Two years after it was bought out from bankruptcy, and nearly four years since it was devastated by Hurricane Michael, the Apalachicola riverfront site that once housed two vibrant restaurants and bars, a package store and a two story-motel could soon be transformed into a restaurant, marina and ships chandler.
In what would be the largest and most significant riverfront development project in Apalachicola since the Water Street Hotel was built nearly two decades ago, owners of the Panama City-based Apalachicola Trading Company LLC plan to unveil their proposal before Apalachicola’s planning and zoning board on Monday.
If the presentation by environmental consultant Dan Garlick is received favorably, and the project is ultimately given the go-ahead by the city, the remnants of the 24-room Apalachicola River Inn, Caroline’s River Dining and the Roseate Spoonbill Lounge would be razed and replaced by a 76-slip marina, an 11,222 square foot reconstructed Boss Oyster restaurant, a marina store and a public boardwalk.
“The buildings exist in substantial disrepair and have been rapidly deteriorating following the Hurricane Michael event,” wrote Garlick, in his three-page summary to Bree Robinson, the city’s planner. “As well, the remaining marina infrastructure continues to fall into hazardous disrepair.”
Garlick’s letter notes “most of the pilings are in some form of decay,” that the adjacent fueling facility has had its fueling apparatus removed after they were destroyed by Michael and that while the current marina store and office are substantially intact, they are not in current use.
“Our initial steps will include demolition of all the structures and removal of debris from the site,” Garlick wrote. “Our intent is to salvage any materials that can be recycled back into the structure.”
The developers, whose principals include Zach Ferrell, Jared Blair, Daniel Haligas and Brian Lee, all of Bay County, envision a full-service marina with fueling services, enhanced by a public boardwalk along the riverfront side of the 11,222-square-foot restaurant, of which three-quarters will be the building proper, and the rest in open deck.
“The marina store will be proposed to be used with little need to renovate the exterior,” Garlick wrote. “Essentially one building is proposed which has a length of 110 feet, since the wharf lots in full span about 380 linear feet, and less than 30 percent of the riverfront is expected to be blocked from Water Street.”
The letter stresses that by using oyster shells for the parking area, the project is able to substantially reduce the current impervious area, and meet the city’s impervious lot cover requirements and minimize stormwater runoff.
The concept of the boardwalk “is to open up the public visibility of the waterfront by minimizing the extent of the building.” It also proposes to renovate public parking along Water Street and add more parking along Leslie Street.
“It has been the city’s desire for a riverfront walk for decades and this will add to the overall concept of making that vision real,” Garlick wrote.
Among the issues that will have to be hammered out by P & Z are the number of required parking spaces that will affect the size of the project.
Garlick maintains that 134 parking spaces are the standard for the facility proposed, which would cover all the spaces needed to be handicap-compliant, as well as serve the restaurant and marina and its staff.
He wrote that 76 parking spaces required for the marina “appears excessive, considering that about (half) of the boat slips will be transient, which basically means that those boats will not have a vehicle. We would require a relief of that parking criteria which we are 24 spots short, or 17 percent.
“If there is no recourse for the parking discretion, then we may delete some boat slips until the parking deficiency is mitigated,” he wrote.
Also, Garlick wrote, the proposed fueling facilities would require a special exception.
“Fuel has occurred on this site as recently as 2018 and would be a significant asset to the boating public,” he wrote. “The fueling infrastructure will be administered by a distributor and will have to meet the provisions of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection guidelines for authorization of waterfront fueling.”