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Rendering of new development at the Florida Department of Transportation’s Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Management Center along Jefferson Street in LaVilla.

New state building approved despite objections

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

The state of Florida and the city Office of Economic Development’s Downtown Development Review Board locked horns again Thursday and the state prevailed – again.

Presented to the board was a proposed 25,000-square-foot building to be added to the existing State Regional Service Center complex.

Located on the north side of State Street between Davis and Jefferson streets in LaVilla, the history of the 35-acre site dates back to 1990. That’s when the city exchanged the property for the state-owned riverfront Daniels Building that is now part of the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront.

Nine buildings have since been developed on the site for several state law enforcement agencies and other service functions.

The primary tenant of the new building will be the Florida Department of Transportation traffic management and state law enforcement communications functions. The North Florida Transportation Planning Organization also will have space. The development includes a 125-space surface parking lot.

The state was granted conceptual approval for the development last year and was before the board Thursday seeking final approval.

One of the board’s policies is to be allowed to examine samples of building materials proposed for use before granting final approval for a project.

None were provided by the state.

Tim Miller, the board’s chairman, said he was concerned about the lack of material samples. Board member Roland Udenze also showed concern.

“We don’t have enough for final (approval). There’s no material samples and no landscape plan,” Udenze said.

Jim Klement, the OED redevelopment coordinator, works with developers before they bring projects to the board. He said he shared the information about the requirement with the state.

It wasn’t the only discussion point.

Rafael Caldera, the board’s vice chairman, asked if the site was the best choice for the development in view of it “using a huge piece of land for a one-story building and a huge parking space.”

Peter Vega, FDOT transportation system management operations engineer, said “an enormous fiber optic infrastructure” has been installed over the years and operations at the site already support city traffic signals and communications for public safety agencies in Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

Jason Teal, assistant general counsel for the city, advised the board the new building is the “maturation of an existing project.” As such, the board could delegate approval of materials to OED staff, which also must approve the landscape plan for the project before the city will issue a building permit.

After discussion, the board elected to allow OED staff to evaluate the construction materials for the project on the condition it ensures the materials are consistent with those used on the existing structures in the complex.

The board granted final approval, with Caldera casting the lone vote against approval.

The city and state also clashed over the design of the elevated pedestrian walkway connecting the Duval County Courthouse along Adams Street to the former federal building that is under renovation for the State Attorney’s Office.

The board in 2012 approved a design for the bridge that complied with design standards required within the city Downtown Overlay, a specific set of guidelines that apply to projects in the urban core.

When the State Historic Preservation Office rejected the design based on it being too consistent with the appearance of the two buildings, the board was compelled to approve a design

acceptable to the state, even though it did not meet the local guidelines.

“The state trumps DDRB,” Teal said at the time.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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