St. Augustine leaders taking steps to make sure people stay in historic core

City leaders say growth is pushing people out of downtown neighborhoods

By Allyson Henning - Reporter

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - City leaders in St. Augustine are concerned about the impact growth is having on the community.

According to one city commissioner, people are moving away from the downtown core because of it. That's why steps are being taken to make sure people are staying in the historic core. 

Horace Martin has lived in the downtown St. Augustine area since 1957. Over the decades, he’s watched neighbors leave the heart of the city for different reasons -- from the cost to the congestion. 

"The streets were full of kids at one time and always playing," Martin told News4Jax on Thursday. "All my kids were out there at one time." 

City leaders say the inconveniences that come along with growth, like noise and traffic, are pushing people out of the downtown neighborhoods. 

Ronald Owen, who lives in St. Augustine, says he's seeing people turn their homes into rentals. Other longtime residents also admit Airbnbs and other vacation rentals are popping up all over the place. 

"I don't see anything wrong with it. Capitalism is capitalism," Martin said. "If I had the money, maybe I would do the same thing." 

Local real estate experts say the change is unavoidable. 

"I think no matter what no matter any way you look at it, the inevitability of it changing downtown is going to happen," said DJ Dellasala, with Ancient City Real Estate. 

Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman believes the city needs to focus on giving back to the people who live here -- whether it be in the form of recreation, unique cultural experiences, tax breaks or other discounts.

"You have to give people treasures in their neighborhood so that they enjoy where they live," Freeman said. "And so that the enjoyment outweighs the inconveniences." 

Her biggest concern is losing livability in the historic center of the city and watching St. Augustine turn into only a destination for visitors.

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