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Jax Daily Record Friday, Apr. 25, 201412:00 PM EST

Chase prospect for Barnett Bank Building?

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As tenants and uses are confirmed for the old Barnett Bank Building Downtown, including entrepreneurial hot spots and apartments, there’s a possibility that the structure could reach into its roots.

There’s talk that Chase Bank might be interested in leasing space there for a branch office — its first Downtown — and possibly adding more functions, staking a claim in the urban core.

That would partially return the 18-story building that housed Barnett, which was a leading Jacksonville-based financial institution, to its banking base.

Chase is on an aggressive path to stake a claim in Northeast Florida. A Downtown presence in the high-profile location at 112 W. Adams St. would place it among banking neighbors.

Banks with a large Downtown presence include Wells Fargo, SunTrust, BB&T, Regions Bank, The Jacksonville Bank, Florida Bank, EverBank and Bank of America, which occupies the city’s tallest tower that was built for Barnett Bank. Barnett left the older building for the tower, which was built in 1990.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said last May that it intended to open more than a dozen Jacksonville-area branches within 18 months. Chase has opened eight Jacksonville area branches and will add seven more before the end of the year. It also has 23 ATMs.

“We have always expressed an interest in Downtown as part of our ongoing growth and expansion efforts, but there is nothing to discuss at this point regarding any plans,” said Chase spokeswoman Maribel Ferrer.

Chase had filed plans last fall with the Downtown Development Review Board for a branch at the Life of the South Building at 100 W. Bay St. The building was sold in December and Chase’s intentions for that site are unclear.

Barnett Building developer Steve Atkins declined comment about the Chase Bank possibility.

“The Barnett is a fantastic building and one of the trophies of Downtown, and whoever decides to move into the Barnett to work or live will be in a marquee building Downtown,” he said.

Atkins is principal and managing director of SouthEast Group, which he said will restore the lobby and the mezzanine of the Barnett building.

He already has discussed plans for much of the building, which his group bought a year ago, along with the Laura Street Trio, for $3 million.

The deal was backed by a mortgage from Shad Khan’s Stache Investments Corp.

Atkins said the redevelopment of the 88-year-old building should be completed by summer 2015.

He said the University of North Florida will use about two floors; CoWork Jax will take two floors; the KYN business accelerator and One Spark will lease a floor; and SouthEast Group will take a floor.

The ninth through 16th floors are designed for 80 studio and one-bedroom apartments and the top two floors are designated as a tech lounge with dedicated private conference rooms and a collaborative conference center for building tenants and others doing business there.

Atkins said he also is talking with Jacksonville University about moving some of its graduate-level programs to the building. JU President Tim Cost said last week he was considering a Downtown location for some programs.

“We’re hoping this is a hub for all the energies swirling in Jacksonville,” Atkins said.

He said construction should start in May. Danis Construction will handle the core and the shell construction and SouthEast Group will handle the interior work.

Atkins said financing for the redevelopment is in place, but declined to identify the lender pending a news conference “in the near future.” He said there would be no public financing of the Barnett Bank building.

Atkins said he also should soon announce two restaurants — one each in the Marble Bank and Bisbee buildings of the Laura Street Trio.

The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s annual arts awards celebration May 1 in the Marble Bank Building, at Laura and Forsyth streets, “will be a kind of glimpse” into the space, he said.

Atkins said the Marble Bank Building restaurant would be operated as an upscale, white tablecloth-style venue by a group from Atlanta. The Bisbee would feature an upscale sports bar from Charleston, he said.

Atkins said development of the Barnett Building is starting first because it is in better shape and also the floor plates of the third through 18th floors were the same, making design and construction easier.

He said he was in discussions with the city about funding help for the Trio development.

Retail notes

• Riverside: An Interstate All Battery Center is under review for about 950 square feet of space at 1620 Margaret St., No. 120.

• Southside: GNC LiveWell will open at 13740 Beach Blvd., No. 402, at Beach and Hodges boulevards.

• Mandarin: RPM Automotive is building an auto-repair center at 12620 San Jose Blvd.

• Northwest Jacksonville: Buddy’s Home Furnishings is developing a retail store at 8807 Lem Turner Road, and Dollar General will add another Jacksonville store, this time at 9132 Washington Ave., at Lem Turner Road.

• Nocatee: First Coast Energy plans a 5,000-square-foot store and gas station at Settlement Drive and Crosswater Parkway at Nocatee Town Center.

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