by Sean McManus
It’s been six months since the big crane pulled up behind 11 E. Forsyth Street. In three weeks the crane will be gone.
Everything is still on schedule at the second high-rise apartment building slated for downtown and construction is about to begin on the 155-car parking garage facing Adams Street, signaling the crane’s departure. The other reason is that the main riser work is complete, along with the dryer exhaust work, the plumbing in the risers and the framing for the lofts.
In fact, things are going so well at the Vestcor Companies’ project that the developers are almost ready for a visit from the archeologists.
“The State sends in archeologists to make sure we’re not sitting on an ancient, Indian graveyard or the bones of Civil War soldiers,” said Thomas DeLuca, the project manager at 11 E. Forsyth. “I imagine they’ll be here around mid-August.”
DeLuca said restoration projects start from the top and go down, as opposed to new buildings where gravity requires starting from the bottom.
Now that the top of 11 E. Forsyth, which will house eight two-story penthouses with exposed, indoor balconies and 20-foot ceilings, is complete, construction can move down to the lower floors.
Metal framing for new corridors on floors eight through 17 are complete and the walls that separate tenant units are finished on floors four through seven. Floors 11 through 16 are almost ready for sheet rock.
“In construction, everything happens with a domino effect,” said DeLuca, who has an office on the first floor amidst the exposed ducts and stairwells. “The dominoes are starting to fall.”
Vestcor is taking the elevators to Orlando next week for modernization and to bring them up to code. DeLuca said they haven’t been updated since 1968 and they need new motors and new controls. Vestcor is also ramping down the electricity in a move indicative of a once-commercial building going residential.
“The exterior renovation facing Forsyth [Street] is complete except for the last two floors,” said DeLuca. For the interior of the lobby, they are waiting on limestone from Tennessee, which will match the original material from when the building was built in 1925. It’s set to arrive July 20.
A fitness center is going on the second floor, in the place of one unit. Every other floor will have eight units. In the lobby, large open spaces will remain for a leasing office, a computer room and, hopefully, an upscale restaurant. Right now, only the duct work and risers have been complete.
Anywhere between 150 and 170 people are working at 11 E. Forsyth on any given day. Most of the workers are framers, electricians, mechanical technicians or plumbers. Stucco and glass workers also constitute a lot of the staff.
DeLuca said that no serious obstacles have emerged since renovation began six months ago.
“Understandably, the City has had some general concerns about fire safety and converting a commercial property is not always cheap,” he said. “But their codes have been met and regular inspections are progressing as planned.”
DeLuca said when the building was built, Jacksonville was still reeling from the Great Fire.
“It’s well built, which makes things a little easier,” he said.