save North Beach, and we are asking property owners to partner with us to save the beaches. If the easements are secured, this investment of more than $144 million into the beaches over the next 50 years will improve the quality of life for those who live near and visit the beach.
If you have any questions regarding the beach renourishment project or how to sign the required easement for your property, please contact St. Johns County at 904.209.0760 or [email protected].
I am excited for the future of these beaches and would like to thank the oceanfront property owners in advance.
Easements required by Dec. 31
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By Public Works Department
Posted at 12:01 AM
Public Works Department
St. Johns County has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida to restore and rebuilt South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach. Now is the time for the community to join the partnership and take the final step to deliver new sand to these beaches.
Representatives from St. Johns County are working to secure easements from owners of oceanfront properties located generally between the Serenata Beach Club and Nease Beachfront Park that will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the beach and conduct future restorations and emergency repairs.
In addition, the county is also seeking temporary easements from property owners between Nease Beachfront Park and the inlet that will allow a pipe to be placed on the beach for a few months to deliver the sand. If the easements are obtained, the $144 million investment will deliver more than four million cubic yards of sand to the north beaches over the next 50 years for recreational use, shoreline and home protection, and to further secure A1A.
Easements must be obtained by Dec. 31 in order for the project to proceed on schedule and for the beaches to be renourished in 2020. St. Johns County mailed easement packets to eligible oceanfront property owners.
If you are an oceanfront property owner along this shoreline and have questions, did not receive your packet, or need assistance completing your easement documents, contact St. Johns County at 904-209-0760 and [email protected].
HYATT PLACE HOTEL CONSTRUCTION INFORMATION
By Robert Reyes, Site Superintendent for The Collage Companies
“On behalf of Collage Construction, ownership, and myself, we want to thank you for your patience and hospitality. During the last six months, Phase 1 of the build has taken place. During this time, we were pretty much confined to the underground parking, including building of the hotel superstructure.
Collage construction is now entering Phase 2, which will last up to December. This phase will include parking lot slab on grade, underground utilities, start of the second level, and site work. Phase 2 will require lane closures, traffic control and detour routing paths. Many early morning concrete pours, product delivery, and concrete trucks with heavy equipment will be happening on site.
Please know that at all times our energy goes to minimizing the disruption to the community. Please note that if there is something you have in mind and need to discuss, please do not hesitate in visiting our site management office and voice your concerns.”
Note: The mission for The Collage Companies is “To build projects that strengthen the foundation and fabric of our community. Our purpose is to look at the world around us and to make it better, with the combined efforts of a dedicated and intelligent team, and believe that the talents we bring are a gift that needs to be shared within our community.” The Collage Companies are now considered a member of our community family. They have dedicated their company to be an important sponsor of our Vilano Fest event.
NORTH BEACHES RENOURISHMENT
OPEN HOUSES IN OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER
By Kelly McTaggart, County Public Works
Open House dates: Wednesday, October 30 and Thursday, November 21 (both 3 to 7 p.m.) at the NERR Guana Environmental Education Center, 505 Guana River Road, and Wednesday, November 20 (4 to 7 p.m.) at the North Shores Community Center, 120 Meadow Avenue. On Wednesday, November 6 (6 to 7:30 p.m.) there will be a workshop and public hearing discussing the Erosion Control Line (ECL), held at the NERR.
The focus for the open houses is for getting easements signed and collected -- not only for oceanfront properties which will be receiving sand, but also for those where a sand transfer pipeline will cross their properties. However, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the County Public Works Department will be on hand to answer any questions. In addition, the County Real Estate Department will have copies of each easement required or people can bring easements that were mailed to them, with notary public service available at no cost.
The ECL meeting will be a powerpoint and talk of what the ECL is, and why we must have an Erosion Control Line. This is pursuant to Section 161.161 required by Florida statutes to have a public hearing. For further information: Kelly McTaggart, [email protected], 904.209.0259.
OYSTER ROAST TIME AGAIN
By Bill Long
Saturday, November 9, from noon to 3:00 p.m. The Boating Club Oyster Roast is always an enjoyable success. It includes roasted oysters, of course, plus a Minorcan pilau rice dish, several chowders, Cincinnati chili, homemade desserts and drinks, including beer and wine. There will be parking shuttles to pick you up and deliver you in the neighborhood to take you to and from the clubhouse on the Intracoastal Waterway at the west end of Boating Club Road. Tickets are limited to 400 and usually sell out. Go to www.staugustineboatingclub.com on the Events page. Cost is only $40 per person. Contact: Bill at 904.808.1172.
VILANO BEACH LOVE FEST
By Lennette Deal
At the Vilano Beach LoveFest, New Zealand surfer Ian McCormack, subject of the movie, “The Perfect Wave”, will tell of his life after death experience after being stung by box jellyfish in the Indian Ocean.[source: RealDeal Ministries]
Saturday, November 16. 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. At the North Shores Community Center and Park, 120 Meadow Avenue, Vilano Beach. This family-friendly, faith-based, non-sectarian, free outdoor event is sponsored by RealDeal Ministries International and The Vine Christian Singles Ministry of St. Augustine.
It begins with a concert of mountain gospel music by the “I am Sent” band, followed by the “Xtreme Team” Performing Arts Group with skits and puppetry. There will be an activity center for kids. Then hear a surfer from New Zealand, subject of the movie, “The Perfect Wave” starring Scott Eastwood, describe his Life After Death experience after being stung by box jellyfish in the Indian Ocean. I am Sent returns with music.
LoveFest is meant to be a day of joy, full of inspirational faith-based help and ideas, dreams, hope, life-giving healing experiences, leaving us with a greater understanding of the love of God to guide us in our daily lives.
Participating churches, faith-based organizations that provide assistance, vendors and artisans may donate $25 for a table/tent. For information to participate or volunteer contact: Lennette Deal, [email protected], www.RealDealMinistries.com, 813.787.2478.
SUPER SCENIC GARAGE SALE ON A1A
Saturday * November 16 * 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
By Danielle Anderson
The Friends of A1A Scenic and Historic Byway are at their 11th yearorganizing the biggest yard sale in Florida. It now covers 150 miles along our scenic A1A highway, from Fernandina Beach on the North to Ponce Inlet on the South. Individual participants are welcome. Our section of A1A will have these community sites you can be placed at if you don’t live on the highway: South Ponte Vedra Civic Association at 2724 South Ponte Vedra Blvd, Vilano Beach site on Poplar Avenue in back of Publix, and possibly also at the Camachee Island shopping area on the West side of the Vilano Bridge.
Go to ScenicA1A.org or contact coordinator Danielle Anderson, 904.425.8055. You must register so you and your location can be on the site map. Registrations of $20 are used to place ads and provide event signs. Sellers retain all proceeds, but contributions to Friends of A1A are always welcome.
Vilano Beach poised to ramp up business development
By Colleen Jones
Posted May 24, 2019 at 8:13 PM Updated May 24, 2019 at 8:13 PM - St. Augustine Record
The first bridge that connected St. Augustine to Vilano Beach routed traffic straight through the heart of the beach town. When motorists reached the western side, they traveled along Vilano Road, dotted on either side by small mom-and-pops like Haley’s Comet motel and the Lazy Sands bar.
When a new span, the Usina Bridge, was constructed in 1995, it was built further north up the Intracoastal, bypassing the commercial district altogether.
Shortly after, a public/private association called Vilano Beach Main Street Group formed with the mission of creating a Vilano Town Center that would support residential alongside business development and bring economic vitality back to Vilano Road while encouraging walkability and density, a movement sometimes called “new urbanism.”
Between 2006 and 2008, that group succeeded in creating a new streetscape reminiscent of Vilano’s original art deco and old Florida style and began to court interest in commercial investment. The recession that followed slowed that progress somewhat, but in 2012 a long-awaited Publix grocery store opened along with new and renovated retail shops and eateries.
Now, with two hotels rising on either side of Vilano Road and other plans in the works, the community is poised to attract more tourists to the “other beach” town sometimes overshadowed by nearby St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach.
Currently, a Hyatt and a Holiday Inn Express are being constructed. The Hyatt, which is slated for opening in summer 2020, will encompass 120 rooms, underground parking, a rooftop bar and an independently run restaurant. The Holiday Inn, which should be completed by the end of the year, will have 50 rooms and a ground-floor space for a coffee shop and retail.
Also on the horizon is a plan for 49 townhomes on Loja Street, just off Vilano Road. The project hasn’t been formally submitted to St. Johns County officials yet but, if it moves forward, could also bring considerable more foot traffic to the Vilano Town Center.
“We’ll have 170 rooms within walking distance, plus at least 100 employees who will also want to have lunch, run errands and do other business here,” said Vivian Browning, president of Vilano Beach Main Street in a recent interview with The Record. “What our goal here in the Town Center has been is to provide services to the locals and the tourists so they don’t have to travel across the bridge and spend money over there instead.”
As a semi-governmental group, the Vilano Beach Main Street association has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for what future progress would look like, what kind of mix of businesses it could bring, and providing input for overlay zoning and design standards for the area.
“We can coach, encourage and suggest but, in the end, we have no decision-making power,” noted Sallie O’Hara, the group’s executive director.
The Main Street association holds regular meetings where stakeholders, community members and developers can air ideas in an informal setting.
One of the ideas that came out of those meetings is for an “Airstream Row.” The project, recently approved by the St. Johns County Planning and Zoning Agency, allows for several silver retro RVs to be temporarily stationed at 182 Vilano Road beginning this summer. The vision is based upon a similar model in the city of Seaside, Florida, which allows for light retail and a concierge booth where volunteers sell tickets to local attractions and also provide information about development in the works in Vilano. The permit is for three years, and the hope is to have the property redeveloped following the hotel construction.
There are plans to also run a regular water taxi out of Porpoise Point that would carry passengers to and from Vilano Beach and St. Augustine.
To Jimmy Beaches’ way of seeing it, all these new developments are exciting to see.
Beaches’ father-in-law, Lloyd Small, built a small marina in 1954, one of the first buildings to greet travelers across the old Vilano drawbridge. The area also served as a prime location from which to watch the Fourth of July fireworks across the water.
Beaches, who now runs the marina, said he has a lot of local, repeat customers but looks forward to those numbers increasing.
“It’s good for my business; I see a lot of new people coming in here,” Beaches said.
Lou Marcantonio, one of the owners of Beaches at Vilano, a waterfront restaurant and boat pier, also sees a ramp up in tourism as positive. The business is in the process of expanding its services to include boat rentals, jet skis and marine tours.
“As a visitor, there will be nothing you can’t do here,” Marcantonio said.
But what about the saying, be careful what you wish for? Is Vilano Beach in danger of losing its sleepy, small-town surfside charm?
Browing and O’Hara say, no, too much work has been done to implement safeguards under the Florida Growth Management Act that promote smart growth and prevent the kind of vertical build-out that could make the community look and feel like a mini Daytona Beach.
“It’s a new generation,” Beaches said, “you’ve just got to get used to it.”
Commission honors Vilano Beach Main Street
By Sacha Martin / Correspondent
Posted May 27, 2019 at 1:51 PM Updated May 27, 2019 at 1:51 PM
The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners presented a Certificate of Recognition to Vilano Beach Main Street to honor its designation as a nationally accredited Main Street by Main Street America which signifies community commitment.
“Since 1980, Main Street programs across the country have generated a total of $74 billion in public and private investment, rehabilitated 276,790 buildings, created 614,716 jobs and started 138,303 businesses. Vilano Beach is one of over 1,600 community-based organizations across the country and 47 in Florida with a proven track record for celebrating community character,” according to Timothy Parsons, state historic preservation officer for the Florida Main Street Program.
The certificate read: “It is with great pride that we recognize Vilano Beach Main Street’s commitment to community revitalization, economic development and historic preservation. We acknowledge their significant contribution and impact within St. Johns County and congratulate them on this most distinguished designation.”
The pedestrian-friendly, sustainable Vilano Beach Town Center was created through an initiative of our residents through the North Shores Improvement Association, starting with a formal vision of the future accepted by the County Commission in 1999.
The area was designated a Waterfronts Florida Community in 1999 under what is now a State Department of Economic Opportunity program. That program has provided technical assistance to help with land planning and to obtain initial grants of many that would follow for new public assets such as for our pier and beach pavilions, nature greenway boardwalk over the marsh, public floating dock, and acquisition of the former Fiddler’s Green property through a grant from Florida Communities Trust to become a public oceanfront park in perpetuity.
Vilano Beach was designated a Florida Main Street in 2003 under the Department of State. This is under National Main Street, a technical assistance program to revitalize downtowns and help with the ongoing cornerstones of success — organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.
In 2018, the Vilano Beach Town Center was named a Florida Trail Town to support non-motorized travelers on land and on the Intracoastal Waterway. You can sign a petition to support a proposed Multi-Use Trail for A1A North at A1ATrail.com.
MARCH 20, 2019
ADVENTURE CYCLING FROM VILANO BEACH TO SAN DIEGO
By Sacha Martin
Just after the Vilano Beach Town Center had been designated as a Florida Trail Town, twelve people on bicycles – between the ages of 60 and 82 -- left Vilano Beach’s Magic Beach and OceanView Hotels at the Atlantic Ocean on February 12 headed to San Diego for expected arrival on April 18. The owners of our Vilano hotels invited this special group of adventurers to have a send-off breakfast at Magic Beach before departing.
The initial group arrived from points all over the country – Oregon, Colorado, California, Maryland, Washington D.C., Vermont, New Hampshire, Chicago and Baltimore. John Griffin of Eugene, Oregon is traveling on a uniquely designed recumbent bike with a really big windshield. Coordinators Nancy and Ken Wright (who is descended from aviation’s Wright brothers) are from Sharon, Vermont. When they finish, there will have been twenty-two cyclists on this adventure. Nine will have made the entire trip. They were to pick up more cyclists in Tallahassee, and five from California will join the group in Austin, Texas. When they finish, they will have bonded as a family of travelers.
This is not just a one-time bucket list check-off. They said, “We will travel 3,500 miles with beaches, mountains, deserts, aliens [Roswell,NM], national parks and thousands of friendly Americans.” Some of the participants have done cross country before on the Northern Tier. Nancy Wright has done the Northern Tier 10 times and wanted to do a Southern Tier. After departing ten stops in Florida (they will be using our new River to Sea Trail when they get to Hastings) , they travel through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas (13 stops), New Mexico (including Carlsbad and Roswell), Arizona (15 stops including the Grand Canyon), and then on to California.
How did they decide to leave from St. Augustine, specifically from Vilano Beach? There are national routes for cycling. They got route maps and help planning from Adventure Cycling in Missoula, Montana. Each day each cyclist has a Google map-type cue sheet in a transparent waterproof holder posted behind their handlebars. This tells them where to turn, how many miles to the next turn and when they will stop for lunch. A cell phone with GPS is also mounted on their handlebars. Normally every day they will cycle 50 to 60 miles, but there will be an 80 mile trek going into Austin.
There are four support staff with Ken in charge traveling along in a half-ton Ford double cab pickup truck hauling a 23’ outback terrain travel trailer where the cyclists are able to store their gear. The trailer has a drop-down exterior shelf to offer snacks and refreshments. The support vehicle is also communications central and has a Daily Departure Sheet to keep track of who is on the road that day. Each is encouraged to share stories in the “Notes” section. Carol Zemola Garsee from Chicago claims she will be the oldest woman cycling cross country. She said their group has a guideline: “Ride to be Joyful.” The message is we should all strive to do things to be Joyful.
SUNRISE AT VILANO BEACH FOR EASTER
By Sacha Martin
On April 21, our community has a secret to share – the 19th year for an Easter Sunrise Service overlooking the ocean and the inlet. The service begins at 6:45 a.m.
If you have attended before you have witnessed the sun as it rises over the ocean. There is a sense of enduring spirit, a reminder of the beauty of nature, a calmness you have felt when communicating with God, and renewed energy through the dawning of the sun rising over the ocean with a sense of your own journey for the future ahead. We don’t know at this time if there will be parking on the beach, but there will be parking at Vilano Publix, and as directed by parking attendants. Come prepared for possible testy weather, bring chairs and blankets.
This year The Turning Point at Calvary Baptist Church will be coordinating the event. The Church at Vilano will be participating. Turning Point is located at 3500 S.R. 16. Church at Vilano is at 120 Meadow Avenue, Vilano Beach. For more information on church services and programs go to www.tpcalvalry.com and www.vilanochurch.org.
NEW STATE COORDINATOR FOR GREENWAYS AND TRAILS
VISITS VILANO BEACH
By Sacha Martin
Donald Morgan, Florida Office of Greenways and Trails Regional Coordinator, Paul Haydt, East Coast Greenway and Friends of Scenic A1A Director, Sallie O’Hara, Vilano Beach Main Street Executive Director and Committee Member, National Scenic Byway, Dr. Michael Shirley, GTM Research Reserve Director, and Mark Atkins, North Florida Bicycle Club President, at the February Main Street meeting.
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The push to prioritize a feasibility study for a proposed A1A Multi-Use Trail accelerated during February, as the newly appointed Regional Coordinator for State Greenways and Trails, Donald Morgan, visited Vilano Beach and was given a tour on A1A, followed by a meeting with Multi-Use Trail Committee Members and then a question and answer public presentation at the February 20 Vilano Beach Main Street Meeting chaired by Vivian Browning. Our Vilano Beach Town Center was recently designated a Florida Trail Town. Mr. Morgan had met separately with Reuben Franklin, the City of St. Augustine’s Mobility Manager for the proposed link-in.
Attending a prior Trail Committee meeting were representatives from Velofest, St. Johns County Parks & Recreation Department, Rodney Cooper, Transportation Engineer for the County Public Works Department, Barney Bennette, FDOT State Trails Coordinator, Ayres Associates who conducted a past feasibility study, and North Shores Improvement Association committee members.
The A1A trail is anticipated to pass through a number of miles on existing hard packed trails in the Research Reserve and State Wildlife Preserve, as well as through Mussallem and North Beach county parks. Following the completion of the county River to Sea Trail, the committee is working to get our A1A Trail ranked as #1 priority in order to enhance goals for design, funding and completion, given a number of constraints we have in certain areas of right of way on a roadway initially built in the 1920s. See: VilanoBeachFL.com. Click on A1A Multi-Use Trail for information or to sign a petition or provide Letters of Support.
FRESHY-ROASTED OYSTERS CONSUMED
By Bill Long
Imagine the scene: clouds of steam rising from 53 bushels of oysters which served almost 400 people during three hours on February 16. The ravenous crowd came to enjoy the Boating Club Oyster Roast, where oysters were accompanied by chowder, pilau, crab bisque, chili and home-baked desserts.
The Douglas Davis family from Camachee Island reported “The roast was professionally run, and everyone volunteering was incredibly kind and courteous. We had an absolute blast and sincerely hope this becomes an annual tradition.”
Some of the proceeds will subsidize boys ages 6 to 18 to attend summer camp through St. Augustine Youth Services. There is a waiting list to become a Boating Club member, but the club facility can be rented. See: staugustineboatingclub.com or call Andy at (904) 669-8046.
COMMUNITY GARDENERS ARE PREPARING AND PLANTING
By Sacha Martin
A Vilano Community Garden workday on February 24 had gardeners weeding, filling beds with new soil, tending to new plants growing, planting a community herb garden, turning compost and installing a new gate, in preparation to shine for the Party in the Park on March 16, which will be held right next to the garden beds at the corner of Gardner Avenue and Second Street. The Garden Club for the Deaf and Blind School was also selling plants from their nursery there. Thank you to our new volunteers, Dot Peck for taking over our facebook page, Diane Longo for loaning us a table and chairs for the Party in the Park, and visitors from Albany on vacation, David and Lorna, for helping out with some Party logistics.
We are also asking gardeners if they would like to help design and put plants in at the Community Center (shade) and Fire House (sun) planting beds. Email Jean: [email protected]. Facebook page: Facebook.com/VilanoBeachCommunityGarden.
Annual race offers breathtaking views
By Fran Windeler
On St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the Vilano Bridge 5K & 10K Runs will begin and end at the Vilano Beach Community Center, 120 Meadow Ave. Festivities start at 7:30 a.m. March 16.
Started 23 years ago as a small community event, the Vilano Bridge 5K & 10K Runs has grown to include more than 700 runners and their families. During the run, participants take in the million-dollar view while crossing the Vilano Bridge.
Runners in the 10K race also pass through Camachee Island and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind’s beautifully landscaped grounds.
In addition to the 5K and 10K runs, a one-mile Fun Run will start immediately following the other races.
The first 800 registrants will receive a a colorful race T-shirt. Finisher medals are collector’s items and feature the dolphins on the Vilano Beach pier.
Awards will be given to the top three men and women overall and the top three male and female finishers in each of the following age groups: 9 and under, 10–14, 15–19, 20–24, 25–29,30–34,35–39, 40–44, 45–49, 50–54, 55–59, 60–64, 65–69 and 70-plus.
Following the race, the Party in the Park, for runners and spectators, will include music, family games, and food and drinks available for purchase.
Runners will receive a complimentary beer provided by Ancient City and Dog Rose brewing companies. Runners can also visit physical therapists from Vighetti & Associates for post-race rub down. Chair massages will be available for all.
A major fundraiser for North Shores Improvement Association, the event also includes a silent auction of items donated by generous sponsors. North Shores Improvement Association is a not-for-profit organization serving the community since 1939. In addition to giving back to the local community, half the registration proceeds will be donated to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.
Registration is $25 for the 5K and $40 for the 10K until March 1. From March 1–14, registration is $30 for the 5K and $40 for the 10K. From March 15 through race day, registration is $35 for the 5K and $45 for the 10K. Registration for the 1-mile fun run is $10 from now until race day.
To register, go to 1stplacesports.com/run/vilanobridgerun. To volunteer, go to VilanoBeachFL.com.