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The latest rendering of the Manatee Critical Care Center planned at the Jacksonville Zoo.

Jacksonville zoo to build manatee care center

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Manatees should soon have their own critical care center in Jacksonville.

The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will begin construction of the Manatee Critical Care Center upon approval of final permits with anticipated completion by year-end.

The zoo has funding to start construction but continues to raise money to cover final construction and annual operating costs.

Dan Maloney, the deputy director of animal care and conservation, said those costs include food for the manatees — one manatee eats more than 100 pounds of greens a day.

The center, including pools for rehabilitation, will open at the zoo at 370 Zoo Parkway.

The zoo broke ground in July on the $2 million facility, which is behind the Wild Florida Loop and between the Education Campus and gorilla exhibits. The public will have limited views of the center.

The St. Johns River Water Management District has been reviewing the project, which will encompass a 0.6-acre site.

Maloney said because of the zoo’s partnership with its resident Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Field Lab staff and its association with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manatee experts, “we recognize the need for a care center in North Florida.”

He said the zoo is in charge of raising the funds. It has secured a $500,000 grant from the state and raised $1.1 million from private donors to start construction of a behind-the-scenes facility that will provide urgent medical care to rescued manatees.

He said the zoo anticipates most of the rescued manatees will be suffering from cold stress, while others could be compromised from entanglements or boat strikes. There also could be orphaned calves.

Maloney said manatees are emblematic of Florida and represent a distinct place within the state’s heritage.

“Marine Mammal Response is one of our most important and extensive regional conservation commitments,” he said, adding the zoo also supports and participates in other conservation programs.

He said some are international or regional and some take place at the zoo, such as wood stork and butterfly research efforts.

He said the zoo uses 75 cents of each paid admission for conservation work and also raises funds through donations and its conservation speaker series.

“Our guests help us perform this work each time they visit the zoo,” he said.

Spokesman Lucas Meers said the zoo will continue to raise money for the care center’s operating costs, which are significant because of running filtration systems, staffing and food for the manatees.

A sick or injured manatee needs more nutrients and care to bring it back to normal health before it is released, he said.

Sam Lewis sells Pearl Plaza

Owner Sam Lewis sold Pearl Plaza last week to a St. Petersburg investor.

Lewis, through Pearl Plaza Partners LLC, sold the property Feb. 29 to Pearl Plaza LLC, whose manager is Robert Bridge, for $2.5 million.

Lewis is manager of Pearl Plaza Partners, which property records show bought the neighborhood shopping center in 2006 for $950,000.

The almost 47,000-square-foot shopping center, on 5.4 acres at 5200 Pearl St. in Brentwood, was built in 1955. It is at 44th and Pearl streets, near the site of the proposed Sulzbacher Village campus for permanent housing for homeless women, children and families.

Pearl Plaza tenants include health and community-services related organizations.

“Everyone has expanded their presence there since I owned it. I feel very proud of it,” Lewis said Monday.

Phil’s Shoes closed at the center in January 2015 after 54 years of business. It was started by Phil Lewis, Sam’s father.

Sam Lewis owned it for more than 30 years before selling it to his son, Mark, who acquired it in 2006.

Lewis said he was turning 75 and headed to semi-retirement and wanted to sell the property, which has focused on health and social agencies.

He said the area is underserved and the buyer will try to lease to businesses and nonprofits with the same focus. “The buyer has the vision to carry the center forward,” he said.

Lewis said he will maintain an office there from which he will continue nonprofit and real-estate work. “But I will be paying rent like anyone else,” he said.

IKEA starting construction drawings

IKEA expects to break ground in late summer or early fall for its Southside store, which it hopes to open in fall 2017.

Spokesman Joseph Roth said Monday the company is starting its construction drawings now that it has received City Council approvals. Council rezoned the property in January.

Roth said IKEA should complete its land purchase in late spring or early summer.

The retail furniture company announced in October it would build its first Jacksonville store at 7801 Gate Parkway and hire about 250 people.

The almost 25-acre site is at northwest Interstate 295 and Gate Parkway.

The 294,000-square-foot store can be expanded to 335,000 square feet, according to plans submitted to the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Fall construction for Sulzbacher Village

Construction is expected to begin this fall on Sulzbacher Village, which will provide permanent housing to single women, female veterans and single- and two-parent families.

The 70 units — a mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom residences — can accommodate 310 people.

Another 30 units will be for women and families who need short-term emergency housing and medical respite, according to Sulzbacher Center Major Gifts Officer Evin Willman.

She said design for the interior space is being adjusted and should be finalized in the next few weeks.

Willman said original designs, which were completed recently, required modifications due to programming and administrative needs and other reasons.

Because of that, the groundbreaking initially anticipated this summer was moved to the fall.

The organization is on track to reach its $18.5 million fundraising goal in the next several months.

The Village should open in late fall 2017.

Willman said the leases would be for one year. Residents will have the option to renew at the end of one year.

Express Oil Change going up on San Jose

The city is reviewing a permit for construction of Express Oil Change at 11839 San Jose Blvd.

Plans show two buildings, totaling 5,733 square feet of enclosed space and 6,000 square feet of unenclosed space, on 1.3 acres.

Structures comprise a drive-thru oil change building and another for repair and maintenance. No contractor is listed for the $350,000 project, according to the application.

The Express Oil Change will be developed next to a 38-seat Waffle House that will be 1,635 square feet. The Waffle House Inc. plans are under review.

kmathis@jaxdailyrecord.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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