Jacksonville’s urban core and the city’s historic neighborhoods create a rich texture to the fabric of Downtown and are integral to maintaining the city’s unique identity. In recent years, investment dollars have been flowing in at unprecedented levels proving the limitless potential for growth in the area. A multitude of projects are planned along the Saint Johns River which will bring a wave of new energy and vitality to the urban core with plenty of new uses and public spaces for the community.
Proof of the city’s progress is in the 2019-2020 State of Downtown report which shows nearly $3 billion in projects under construction. While most of the data examined was collected pre-pandemic, the study covers multiple projects for residential, office, retail, parks and trails, and infrastructure from January 2019 to June 2020.
This steady increase of development activity is incredibly encouraging.
History Plays a Vital Role in the Economy and Growth of the City’s Urban Core
The Downtown Jacksonville Historic District encompasses approximately 56 blocks. Overall, the 156-acre district includes 176 contributing buildings, one contributing site, and 19 buildings previously listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A study conducted by PlaceEconomics found that historic preservation results in more jobs than new construction, increased property values, increased tourism, had fewer environmental impacts, and increased quality of life. In effort to support existing businesses in Downtown, the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) is allocating $950,000 to support renovations of street-facing facades on old Downtown buildings to activate the streetscape and the overall revitalization of Downtown Jacksonville.
New Efforts to Revitalize Downtown Jacksonville
In one of our recent transactions, NAI Hallmark Managing Partner Keith Goldfaden and Senior Vice President Daniel Burkhardt brokered the sale of the three-story Porter House Mansion at 510 North Julia Street to JWB Real Estate Capital, who also owns the remainder of the city block.
“I’ve been interested in Downtown for a long time,” said JWB President Alex Sifakis said. “I’ve seen what other cities have done and how it’s helped the entire city when you can revitalize the Downtown core. So, it’s been a passion of ours as we live, work and play here in Jacksonville: We wanted it to be the best version of itself, and I feel a vibrant Downtown is important to that.”
NAI Hallmark will remain onboard the project providing leasing and management services. Principal Patrick Thornton and Senior Associate Patrick Carney will facilitate leasing services. Renovation plans include several mixed-use properties with ground-floor retail, restaurants, office space and apartments on the upper floors.
JWB has purchased numerous historical buildings in Downtown Jacksonville, including 218 West Church Street, the historic Seminole and Federal Reserve Bank buildings at 400 and 424 North Hogan Street, and several residential properties in historic Springfield.
1. Ambassador Hotel
The Ambassador Hotel originally opened in 1924 as 310 West Church Street Apartments, the first upscale apartments in Downtown Jacksonville. In 2018, Axis Hotels, LLC associated with St. Augustine-based Augustine Development Group, purchased the property for $5.4 million in a deal which included the hotel and 1.5 acres between Church, Pearl, Duval, and Julia Streets.
Plans include a $15 million renovation to convert the Ambassador Hotel into a 127-room La Quinta Inn and Suites hotel with a rooftop bar.
2. Independent Life Building
Located at 233 West Duval Street, the former Independent Life Building was purchased by St. Augustine-based Augustine Development Group who plans to invest about $30 million in the 180,000-square-foot, 19-story, mixed-use structure.
The proposed renovation includes space for a 21,000-square-foot grocery store, 140 market-rate apartments, a parking garage and a 10,000-square-foot top-floor restaurant and “executive sky lounge”.
3. Baptist Convention Building Adaptive Reuse
Completed in 1924, the First Baptist Convention Building located at 218 West Church Street is notable for being the last office building in Downtown Jacksonville designed by famed architect Henry John Klutho. JWB Real Estate Capital acquired the structure for $675,000 and intends to convert the building into a mixed-use facility, comprised of two future mercantile suites, future restaurant spaces with courtyard access, and 24 studio and 1-bedroom apartments. The renovation will begin in early 2021.
The building is considered a National Historic Landmark Building and will follow NPS guidelines for historic renovations.
4. Federal Reserve Bank Building
The former Federal Reserve Bank building located at 424 North Hogan Street is another National Historic Landmark Building in Downtown Jacksonville and was designed by Henrietta Dozier in 1922. Dozier was Jacksonville’s first female architect. JWB Real Estate Capital acquired the historic building in August 2020 with plans to develop a restaurant, business and banquet space, along with an exterior courtyard for outdoor dining.
5. New JEA Headquarters
JEA continues to plan for the development of a new headquarters tower situated on the Northbank at 325 West Adams Street next to the Duval County Courthouse.
The utility’s new headquarters is proposed to be a 7-story, 153,000 square foot building with an adjacent parking garage offering 650 parking spaces.
JEA is also working with the Downtown Investment Authority to find a second location for a 40,000 square foot building that would be super-hardened against storms for the utility’s emergency operations center and other critical functions.