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A preliminary design rendering of the proposed UNF Student Assembly Center.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 14, 201412:00 PM EST

$7M University of North Florida student center in review


A $7 million Student Assembly Center is in regulatory review for the University of North Florida on a wooded, waterfront site east of the Herbert University Center.

Shari Shuman, UNF vice president of administration and finance, said the student assembly facility will serve as space for functions for individual visitors, small groups and large gatherings.

“It will be a place for meditation, religious services of all faiths, lectures, seminars, group discussions and small music performances and retreats,” Shuman said.

Shuman said about $1.7 million has been raised from donors toward the assembly budget.

“We are in the process of designing the building and it will be shovel ready when funding becomes available,” she said.

The remaining funding will come from donations and Capital Improvement Trust Fund fees, which are student fees, she said.

Shuman anticipates the additional funding will be received in the next couple of years.

She said the building would accommodate 150-200 people and would be open 24 hours a day.

UNF is in South Jacksonville north of Butler Boulevard between the Interstate 295 East Beltway and Kernan Boulevard.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is reviewing an application for the center, along with a new two-lane roadway with sidewalks.

In addition, those plans show a future center west of the proposed roadway that will comprise four buildings with parking and sidewalks. Shuman said those would be faith-based student centers.

Shuman said UNF would make the center’s building sites available to faith-based organizations. UNF would provide the land but not build the structures.

The assembly building is designed on about 5 acres. JBC Planning & Engineering LLC is the engineering consultant and Environmental Services Inc. is the environmental consultant.

Kaspar Architecture is designing the structure.

In a May 2013 capital projects update for the UNF Board of Trustees, the center was described as a nearly 6,500-square-foot facility near the University Center, “surrounded by nature and overlooking the existing lake.”

It also would include an administrative office, restrooms, a dressing room, a warming kitchen for catering, and a storage room for chairs and tables.

Catholic center underway at UNF

The Diocese of St. Augustine expects renovations to be completed by the fall on the Catholic Student Center that is under development at 11277 Alumni Way near the University of North Florida campus.

The diocese bought a building in September from the Jacksonville Firemen’s Credit Union for renovations into a 60-seat chapel and center. The Rev. Blair Gaynes said the center has been holding events in the 2,000-square-foot building and now is beautifying the area around the building and adding the chapel.

The chapel would provide for weekly Mass and sacraments.

Railex says Philips is most viable site

Railex President Adrian Neuhauser said Tuesday that the company’s first choice for its proposed Jacksonville warehouse-distribution center remains a site at 6140 Philips Highway, although it has always considered alternative locations in the event issues couldn’t be resolved there.

“Plans continue as scheduled and Philips Highway is the only viable site we have,” Neuhauser said.

He said the site has the required highway and rail access, traffic signalization and space to park trailers. Florida East Coast Railway owns the Philips Highway property, which is vacant land zoned for heavy industrial use. Railex proposes to buy a tract of undeveloped rail-spur property adjacent to the Florida East Coast Railway marshaling yard.

Neuhauser said the company awaits U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approval on the site.

Given the permitting timeline and soil challenges there, he said the company continues to develop alternatives.

However, he said the company has not been able to resolve key issues, such as rail access, on the alternative Powers Avenue site, which is owned by the A.C. Skinner Jr. Trust.

The city Office of Economic Development said in a memo filed with a proposed city ordinance Tuesday that Railex is considering an alternate site for its proposed 250,000-square-foot cold-storage distribution center in Jacksonville’s Southside because of soil problems.

Railex negotiated $8.8 million in city and state incentives to develop the 310-job center. The deal was done a year ago, but construction hasn’t begun.

The memo was included with city Ordinance 2014-309 that urges a one-cycle emergency passage so that the city can receive a $5 million proposed state road fund grant to support the development before the end of the state’s fiscal year June 30.

Meanwhile, Railex plans to start service in its temporary Flagler Center facility the first week of June and continues to target year-end for completion of the new warehouse, Neuhauser said.

Junior Achievement to honor Blake Wilson

The Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, presented by Wells Fargo, will honor Blake Wilson, president and COO of EverBank.

The 16th Annual “Thompson S. Baker Solid As A Rock” award will be presented to Wilson at noon June 24 at EverBank Field.

Also, Laurie Allen of Citi and Bruce Barcelo of Barcelo & Company will be inducted into the JA Hall of Fame.

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is scheduled as the keynote speaker.

For information, visit

Arcadis signs multiyear lease

Arcadis, which is renovating its Southbank offices at 1650 Prudential Drive, has signed a new lease.

“The actual terms of our lease are confidential, but I can tell you we did sign a multiyear lease and with the renovations to the space we expect to be very happy there for years to come,” said spokeswoman Debra Havins by email.

The company has leased space there for 10 years, since it came to Jacksonville by acquiring Bessent, Hammack & Ruckman Inc.

Arcadis provides design, consultancy, engineering, project and management services worldwide.

Clara White seeks bids for Downtown project

Clara White Mission has issued a Request for Proposals for construction of the Beaver Street Villas. The project will be funded totally or partly by the federal government.

The scope includes providing 16 mixed-use permanent housing units on the second and third floors for homeless veterans with commercial and program space on the ground floor of a vacant three-story building at northwest Beaver and Broad streets.

For information, email [email protected]. Bids are due by 2 p.m. May 29.

Retail notes

• Camping World is building a structure to handle detailing and prep for RVs at its high-profile location at 10101 Interstate Center Drive in North Jacksonville

• Family Dollar is putting up six signs at its new store at 8088 Old Kings Road S. and a sign at its store at 8625 Old Kings Road S.

• Dollar General is building a store at 11151 W. Beaver St.

• Mobro Marine is putting up signs at 4600 Philips Highway.

• Autobahn Indoor Speedway is putting up the sign for its new location in Southside at 6601 Executive Park Court N.

• Wilson Square Shopping Center, where a Walmart Neighborhood Market is being developed in a former Food Lion store, is being re-roofed. The center is at 6855 Wilson Blvd.

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