St. Augustine Aquarium plans on hold

By Ashley Mitchem, Morning traffic, news reporter, amitchem@wjxt.com
Published On: Apr 15 2014 02:01:34 PM EDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2014 01:59:19 PM EDT

VIDEO: Plans to bring a multi-million dollar aquarium to St. Augustine is hitting bumpy waters. The underwater attraction was intended to replace an empty landfill, but the city commission decided not to move forward with the project.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

Plans to turn an empty landfill in St. Augustine into a state-of-the-art aquarium are on hold.

The St. Augustine City Commission voted Monday night not to move forward with the project, even though it has already made a $25,000 investment using taxpayer money.

Some say the city of St. Augustine is known for its slow-moving traffic and hard-to-find parking spots, and that's why those who live in the Lincolnville neighborhood say the St. Augustine Aquarium (rendering pictured below) is not fit to be in their part of town.

"That area just seems to be not the right spot," resident Jackie Rock said. "Everybody agreed who lives here."St. Augustine Aquarium rendering

The proposed 8,000-square-foot facility was slated to go in the Lincolnville area, which spans from King Street on the north to Cerro Street on the south, and from Riberia Street on the west to Cordova Street on the east. Some neighbors said they just didn't see the location working out.

"I think it was really important that the neighborhood was heard," said Judith Seraphin, president of Lincolnville Neighborhood Association. "I think it was really important that so many people came out, and obviously, (gave) the feelings of the neighborhood, with all the traffic already in our neighborhood."

Seraphin said the community is concerned about the traffic it would cause along Riberia Street, a road surrounded by homes.

Shawn Hiester and his wife, Cathy, are not pleased. The couple was planning to front $600,000 of the $8 million needed to make this project a reality.

"We were surprised," Shawn said. "We got to the meeting and apparently the commission and city manager had decided to put the project on hold, and we had not been made aware of that prior. So we are disappointed to say the least."

Shawn said he and his wife have three other locations in mind in St. Johns County. At this point, he will work with the city to see where the best option is for a location.

The St. Augustine Aquarium collected the second-most crowdfunding votes in the science category during One Spark last week. The Hiesters received a check for more than $1,400 from it. Those funds are still applicable to the project.

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