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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 10, 202010:45 AM EST

Augustine Development postpones apartments, garage at Ambassador Hotel

The developer wants to modify its agreement with city and drop a $4.9 million grant.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Augustine Development Group wants to postpone plans to build apartments and a parking garage Downtown at the historic Ambassador Hotel site.

The St. Augustine-based group continues work to convert the historic structure at 420 N. Julia St. into a 127-room La Quinta Inn and Suites, according to Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer.

Because of the change, Augustine Development wants to modify its agreement with the city to drop a $4.9 million Recapture Enhanced Value Grant.

The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee voted unanimously March 9 to allow the DIA to file legislation with City Council next week with the renegotiated agreement.

The bill would remove the grant from the agreement as the developer, through Axis Hotels LLC, postpones plans to build the apartments and parking garage.

A $1.5 million Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund grant for the hotel remains in place.

Axis Hotels purchased the 1.5-acre site in July for $5.4 million. The block is bordered by Duval, Julia, Church and Pearl Streets

Council approved the original agreement with Axis Hotels in January 2019. 

Boyer told the committee March 9 that Augustine Development will incorporate the multifamily and parking plans into its effort to redevelop the former Independent Life and Accident Insurance Co. across the street.

According to a legislative summary attached to the modified agreement, the apartment and parking garage construction is estimated at $38.15 million.

The $28 million, 180,000-square-foot Independent Life renovation at 233 W. Duval St. is across the street from the Ambassador Hotel and incorporates apartment and retail. Boyer said Augustine Development is redrafting designs for the parking garage to support both buildings.

The DIA board approved the changes to the agreement Dec. 18 in an 8-0 vote.

The deal requires the developer to begin building improvements at the Ambassador Hotel by Sept. 25 and complete construction by March 25, 2022.

Augustine Development Group President Bryan Greiner said interior demolition at the Ambassador Hotel began in November 2018. 

The renovation and restoration of the 64-year-old Independent Life building received conceptual design approval form the Downtown Development Review Board on Nov. 14.

Plans show 140 market-rate apartments, a rooftop terrace with a pool and a ground-floor grocery store, which Greiner said Feb 20 has an operator.

Greiner and investment partners DLP Capital LLC purchased the 19-story office building in early October through PEP10 LLC for $3.7 million.

Council is considering a bill to designate the Independent Life building a local landmark at Greiner’s request and at the recommendation of the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission. 

If approved, the Independent Life project would also be eligible for historic trust fund dollars, but Greiner said Feb. 20 his company is deciding if it will request the taxpayer-backed incentives. 

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