Demolition of Village to precede renovation
After a festival of food, art and entertainment will come the tearing down of some John's Pass Village slated for renewal.
By RITA FARLOW
Published October 16, 2005
In two weeks, area residents and tourists will converge on John's Pass Village for a weekend of seafood, music and arts and crafts. But once the fourth annual Grouper Fest and Arts Festival has ended, Phase 2 of the redevelopment project of the waterfront shopping district will begin.
Expected to be completed by June 2006, the project will include the demolition and rebuilding of three waterfront buildings on the boardwalk.
A five-story parking garage that houses 323 spaces has already been constructed and is getting finishing touches that include murals and plantings to help camouflage the structure.
Leases for tenants in the buildings slated for demolition expire Oct. 31, but most of the businesses in John's Pass Village will remain open during the renovation.
"The parking garage itself is open. The retail businesses that screen the garage are being constructed now. They will be coming online through the month of December," said Patricia Hubbard, chief financial officer of Hubbard Enterprises, which is financing the project.
The expansion increases parking by about 200 spaces and will add two new restaurants: AJ's Seafood and Oyster House and Sportsman's Lounge and the Asian House Restaurant. The new buildings will house a French bakery, an ice cream shop, a coffee house and several retail shops.
Nicole Martinez, who owns Latin Quarter's House of Cigars with her husband, Willie, said she welcomed the redevelopment. Their building, on the east side of the boardwalk, is not slated for demolition, but Martinez said she doesn't expect a major dropoff in business during the project. The couple, who moved to the area from Texas and opened their shop eight months ago, specifically chose John's Pass Village despite knowledge of the impending construction.
"Coming from the big city like Dallas, I see the construction of the parking garage and redevelopment as progress. I think it's a sign of future growth in the area. We welcome a fresh presentation to John's Pass," Martinez said.
Some residents were upset when construction of the garage began in September 2004, but City Commissioner Art Thomas said complaints have died down.
"They're just waiting to see what the final outcome is, but I think it will look different than what people envisioned. It'll look better," he said.
Which is exactly what Hubbard is hoping.
"The negative impact it's had on the residents of the beach community has been unfortunate. The size of (the garage) was so startling to people. We talked about it for a year, but I don't think people really understood the mass of the structure until it started going up," Hubbard said.
"We could not communicate the idea that it's not going to look like this when it's finished. The architecture is Florida vernacular, that old Florida style with the verandas, and the colors we've chosen to blend into the village," she said.
Martinez cautioned those weary of the construction to be patient.
"It's not done yet. It doesn't have any makeup on yet. The skeleton is never the most handsome part, but I can already see the smooth lines coming out," she said.
The cigar shop owner also said she believes the development will ultimately bring more business to John's Pass.
"I don't think we'll ever lose the mom and pop feel we have down here, but growth is the key to the success of the market and the vendors in it," Martinez said.
Maria May, owner of the Treasure House Boutique for more than 20 years, is taking a wait and see approach. The Peruvian native has signed a new lease and plans to take some time off while her shop is rebuilt.
May said she didn't consider moving her business during the renovations, because of the high volume of walk-in traffic and the unique atmosphere of John's Pass Village.
"For people to go to a big shopping mall - they can go there in their own town. What they like is the charm of an old fishing village."
[Last modified October 16, 2005, 01:32:18]
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