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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 13, 201708:21 AM EST

Avondale development now called ‘RiverVue’

The former Commander and St. Johns Village site expected to begin leasing apartments by early summer 2018.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Avondale will soon have rooms with a RiverVue.

The former Commander Apartments and St. Johns Village property along Fishweir Creek was renamed “RiverVue, waterfront apartment living.”

At a ceremony Wednesday, Chance Partners LLC announced the name of the $40 million residential development, which is underway.

Chance Partners Principal Jeff Rosen said the 228-apartment community at St. Johns Avenue and Herschel Street should begin leasing by early summer 2018. Pre-leasing will start in February.

Rosen said monthly rents will range from a little more than $1,000 for a studio apartment to more than $2,000 for a townhouse.

The property sits between St. Johns Avenue and Fishweir Creek. 

LandSouth Construction LLC is the contractor and Pegasus Residential will manage the property. 

RiverVue will include the renovated 16-story Commander tower, two four-story apartment buildings, and a mix of eight townhomes and carriage houses along St. Johns Avenue. 

There also will be a parking garage.

Rosen said the project includes about 1½ acres of open green space, with room for a dog park, outdoor kitchen, pergolas and a pool.  

There also will be fitness center, office and a clubhouse. 

The former Commander tower will be a mix of 88 studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments. 

The two new four-story buildings will have 132 units along Fishweir Creek. 

Rosen said the new townhomes and carriage houses, totaling eight units, will face St. Johns Avenue “and will help hide the parking,” a concession he said was reached with members of the community. 

The Commander residential tower was built in 1961, and St. Johns Village was developed in 1987. The village retail center was demolished.

Jacksonville-based Chance Partners bought the nearly 6-acre property in March 2016 for $5.9 million.

Views worth saving

Chance Partners founder Judd Bobilin said at first glance, he knew the property would need a lot of work, and at one point he said he didn’t think the tower was worth saving. 

“Once we went up there and saw the views from the 16th story, we know we had to figure out a way to save it,” he said. “It’s too iconic.” 

Bobilin said there also were early discussions about adding retail to the project, but that it didn’t make sense for the neighborhood.  

“We didn’t think that was fair to the overall area,” Bobilin said. 

“There is other retail here that, in years past, has probably struggled, but I think with 228 new residences, we’ll help them survive and hopefully thrive,” he said.

Contractors began gutting the Commander tower earlier this year. Owners said only the “bones” are left and the tower will be redeveloped.

Rosen said keeping the tower was important since current height restrictions wouldn’t have allowed his group to re-build as high. 

“We would have been restricted to four or five stories, and would have lost those incredible views of Downtown,” he said. 

District City Council member Jim Love said the project will fit in well with the historic neighborhood, and that Chance Partners “did a good job of listening to the needs of the community.” 

“They must have changed their designs a dozen times,” Love said. “It just goes to show you what can happen when developers engage with the community, especially with infill projects.” 

Rosen said one of his group’s goals was to make it look like it’s always been there.

“We want it to fit seamlessly into Avondale, and the only way to do that is by working with the neighbors,” Rosen said.

Love said he hopes the city can move forward with dredging Fishweir Creek, which is shallow at high tide. 

“Just enough to fit a small boat or a kayak or canoe in,” Love said. “I think it would be nice for everyone along the waterfront.” 

He said that project doesn’t have a price or timeline.

Chance Partners has another property under development near the historic San Marco neighborhood.

The group plans to redevelop the former Jackson Square property east of San Marco along Philips Highway. 

The two-phase project will include a minimum of 640 apartments and at least 10,000 square feet of retail space on the 17-acre site. 

Chance Properties bought the property in May for $4.75 million from Cypress Real Estate Advisors.

“Right now, we’re in the predevelopment stage,” said Rosen. “By the fall, we’ll have an announcement about what we’re going to call it and who our partners will be.” 

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