Coles buys Downtown building
Former NFL wide receiver Laveranues Coles Jr., a Jacksonville native and veteran player for Ribault High School and Florida State University, appears to be making a property play Downtown.
Could he be planning a bar, restaurant or housing – or a combination? Those uses are allowed for the almost 110-year-old building he bought at 323-325 E. Bay St., which is across from the old Duval County Courthouse.
Coles acknowledges the purchase but hasn't been available yet to discuss more details.
Past Trouble LLC, a company set up by Coles in September, bought the building for $750,000 from 325 East Bay Street LLC, whose manager is Insetta Family Properties LLC. The deed was recorded Oct. 24.
Insetta Family Properties issued a $640,000 mortgage the day of the purchase to Past Trouble, property records show.
The 16,068-square-foot building was developed in 1904 and is valued for tax purposes at $303,500. Its use is commercial, residential and office. Its heated area is 10,677 square feet and it comprises 10 units. The loopnet.com site lists the East Bay Street property as vacant.
Jonathan Insetta, president of Black Sheep Restaurant Group Inc., which operates a popular Five Points dining spot, said the family considered developing a bar in the East Bay Street structure, but changed its focus to restaurants.
The 325 East Bay St. group bought the property in April 2008 for $1 million from a trust, whose trustee was William E. Scheu.
Insetta said Monday the building has been vacant at least five or six years and said it was used for state offices before that.
"It's an awesome building," he said. He referred questions about its next use to Coles.
The loopnet.com real estate website describes the structure as a "great brick building" with wood floors and wood columns in the heart of the Downtown entertainment district for use as a restaurant or entertainment venue. The website says there are entertainment facilities on either side of the building.
"The building was constructed in 1904 and completely renovated in 1982," says loopnet.com, adding that the improvements included elevator, electrical, plumbing and some structural work.
It says the building has a 5,000-square-foot basement that is air-conditioned and is serviced by the elevator.
Coles, 35, has generated news during his career. He played football at Ribault and then FSU before spending 11 seasons with the NFL.
Coles played with the New York Jets from 2000-02, 2005-08 and ended his career there in 2010. He was with the Washington Redskins from 2003-04 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009.
His Twitter handle is @Troublein904. The seminoles.com site said his nickname of "Trouble" stuck with him "since he kept his mother in labor for four days, turning every time they got ready to perform the C-section."
Coles has since experienced more trouble, including being kicked off the Seminoles when he was a senior after being charged with taking part in a scam to steal clothes from a Tallahassee department store while being on probation for other issues.
At Ribault High School, he was regarded by most as one of the top five running backs in the nation, according to seminoles.com, which outlined his college career through the fall of his senior year.
Coles prevailed as a career NFL player, however.
In 2005, Coles went public as a survivor of sexual abuse as a middle-school student by a man his mother married and later divorced.
"For me to get on this platform that I have, having been in the league and have all the media attention that we have, I think it's something that should be said," he said in a New York Times report. "If it gets one kid to come out and say, 'Look, this is happening to me,' ... I think it's right."
ESPN.go.com reported Aug. 30, 2010, that Coles was being released by the Jets and that he had no interest signing elsewhere.
"Once the buck stops here, I'm done," he said. "I started here and it's going to end here for me."
Coles has other investments in the area. He built his St. Johns County home, at 87 Coles Court, in 2006. The 20,400-square-foot home has a taxable value of $2.68 million.
And his mother, Sirretta Williams, has filed to run for the City Council District 7 seat being vacated by Johnny Gaffney, who is term-limited.