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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 10, 201512:00 PM EST

Art Casey promoted to GM at Lexington Hotel Downtown


On the job for less than three months, Art Casey was promoted to general manager of the Lexington Hotel & Conference Center Jacksonville Riverwalk after a brief stint as director of food and beverage at the Southbank property.

Casey said he was promoted to general manager Aug. 12. He retired May 31 as a master chief after 23 years with the U.S. Navy.

“My plan is to provide a great customer experience and lead this versatile, dynamic and hard-working group of co-workers through renovations,” he said.

Casey joined the leadership of the 323-room hotel upon its acquisition June 1 by Vantage Hospitality Group Inc. of Coral Springs.

Vantage has begun what it says will be an extensive, 18-month renovation of the 34-year-old riverfront property. It will remain open during the work.

The property, at 1515 Prudential Drive, had been foreclosed and was bank-owned.

Upon the acquisition, Victor Morgenroth was named general manager. Casey said he did not know Morgenroth’s next step.

The hotel had about 115 employees when it was purchased. They were on 90-day probation while Vantage assessed its needs.

Casey said Wednesday that some managers have been replaced but that 95 percent of the staff is staying put, “as they are rock stars.”

Crowne Plaza now DoubleTree by Hilton

The Crowne Plaza on the Downtown Southbank converted into the DoubleTree by Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront on Wednesday, a move expected since owners announced the plan a year ago.

The 10-story, 293-room riverfront hotel has completed a $12 million renovation. The property, at 1201 Riverplace Blvd., is owned by Sotherly Hotels Inc. and is managed by Chesapeake Hospitality.

Among the updates is a new restaurant, St. John’s Provision Co. Ruth’s Chris Steak House also operates in the property.

Sotherly Hotels Inc. was organized in 2004 and is based in Williamsburg, Va. It was formerly MHI Hospitality.

Acquired by Sotherly in 2005, the Jacksonville hotel was converted to the Crowne Plaza flag in 2006 after undergoing a $3 million renovation of its exterior, public and meeting spaces.

The property formerly operated as the Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront.

EPR Properties to develop TopGolf

The Skinner family sold property Thursday to a Kansas City-based developer of TopGolf entertainment centers.

EPR Properties, through 30 West Pershing LLC, paid $5.88 million for property behind St. Johns Town Center, along Interstate 295.

The deed was recorded Friday with the Duval County Clerk of Court and it referred to the TopGolf driving range and clubhouse.

TopGolf intends to develop a multilevel golfing entertainment center along the I-295 East Beltway, off Brightman Boulevard, a roadway that runs north of the Town Center.

Dallas-based TopGolf International Inc. plans a 65,000-square-foot building and a golf driving range on 15 acres of undeveloped property.

EPR Properties and TopGolf representatives did not respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

City Council approved an ordinance July 28 to rezone the property for commercial uses that would serve TopGolf.

The property sale involved two parcels — 15 acres and about 2.7 acres, according to the Duval County Property Appraiser’s Office.

A TopGolf spokeswoman said previously that construction takes nine-12 months after final approvals and confirmation. TopGolf hires 450 to 500 positions, full- and part-time, at each location.

The facilities feature climate-controlled hitting bays. Players hit golf balls containing computer microchips that track each shot’s accuracy and distance while also awarding points for hitting targets on the outfield.

It also offers a food and beverage menu, along with music, games and HDTVs.

The company operates in the United States and the United Kingdom with several more coming soon, although Jacksonville is not listed on as one of those.

The only Florida location is in Tampa.

EPR Properties, which says it is a partner in 12 TopGolf centers, also owns the AMC Regency 24 theater property in Arlington and the Latitude 360 entertainment center in Southside.

The company serves as a landlord and does not operate the centers.

EPR Properties says it is a specialty real estate investment trust and its primary segments are entertainment, recreation and education. Its total investments top $4.3 billion.

HighBrook Investors buys Exchange South

New York-based HighBrook Investors paid almost $16.5 million for the Exchange South business park along Philips Highway.

HighBrook Investors announced last week it acquired fee-simple interest in Exchange South. It said it originally acquired the senior mortgage encumbering the property in December on an off-market basis.

Through Exchange South Owner LLC, HighBrook Investors bought the 194,400-square-foot property from NNN Exchange South LLC and 30 other limited liability companies. The deed was made Sept. 2.

Exchange South comprises five flexible-use warehouse-office buildings developed in 1990 and 1996 on 18.1 acres at 9143 Philips Highway. The property is assessed at almost $13.1 million for tax purposes.

American Capital Ltd. of Bethesda, Md., issued an almost $9.5 million mortgage Sept. 2. The deed and mortgage were recorded Friday.

Duval County Clerk of Court records show U.S. Bank, as trustee for the property, assigned the mortgage and security agreement and the leases and rents to Exchange South Owner LLC on Dec. 19.

HighBrook, a private equity firm, was founded in 2010. It said it acquires and manages previously underperforming income-producing property investments.

HighBrook Investment Management LP registered Exchange South Owner LLC in November with the state.

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