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The Bank of America Tower lobby cafe could re-open as Akel's Deli this summer.
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 6, 201512:00 PM EST

Akel's leasing BofA lobby cafe

2 Downtown towers to see $4M in work

Two Downtown towers, one on the Northbank and one on the Southbank, are slated for $4 million in renovations –– and food.

On the Northbank, Akel’s Delicatessen leased the long-closed café in the Bank of America Tower at Laura and Forsyth streets. Look for that to open this summer.

Also in the Bank of America Tower, the Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP firm is expanding and renovating, becoming the third major law firm there to remodel in the past year.

The Bank of America Tower at 50 N. Laura St. is the city’s tallest building at 42 stories. The Akel’s renovation is a $230,000 project, while the Smith, Gambrell & Russell remodeling is almost $770,000, according to building-permit applications.

On the first floor, Marwan Akel, who owns several Akel’s Deli locations Downtown and in Southside, will take the lobby space where an eatery closed in 2009.

Akel said Tuesday he anticipates 75 to 100 seats, inside the café and in the lobby, and to serve 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“We draw a lot of business,” he said. “People learn who we are and follow us.”

Akel, who works with family members at the delis, said he would be running the new Downtown location. It won’t be far from the Akel’s Delicatessens in the JEA Tower at 21 W. Church St., near EverBank Center at 315 W. Forsyth St. and at 245 Riverside Ave.

Downtown workers have been wondering for six years when the high-profile corner would re-open, especially in the wake of the recent closing of the Skyline Dining Café on the top floor of the tower.

The permit application shows Adams Interior Contractors will renovate the 2,111-square-foot café area with more than 30 seats inside the space.

“It will bring some activity to the lobby area and it will be nice,” said Jenny Wilkes, property manager for landlord Hertz Investment Group.

Also in the lobby, Wilkes said Urban Grind, a local company, renewed its lease last year. And the gift shop, Tower Cards & Gifts, was just leased by Joy Lee, who had been running the shop but now is the official tenant.

“The local proprietors will complement each other’s businesses,” she said.

Smith, Gambrell & Russell is renovating space on the 26th and 29th floors, totaling more than 24,000 square feet of remodeled space. Dav-Lin Interior Contractors will renovate the space.

The firm’s website shows it has 34 attorneys in the Jacksonville office. The firm operates in Jacksonville, Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., and Frankfurt, Germany.

Wilkes said the law firm renewed its lease for the 26th floor. She said it also had been subleasing some space on the 29th floor and now will take that space and add to it, totaling 28,295 square feet.

On the Southbank, Stein Mart is investing an estimated $3 million in renovating its headquarters at 1200 Riverplace Blvd.

That’s the construction cost on a building-permit application, but the total investment is expected to be more. The company budgeted $4 million this year for “reconfiguring our corporate office space,” according to its annual 10-K SEC filing.

Jacksonville-based Stein Mart said it leases 110,000 square feet. The permit application covers about 98,000 square feet among six floors. Parkway Realty Services says the fashion retailer renewed its lease last year.

CEO Jay Stein said in a March conference call with investment analysts the company had recently signed a new lease to keep its headquarters space in the building.

Stein Mart Director of Investor Relations Linda Tasseff said the company signed the original lease at the building in 1998 and occupied the space beginning in 1999. The new 10-year lease expires in 2026.

She said 450 associates work in the corporate office.

In response to an analyst’s question about office space, Stein said the company doesn’t need any additional space to accommodate the company’s overall growth.

“Trust me, we turned down some opportunities to get a lot of office space in this city that would have cost us more, but we don’t need it,” he said.

Cooper’s Hawk renovating Whisky River

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants will soon convert the former Whisky River Beer & Wings location in The Markets at Town Center.

Whisky River closed in January 2014.

Cooper’s Hawk plans a $3 million interior and exterior renovation of the 13,200-square-foot restaurant, a permit application shows. The address is 4850 Big Island Drive, No. 3, in the St. Johns Town Center area.

It should open late this year.

The first Cooper’s Hawk opened in 2005 in a Chicago suburb. The concept was to create a signature menu with a selection of dishes designed to pair with the wines it made in its private winery.

The concept comprises four components: An upscale casual-dining restaurant, full-service bar, private barrel-aging room and Napa-style tasting room and retail gift store. The company says each location is distinctive in layout and décor.

Cooper’s Hawk operates 18 locations, comprising seven in Illinois, three in Florida, two each in Indiana, Missouri and Ohio and one each in Virginia and Wisconsin.

In Florida, two operate in Orlando and one in Tampa. In addition to Jacksonville, the business intends to open in Naples.

Cooper’s Hawk produced more than 260,000 cases of wine last year.

The renovations should start with a clean inside slate. In July, Whisky River’s contents were auctioned, including a complete mechanical bull and 18 big-screen TVs.

Arlington Toyota prepares for expansion

Another Arlington area development is becoming evident at Arlington Toyota.

Arlington Land LLC, associated with the dealership’s ownership, applied for permits to demolish commercial buildings at 10957 Atlantic Blvd. and 123 General Doolittle Drive. Lockwood Quality Demolition Inc. is the contractor for the $30,000 job cost to take down the structures.

Arlington Toyota operates at 10939 Atlantic Blvd. A previous city concurrency review showed it wanted to demolish a retail center to make way for its outdoor car display. A second phase was shown as two additional parts, sales and service buildings and more parking spaces.

Arlington Realty LLC and Arlington Land LLC sought rezoning at Atlantic Boulevard and General Doolittle Drive addresses so that Arlington Toyota can expand the existing new and used vehicle dealership and service department, according to rezoning documents.

Arlington Realty owns the site occupied by the dealership. Arlington Land owns the contiguous and neighboring parcels.

La Quinta planned in North Jacksonville

A La Quinta Inns & Suites is planned at the site of a closed motel in North Jacksonville that would be demolished to make way for the new hotel.

An expedited mobility fee calculation certificate shows that CenterState Bank of Florida, which took title to the property in February, has a purchase and sale agreement to sell the property to Shirish Patel.

Plans show the existing 108-room motel would be removed and replaced with a 108-room hotel of the same square footage on 3.83 acres at 10550 Balmoral Circle W.

Bank branch closings

Two bank branches are closing in St. Johns County, according to filings with the Comptroller of the Currency, an office with the U.S. Treasury Department.

Wells Fargo filed a notice of closing for a branch at 1000 Vicar’s Landing Way in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Florida Capital Bank filed a notice to close a branch at 3970 Florida A1A S. in St. Augustine.

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