Skip to main content
Business
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 1 year ago

Union House would turn Downtown warehouse into 260 lofts, space for creative class

Share
by: David Chapman

It’s a beige building in Northeast Downtown.

Long, dotted with windows. Industrial in nature.

Motorists stopped in a weekday traffic jam might peek to the west side of the Mathews Bridge entering Union Street and think the warehouse is abandoned.

It’s not. The building is 95 percent occupied.

Yet, if plans come to fruition, the Union Terminal Warehouse will be repurposed to cater to the creative class.

Portland-based Reed Realty Advisors is under contract for the structure, with the idea of turning it into 260 live-work loft units “designed to facilitate a lifestyle of entrepreneurial creativity.”

The sale price was $4 million, down from the listed $4.9 million.

From the Union Terminal Warehouse would be borne “Union House.”

Or, as it’s described in a conceptual plan filed with the city, “Jacksonville’s premier ecosystem for creative entrepreneurs in design, food service, tech, renewable energy and the arts.”

Event spaces, tenant-only collaboration rooms and glass storefronts. A “rooftop commons” with a track pool is mentioned, as are a market and test kitchen in the accompanying Ballard & Ballard Co. Building.

Financials also outline a $55 million project relying heavily on federal New Market Tax Credits.

About $21 million or so comes from that state and federal source, according to a conceptual plan provided to the city. Such tax credits are designed to spur private investment into low-income areas.

Without them, said Reed Realty principal Bryan Pereboom, the project isn’t likely to happen.

“It’s very competitive,” he said Tuesday.

The site hits some marks with the program, though. The project would be a food desert remediation and impact a severely distressed area.

It also has the support from the Downtown Investment Authority.

Aundra Wallace, the authority’s CEO, submitted a letter last week calling the project “integral” for sustainable growth of the urban core creative class and job opportunities.

No local incentives have been sought by the group, but Wallace mentions future support through loans, incentives for job creation and other economic development tools.

Wallace did not respond to several messages left Tuesday seeking comment.

Initially, the conceptual plan and framework of a support letter was sent last week to Kerri Stewart, Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff.

They were sent by Drew Weatherford, brother of former state House Speaker Will Weatherford. The two, along with brother Sam comprise Weatherford Partners, an investment and advisory firm formed.

Drew Weatherford did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Pereboom said the Weatherfords have been providing strategic advice for the company.

Stewart said the proposal is not as visible as the Shipyards or Healthy Town projects.

“It’s a part of Downtown that hasn’t really been talked about,” she said.

But, Stewart added, “It fits with all the things we’re trying to do Downtown.”

Pereboom wouldn’t speculate on a start date if his group received the tax credits, but said those incentives likely wouldn’t be awarded for at least another nine months.

Also provided to the city were brief concept studies on other historic reuses from across the U.S. Snippets about the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va.; the Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Ala.; and Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C., are used as comparables to what Union House’s reimagining could end up.

Tammy McKinley, the listing Realtor with Watson Realty Corp., said she couldn’t reveal details about the transaction or its intended use.

She is one of the business owners in the warehouse, though. McKinley rents space for her art studio — the type of creative class Union House is trying to attract.

She wouldn’t comment on whether the deal might impact that, but said in broad terms she was “personally very excited about the potential” the property has.

“It’s really going to do great things for Jacksonville,” she said.

Reed Realty’s website shows two other developments. The group undertook historic redevelopment in Little Rock, Ark., converting several Downtown buildings to lofts. And in Birmingham, Ala., the firm is restoring the historic Thomas Jefferson Tower into mixed-use.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

Related Stories