St. Johns County

Owners of old Santa Maria Restaurant could soon start construction

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A longstanding eye sore in St. Augustine’s historic district will soon go away.

The owners of the Santa Maria restaurant will soon get a chance to start construction after passing a major city hurdle.

“It’s just an eyesore right here in the heart of St. Augustine so I’m glad it’s finally coming down,” said local Anne Furnari.

Its dock is falling apart and the rest of it is in bad shape, a victim of Mother Nature and lack of TLC.

Action News Jax Skyvision drone flew over the building that will soon be replaced with a new and improved building.

Its current owners, who also own O.C. Whites, got approval by the city’s planning and zoning board to construct an 8-foot-wide by 54-foot-long gangway that leads into a floating dock.

They’ll also get to add more seating, making it a 300-seat restaurant. You’ll also be able to arrive by boat. Which is something that’s exciting for the locals.

“We live in Vilano and have a boat. It’d be so nice to be able to dock and have a nice lunch or dinner here,” Furnari said.

The new project will also be exempt from adding more parking, which is a huge obstacle in a city where extra parking spaces are hard to come by.

Many locals and tourists alike are glad to see some progress for the place once known “for feeding the fish while you dine."

“It’s a great spot. It’s an outstanding spot,” Dan Furnari said.

Here’s the full statement Action News Jax received from restaurant owner, Jennifer White:

"We will start as soon as we get the building permit from the City, so hopefully very soon. We are very excited to start on this project as it’s been a long time coming. Once we have the building permit we anticipate a year and a half before we open as long as the weather does not postpone anything.

"We want to thank the public who voiced their opinions on wanting to move this project forward and standing behind us. We also want to thank those behind the scenes and the Planning and Zoning Board for crossing the finish line on the variance and the dock. Four members of the board Karen Zander, Christina Opsahl, Sara Ryan and Mike Davis really understood that not granting a variance for parking and granting a use by exception displacing parking for O.C. White’s parking lot would have possibly caused more traffic with Santa Maria‘s customers trying to get one of the parking spaces. When people realize driving isn’t an option for Santa Maria and rely on boats, Uber and other public transport instead or simply walk from where they are staying, it will alleviate traffic.

“The docks were also very important because we feel it’s going to add to the experience for locals and those who love this town. To be able to go to the Santa Maria by boat with the historic city in the back drop and have something to eat and drink is going to give this waterfront town something it was missing.”

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