WHY IT'S COOL: Traditional treatment ponds would've taken up too much space, much of which was privately owned, so 770,000 gallons of stormwater flows to cast-in-place vaults below the central business district right of way. Photo: Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc.

By Michael Fielding


Name: Town Center
Client: St. Johns County Engineer's Office
AEC firm: Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc.
Cost: $13.9 million
Project delivery method: Design-bid-build
Completed: May 2009

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, tiny (population 2,500) Vilano Beach is one of many towns that host 3.8 million visitors to the historical beachside resort community of St. Augustine each year.

In 1995 the Florida DOT opened the two-lane Vilano Bridge a quarter-mile away to help tourists move more quickly through this unincorporated portion of Florida's St. Johns County, bypassing the town's central business district.

You know what happened next.

Seven years later the county designated the business district as blighted, opening the door to $13.9 million in tax increment financing (TIF) through Florida's Main Street Program. A year later a private neighborhood group built an entertainment pavilion at the end of Vilano Road, kicking off a downtown revitalization that's generated $2 million in revenues.

Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc., which designed and oversaw construction of the project, widened the seven two-lane asphalt roads that run throughout the business district, adding curbs and gutters and installing slotted drains to divert the required first inch of rainfall to one of six containment vaults directly below.

The 4-foot-deep, 5,000-square-foot concrete containers filter stormwater through 12 inches of coarse aggregate and into the soil.

Gravity sewer connections for all properties not served by the sanitary sewer system were terminated at the right of way to allow future connections without destroying sidewalks and other existing infrastructure. All parcels within the 24-acre area got pipe stub-outs and junction structures at the right-of-way line for future connections to the drainage/stormwater management system.

To encourage folks to walk the area, and ensure they can do so safely, 200 on-street parking spaces were created, three roundabouts designed and installed, and the speed limit was dropped to 25 mph from 30.

Despite the economic downturn, businesses have opened and hotels have been renovated, signaling a slow but steady return to the community's heyday.