A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
JANUARY 12, 2019. JANUARY 12, 2019.
“We’ve got nothing except the memories,” says Chris Sadowski, sitting on a rock just south of St. Marks. “It’s very sad what’s happened in the beachfront.”
The beach is a place where Sadowski’s young son enjoys playing. They sit together and talk about how to rebuild the beach, how to preserve it, how to save St. Marks and the area as a place that tourists might want to come, visit again.
It’s a place he loves and he loves its people.
“My son and his friends, all my co-workers, people in the town, they would want to come and visit again,” says Sadowski. “This is a place that belongs to me.”
St. Marks is about 10 miles or 15 minutes from the nearest freeway. About 5,500 people live, work and play here, but there are 20,000 fewer today than were living here in 2004. Some are moving to other parts of town. Others are moving back in. And still others are moving to the suburbs.
The town is like many in Southeast Florida, a place that is growing as the beach retreats. It has an upscale waterfront along the Atlantic Ocean, a mix of private homes and condos, historic buildings and art galleries.
But the growth is not uniform or uniform in style. It’s not easy for people to buy homes here because there are few of them available. Some are built by the owner of the beachfront property, others are on the market for under $1 million, yet more than 30,000 units in the area are available for as little as $1 million.
One reason is demographics. At least one in four St. Marks residents are 65 or older and some were moving here before the beach was rebuilt.
“There’s a lot of retired people coming back,” says Sadowski. “My wife and I moved here because we’d seen the beachfront