It took almost two years for the fate of the Bostwick Building to be settled.
It took just 13 minutes to determine what’s next.
After coming close to a deal last year, a group led by Jacques Klempf on Monday bought the historic Downtown building at a foreclosure auction for $165,100.
The fast-paced auction had four bidders. Many of those bids came in with seconds to spare and increased the price by thousands of dollars at a time.
The starting bid Monday was $78,774, which represented what the Bostwick family owed the city in fines and legal fees after foreclosure proceedings. The building’s state of disrepair led to $100-a-day fines that accumulated for months.
Klempf heads a group with his Ovinte wine bar and restaurant partners. In May 2013, the group reached a tentative deal with the Bostwick family to purchase the building for $325,000. That fell through because of an unsettled lawsuit with the building’s neighbor over water intrusion.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Klempf said Tuesday morning of winning the auction.
He said he went into last year’s deal with the Bostwick family with good intentions, but the deal couldn’t be finalized and he opted out. He said after investing a lot of time and money in the project last year, he still believed in it.
He said he wasn’t surprised by the number of bidders vying for the site.
“In my opinion, it’s the best location in Jacksonville,” he said. “It’s part of Jacksonville’s canvas.”
Klempf stressed he did not yet have the title to the property and details would be worked out over a 10-day grace period. Until then, Klempf said he didn’t want to discuss details about the property.
“We hope what we do down there is going to enhance Downtown,” he said.
Chris Hand, Mayor Alvin Brown’s chief of staff, called the building’s sale a “big deal for Downtown redevelopment.” After receipt of full payment and issuing the title, Hand said he expects the administration to have conversations about the state of the building and its future.
“From a mayor’s office perspective, we are optimistic about the future of the Bostwick Building given Mr. Klempf’s previously stated plans to revitalize the building while preserving its historic character,” Hand said.
Others also were enthused by the news of Klempf taking over the building.
Tony Allegretti, Downtown Investment Authority member and head of its Experience Committee, said he was “definitely excited” about the building being saved, preserved and bustling again soon.
At Ocean and Bay streets, the building is a key piece of real estate in the string of restaurants and bars known as “The Elbow.” A restaurant positioned in the entertainment corridor helps satisfy the demand for more food and beverage options Downtown, he said.
“It’s the elbow of ‘The Elbow’,” Allegretti said Monday.
Business leader Preston Haskell once had interest in buying the building to save it from the demolition the Bostwick family sought. He said Monday he stepped aside once Klempf stepped up and was “delighted” the group secured the building’s rights.
Klempf’s group wasn’t the only one trying to buy the building at auction.
In all, there were four bidders who continued to raise the price over the 13-minute auction before Klempf’s group won.
One of those was Floyd Fasking, who said he has known the Bostwick family for years and had an interest in not having it taken from them. He said he wasn’t bidding on the family’s behalf, but thought the city’s actions in the matter were “taken too far.”
Under the foreclosure auction sale, the city will receive its $78,000-plus back and the Bostwick family will receive the almost $86,000 difference.
A call to Val Bostwick seeking comment was not returned.
Fasking said he would not have had immediate plans for the building, but “it will be nice to see it become something” after sitting vacant too long.
The other two bidders were investors representing groups.
Benjie Sperling, a Hollywood-based investor, said he liked the Downtown building’s location and square footage, but didn’t like the condition or cost of renovation. He said the group he represented didn’t have specific plans for the building, had it won.
A representative for the other investor — fsh llc, based in Jacksonville — declined to provide details of any plans his group had.