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Owner Dewberry Capital Corp. wants to demolish the former Belk store, at right, and the site would remain vacant. It also wants to rebuild the smaller of the two buildings in the center into one about the same size as structure next to it.

Roosevelt Square seeking permits for redevelopment

By Karen Brune Mathis, Managing Editor

Roosevelt Square’s anticipated redevelopment appears closer.

St. Johns River Water Management District engineer Everett Frye expects to issue a permit within a week for a 5-acre redevelopment site at the almost 29-acre Westside shopping center. The project would need city approvals, as well.

Plans for the site at the southeast corner of the center include removal of the former Belk store and rebuilding one set of storefronts.

The storefront site would be redeveloped with a larger building that mirrors the set of shops just to its north, plans show.

After the Belk building removal, a large portion of its site would remain undeveloped, at least for the time being. Belk closed in January.

There also would be two new smaller buildings put up near the Chick-fil-A at the southern end of the center near Wabash Avenue.

Entryways at the southern end of the site also will be reworked.

Roosevelt Square, at 4495 Roosevelt Blvd., is anchored by Publix Super Markets and Stein Mart. The shopping center sits east of Roosevelt Boulevard between San Juan and Wabash avenues.

Regarding the Water Management District’s reviews, “things are progressing well and nearing the finish line,” said Frye, supervising professional engineer in the district’s Bureau of Environmental Regulation.

Property owner Dewberry Capital Corp. of Atlanta seeks to modify the stormwater treatment system to provide for the redevelopment area.

Frye said he has been working with the project engineers and designers since the first of the year. He said he has not seen plans for further development beyond the current application.

It’s not the first time Dewberry Capital has redeveloped the center.

When the company bought the former Roosevelt Mall 20 years ago, it “de-malled” it by developing buildings and strip centers with exterior entrances. It completed the first phase of redevelopment in 1999 and a final phase in 2003.

The project engineer continues to be Mark Dowst & Associates Inc. Dewberry and Dowst executives did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.

The pending project could be the first phase of another redevelopment of the entire site. District City Council member Jim Love said he spoke with Dewberry staff about a month or so ago.

“I hear they want to do a whole remake of it,” Love said.

He said the plans he is aware of could be adjusted depending on demand and cost estimates.

“But they are looking at fairly major changes because it is a fairly profitable center and they want to maximize it,” he said.

Love said Dewberry was not selling the property.

Publix would remain where it is, Love said, while other areas might see more change, including the possibility of apartments at the north end. Previously circulated site plans show a new building on the Belk site for Stein Mart.

Love said the developer probably will need to request rezoning for some of the elements. City building officials said they have not seen any plans.

The Water Management District explained that plans show the developer will take down the former Belk store and replace a nearby building where Metro Diner, Chase Bank and two other tenants are leasing space. A new, larger center will be built at the site.

As of Wednesday, it appeared just four tenants were leasing in that building with several other spaces vacant.

Metro Diner owner/operator John Davoli Jr. said Wednesday that while plans are not finalized, as of now Chase Bank and Metro Diner would remain while the remainder of the building they lease would be increased in size.

“Neither Chase or Metro Diner will be touched with the exception of a possible exterior finish change,” Davoli said.

JPMorgan Chase spokesman Michael Fusco said the bank’s real estate team said the bank will remain open during construction because the corner it occupies would not be part of the demolition.

When Belk closed in January, that allowed Dewberry to take steps toward redeveloping the site. At the time, Dewberry did not respond to calls about a site plan that showed a reconfigured shopping center.

That plan, dated April, showed Stein Mart would move from the northern side of the center, near San Juan Avenue, to a new building that would be developed at the Belk site.

Belk is 63,000 square feet. The site plan shows a 35,000-square-foot Stein Mart fronted by several smaller stores.

Linda Tasseff, Stein Mart Inc. director of investor relations, said then the company intended to stay in the center, although the existing 46,000-square-foot store it occupies is larger than its typical footprint of 32,000 to 35,000 square feet.

She said Wednesday negotiations are continuing and no decision has been made.

Roosevelt Square, now about 227,000 square feet, would be increased to about 344,500 square feet, based on that April site plan. Publix Super Markets would remain an anchor tenant.

That drawing did not identify all of the existing tenants nor indicate whether they would be moved within a redeveloped center.

Roosevelt Mall, as it was initially called, was built in 1961. Dewberry Capital says on its website that when it bought the property in 1997, Roosevelt Mall was under “highly distressed circumstances.”

Dewberry converted the mall in phases into an open-air lifestyle center, anchored by Publix and Stein Mart, along with many more tenants.

The Belk building, then a Gayfers store, was converted into a standalone retailer.  A new Publix was built and the former one renovated for Stein Mart.

Dewberry says on its dewberrycapital.com site that its revitalization efforts had a dramatic impact on the surrounding community.” That includes the established neighborhoods of Riverside, Avondale and Ortega, which are some of the area’s most affluent neighborhoods.

It also says the Publix there is one of the highest-grossing stores in the chain.

kmathis@jaxdailyrecord.com

@MathisKb

(904) 356-2466

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