Monday, December 08, 2014

Another PUD in Historic District?

Corneal's meeting with neighbors seems to be just the right approach
Submitted by Stuart Korfhage on Mon, 12/08/2014 - 5:30pm
St. Augustine Record blog

Although the real proof will come when he goes before the various city boards, David Corneal said he’s received almost nothing but positive feedback about his plan to turn the Dow Museum of Historic Houses in St. Augustine into an inn.

Taking a proactive approach, Corneal invited neighbors to the museum two weeks ago to tell them about his plans.

“That’s my approach,” he said. “That’s how I deal with people. It doesn’t help to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

It was also their opportunity to complain or address concerns.

And there were some, for sure. But Corneal tried to assuage fears that he was going to create party central in the Historic District.

“Most of them came up to me afterwards and said they were very supportive of it,” Corneal said a week later. “I would say the overall response I’ve been getting from everybody is positive. I think they walked away feeling a lot better about the idea.”

Right now, the property is not zoned for short-term rentals, so Corneal will eventually have to obtain a PUD from the St. Augustine City Commission before the business becomes a reality.

For now, Corneal is staying upbeat and stressing his commitment to preserving the houses once controlled by the Dow Museum. He said the only way for it to be worth the effort of fixing up and maintaining the historic buildings is for them to be part of some sort of business.

He thinks the inn concept best suits his preservation plans.

“Historic properties are persevered (sic) because somebody will step up to the plate,” said Corneal, who spent $1.7 million to acquire the property. “I’m trying to do something that’s good for the community. It just gives me a real kick. I think that everybody is going to benefit.”

Not all the neighbors at the informal meeting were wild about the idea of having tourists coming and going in their relatively quiet corner of St. Augustine.

That was the main concern for those who live in the area. However, the neighborhood is right by areas frequented by tourists — close enough to hear the spiel of the trolly bus drivers.

Corneal said the ruckus of loading and unloading and making deliveries can be mostly contained to Cordova Street, which is already used to traffic but far from overwhelmed.

No business owner can promise that customers won’t cause an occasional problem. But he says the inn will be comparable to a property he used to have in the Keys called Island City House. That hotel had few problems with neighbors, he said. It is also highly rated on various travel websites.

If that’s the kind of place Corneal builds in St. Augustine — and that’s his promise — it’s doubtful that there will be a lot of complaints.

“Everybody that I see, they say this is a great idea,” Corneal said.

If it doesn’t all come together with the fellow residents and the city government, there’s no telling what will happen to the property.

But it’s good bet Corneal won’t keep it as a museum. Corneal said he didn’t buy the property because he thought it would make him a fortune.

On the other hand, he didn’t make the acquisition with the intention of taking a loss.

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