VILANO BEACH, Fla. -- What used to be a popular restaurant is about to be gone forever. The building that housed Fiddler's Green in Vilano Beach will be demolished this month.
Many people -- like Mark McHose -- have great memories of Fiddler's Green restaurant that opened in Vilano Beach in the 1980's.
"Good food and beautiful ambiance there, looking over the ocean," McHose described it. "Nice place to bring a date to back in the day!"
However, the building is now empty. It's been rotting for years. People call it an eyesore.
In 2007, St. Johns County bought the popular restaurant and its 1.8 acres of beachfront property.
Wil Smith with St. Johns County Parks and Recreation Department said the county spent $1.4 million and it had a state grant of $4.1 million. The total cost was $5.5 million.
"We were OK with it," Vivian Browning said. She is President of the Vilano Beach Main Street program and she has been instrumental in the revitalization of Vilano Beach.
She liked Fiddler's Green and called it a classy restaurant that received high marks from state publications.
However, she and others supported the move to make the land public and to turn the building into a community center.
"It would have been available to people and for rentals such as for weddings, meetings and reunions."
However, Smith said the county learned the building needed $2 million dollars worth of rehabilitation.
"We found out the rules with ADA," Browning added, "This building had to be brought up to current code."
And then the economy tanked, and the building just sat vacant.
St. Johns County now plans to spend $21,000 to demolish the building next week, saying it's less expensive to demolish it than to restore it and because now it's become a safety hazard.
The county has received sharp criticism for spending millions on a building to let it become dilapidated. But Browning said, "The real value is the land that will be here forever. The building is a minor part of that value."
"It'll be interesting to see what happens to it next," McHose said. "I hope it doesn't go to a developer or something and turn into condos."
The plan is to keep it public, Smith said. Once money is available, Browning said possible plans are to build a deck and maybe a community center.
First Coast News