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An illustrative site plan for St. Johns Village, a proposed redevelopment by Chance Partners. The rendering is subject to change. District 14 City Council member Jim Love would like to see the parking deck moved away from the street front.
Jax Daily Record Friday, Aug. 19, 201612:00 PM EST

Avondale anticipates development of $40M Class A apartment community

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A high-profile corner in Avondale is slated for a $40 million redevelopment as Chance Partners prepares to turn St. Johns Village into a waterfront apartment community.

Chance Partners, with offices in Jacksonville and Atlanta, bought the site in March and filed its Planned Unit Development application with the city last week.

The company hopes to start construction by year-end and complete St. Johns Village in the first half of 2018, creating an up to 224-apartment project among five buildings along with a parking deck and other on-site parking.

“St. Johns Village is seen by many area residents as the gateway to their communities,” said a statement from Chance Partners.

It said the development will be an enhancement to the underutilized property and is made possible in large part to the Riverside Avondale Preservation group and neighbors.

Chance Partners bought the 16-story, 90-unit Commander Apartments and the almost 45,000-square-foot St. Johns Village retail center in March for $5.9 million.

The Commander Apartments, built in 1961, occupy about 2.5 acres at 3946 St. Johns Ave. along Fishweir Creek and Little Fishweir Creek, which are a tributary of the St. Johns River. The Commander is 70 percent occupied.

The St. Johns Village retail center was developed in 1987 among four buildings on 3.3 acres at 4000 St. Johns Ave.

It is at the corner of St. Johns Avenue and Herschel Street. It was 50 percent occupied when sold to Chance Partners.

Chance Partners proposes to rezone and redevelop the 5.78-acre site. It would renovate the Commander apartments to Class A status and demolish the shopping center to be replaced by four apartment buildings and a two-level parking deck.

The apartment structures are designed as two four-story buildings and two two-story carriage houses, each with two units.

The PUD application shows 88 proposed units for the Commander tower and 136 units in the new buildings. Rental rates have not been determined.

Chance Partners said it has been “de-leasing” the property by communicating the changes to the apartment and commercial tenants. It did not know the plans of the existing tenants.

A site plan shows amenities for redevelopment could include a pool, fire pit, barbecue and a yoga pad at the Commander site, along with several pavilions.

The former shopping center site shows two small parks.

The proposed PUD also indicates there could be a cabana/clubhouse, meeting rooms, a health/exercise facility, sauna and similar uses.

While no plans have been made for them, the PUD description includes docks, piers, over-water walkways or promenades, boardwalks and kayak/boat launches, slips and shelters.

The PUD, called the St. Johns Village Center PUD Amendment, says demolition of the retail and commercial center and construction of horizontal improvements on the property would start in 2016-17 and be completed in 2017-18.

Renovation of the Commander apartments would start about 2016-17.

Construction of the new buildings on the former retail site would begin when the market dictates.

The property owners are CRP/Chance Jacksonville Owner LLC and CRP/Chance Jacksonville Owner II LLC.

Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. is the planner and engineer. Davis Architects is the architect.

Previous redevelopment plans for the property in 2006 and 2014 did not proceed. The PUD application filed last week is to rezone the property for the proposed uses.

Chance proposes a multifamily residential development and recreational uses that will “avoid exacerbating commercial and parking pressures in the Avondale area, provide new customers within walking distance to existing commercial uses, and be compatible with the residential uses to the northeast while taking full advantage of the waterfront location.”

District 14 City Council member Jim Love said Thursday the new PUD has some good points, although there are a few changes he would like to see.

He said the developer has agreed to move the proposed parking deck away from the street front.

That also would allow Chance Partners to add two carriage houses. Love considers the addition of four more residences a suitable exchange for moving the parking deck further from view.

He also said the proposed redevelopment takes away some of the commercial offerings in the area, although there are stores and restaurants across St. Johns Avenue and Herschel Street. In addition, the Shoppes of Avondale historic shopping area is less than a mile away.

Love noted there is no plan for public river access, such as a canoe launch.

Previous plans by prior owners and developers called for demolition of the Commander Apartments and the retail center and replacement with three residential structures with up to 250 units, 10,000 square feet of retail space and a 112,000-square-foot parking garage.

The new PUD reduces the number of units, which lowers the traffic count, Love said. He also said the previous plan to tear down the Commander tower raised worries about removal of that debris. The new plan puts him a little more at ease.

Love noted the fewer units than previously proposed, along with the removal of any high-traffic restaurants or retail stores, makes neighbors “a little bit happier.”

He said there might be a few more corrections to the plans.

“It will be nice when it is finished,” he said.

Love said the PUD rezoning would be introduced to City Council and its Land Use & Zoning Committee.

He said he also would attend a meeting about the project at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd at 1100 Stockton St. That meeting, held by Riverside Avondale Preservation, is expected to feature project lawyer T.R. Hainline of Rogers Towers to discuss the plans.

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