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Berkman Plaza II
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Apr. 30, 201412:00 PM EST

Berkman Plaza II: Going once, going twice, sold for $100

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Abandoned for more than six years and in litigation for nearly as long, the Berkman Plaza II condominium tower project sold at auction Tuesday in fewer than 60 seconds — for $100.

After being granted a $10.2 million judgment and lien, Choate Construction Co., the general contractor on the 18-story development Downtown along the St. Johns River, was the lone bidder in a foreclosure auction and secured the property for $100.

“We would much rather somebody walked in with a check for $10 million,” Choate Chief Operating Officer Michael Hampton said this morning.

He said the outcome on the project obviously is not what the company intended, but all things considered, the latest chapter in the story creates opportunities for developers.

“We’ve had a lot of interest,” he said. “They see it as a high-rise apartment opportunity.”

He said while the rent structures won’t support developing luxury Downtown riverfront property from the ground up, having 18 stories of concrete already in place should be an advantage.

Choate might be able to pick up the project where it left off in December 2007 when the parking garage adjacent to the tower collapsed during construction.

Hampton said a potential developer toured the site in February.

“They were pleased how well it has weathered. There are no cracks and no rust,” he said.

Choate’s first choice would be to find a developer who would hire the company to finish the job, but Hampton would not rule out selling the property outright to a builder-developer.

He said considering the other Downtown development proposals and possibilities being discussed — including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s reported interest in the Shipyards property and redesign and reconstruction of the Jacksonville Landing — owning a prime riverfront site along the Northbank could lead to being part of the revival.

“We want to find a developer who can make it a real jewel,” said Hampton. “There’s no doubt that five-10 years from now, that will be the place to be.”

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