Coles: ‘I heard a big wave is coming’
Laveranues Coles Jr., the retired NFL wide receiver who bought a Downtown building, said he not only wants to develop his East Bay Street restaurant but also is considering a recreation venue at the Jacksonville Landing.
Coles said Thursday that his first venture will be the Levels restaurant and he expects he could put another $700,000 or more into renovating and furnishing the vacant 110-year-old building at 323-325 E. Bay St.
"I want to give Jacksonville something it hasn't had," Coles said Thursday in an interview with the Daily Record.
Coles, a Jacksonville native and football player for Ribault High School, said he understood that Downtown was positioned for development.
"I heard a big wave is coming that way," Coles said. "That motivated me to get ahead of the curve in the entertainment district."
Coles, 35, lives in St. Johns County. He played for Florida State University before spending 11 seasons in the NFL. Coles played with the New York Jets, the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals, ending his career with the Jets in 2010.
He said construction could start soon on the two-story Levels restaurant and be completed for a soft opening and then a full opening by March 1.
The restaurant will offer gourmet burgers, chicken wings, shrimp, nachos, fries, salads and more. He said he was working with Taste Food Studio chef Chris Dallo on the menu.
The ground-level floor would feature a lounge, DJ and sports-bar environment and food would be served there.
The upstairs would be the main floor and feature comedy acts, live bands and offer VIP seating. Coles said he will work on bringing in celebrities.
He also intends to install a Roberto Cavalli chandelier on the second floor and custom furniture throughout.
Coles expects Levels to open seven days a week at the start and will adjust the schedule based on business.
He envisions it initially will open for lunch and stay open until 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday and close about 10 p.m. on weeknights.
Coles said the Sunday business would probably be linked to football hours.
He expects to hire about 20 employees.
Architect John Allmand with JAA Architecture is working with Coles on designing the vacant structure.
Allmand and Coles said they need to make structural changes to the front of the building to accommodate a stairway for fire safety.
Coles said he worked with the city, including City Council member Johnny Gaffney and Jacksonville Planning and Development Department Director Calvin Burney, on resolving issues.
Coles, through Past Trouble LLC, bought the building for $750,000 from 325 East Bay Street LLC, whose manager is Insetta Family Properties LLC. Insetta Family Properties issued a $640,000 mortgage the day of the purchase to Past Trouble, records show.
The vacant 16,068-square-foot building was developed in 1904 and renovated in 1982. Its use is commercial, residential and office and its heated area is 10,677 square feet.
Allmand said the basement would be used for storage.
On Nov. 25, Coles created a limited liability company called Smooth Trouble LLC based at 323 E. Bay St.
Coles said his next venture might be at the Landing, which is anticipating renovations.
Coles said he was waiting to see what happens with the riverfront marketplace.
"I want to put something in the Landing as soon as they give direction," he said, indicating he might know more in February.
One possibility he mentioned was a bowling entertainment venue.
Landing owner Toney Sleiman said Friday morning he was not directly working with Coles, who likely is speaking with other Landing representatives, but said a bowling center would be of interest.
"If it fits in, absolutely I would talk to him about it," Sleiman said.
"That might be something we will look at seriously."