SHP Hospitality LLC bought two blocks of land on St. John’s River in Palatka for $169,000, with plans to construct a Hampton Inn.Palatka city commission authorized the sale of 1.69 acres on 100 Memorial Parkway block near the St. John’s River and riverfront Thursday. SHP also plans to have space in the new construction for restaurants and other businesses.
This is the latest development of the Palatka riverfront revitalization project that has been in the works since 2009. According to the St. Augustine Record, the city paid $3 million for the property, which previously housed a multi-story federal housing project that the city tore down.
The city’s riverfront plan includes the construction of event areas, docks and a $1.2 million Wetlands Education Center built by Georgia-Pacific as mitigation in building a pipeline in the St. John’s River, said Jonathan Griffith, project manager and grants administrator. He also said the city plans to enhance the park area.
The plan, with a completion date in the next two years, is expected to cost $3 to $4 million. The city has almost $2.5 million in grants so far, Griffith said, but progress has been slow due to the difficulty of gathering funds.
Charles Rudd, Main Street manager, said the number of public hearings and design-planning meetings throughout the years has also slowed the process down. The city created a rendering of their downtown plan.
“Depending on the tenacity of different projects, people come out in greater numbers,” Rudd said. “Some things go through very quietly, [and with] other things, folks turn out either strongly in favor or strongly against. We keep going back to plan.”
City manager Michael Czymbor said the city is trying to revitalize Palatka’s economy and atmosphere.
“Our challenge is to get people to go one block south of 17th,” Czymbor said, referring to the street that leads to the Memorial Bridge and other destinations, like St. Augustine.With attractions like the Wetlands center, park events and the downtown area, Czymbor expects to draw more visitors and new businesses.
Lacie Motley, and her husband Justin Motley, opened The Magnolia Café on 705 St. John’s Ave. in March.
They said they opened the café in order to serve the people who worked downtown, where food options are limited.
“Getting to meet locals and make new relations is really enjoyable,” Lacie Motley said.
Libby Williams, 49, has lived in Palatka nearly all her life and believes the renovations are beneficial.
“They’ve made a lot of improvements,” she said. “From when I was a kid there was nothing here.”
Rudd hopes new business will bring new residents.
“We’re creating our place,” he said. “And we’re going to attract new people to live here and experience Palatka.”