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St. Augustine seeks ownership of King Street

City leaders feel the city may do a better job improving and maintaining King Street than the state does.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The City of St. Augustine wants to take ownership of one of the major thoroughfares into its downtown: King street.

City leaders believe city staff may be able to do a better job maintaining and improving it than the Florida Department of Transportation.

King Street is the primary road into downtown St. Augustine. Flagler College, the Lightner Museum and Casa Monica Hotel line the road. It runs from U.S. 1 to the Bridge of Lions.

The State of Florida currently owns the road.

City commissioners unanimously approved the go-ahead to have city staff work on negotiating a deal with the Florida Department of Transportation to transfer ownership of the road from the state to the city. 

"The design scale that we want includes everything from wider sidewalks and vegetation and lighting to underground electric," City Manager John Regan said in a recent city commission meeting. 

The city also wants the corridor to be more drivable with fewer backups at the Bridge of Lions and be more bike and pedestrian-friendly. The city also wants to address flooding on the road.

"We asked the D.O.T. to consider sea-level rise in the design of their drainage project and they said 'No.'  I mean where is that, right?" Regan said. "So in our design work, we can properly consider the future."

However, there are some people who are not so sure the city would take better care of the road.  

Bruce Maguire and his wife operate Whetstone Chocolates on King Street. He believes the city’s plans are not business-friendly.

"What you’re creating is not a business district," Maguire explained. "You’re creating a classic access route for people to drive in and out, not stopping because they can’t get into parking lots. They have no place to park on the street. So they won’t stop to help the businesses."

Maguire also is concerned the city may not have enough money to maintain King Street and keep it in good condition.