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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 13, 202003:50 PM EST

City condemns unfinished Berkman Plaza II high-rise Downtown

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Construction stopped in 2007 and redevelopment efforts failed.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The vacant Berkman Plaza II high-rise Downtown on East Bay Street could be demolished now that the city condemned the riverfront property.

The city posted a notice Jan. 10 on the property notifying owner 500 East Bay LLC that the property at 500 E. Bay St. is in violation of the city’s ordinance code.

City Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton said Jan. 13 that code enforcement officers moved forward with a notice after a complaint from a resident in the neighboring The Plaza Condominiums at Berkman Plaza & Marina.

 Kimbleton said there is no date scheduled for demolition.

“Part of the process is the signs are posted while code enforcement investigates,” she said.

According to the posted notice, the city has deemed the building unsafe and the city is requiring 500 East Bay LLC to bring the structure up to code. 

The city posted condemnation notices on the Berkman Plaza II structure Jan. 10.

The documents state the building is in violation because of incomplete construction; damaged fencing; garbage, trash, rubbish and debris; overgrown vegetation; and “graffiti markings or artwork which contributes to neighborhood blight or other blighted conditions.”

“Each case is in the due process (notification) stage and will be reinspected once that process is completed. Each case will be assessed for further potential action at that time,” Kimbleton said.

Developers designed the building as the second phase of construction next to The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza & Marina.

In December 2007, the parking garage under construction next to Berkman Plaza II collapsed, killing one construction worker and injuring several others. A lawsuit and other court actions caused construction to stop.

A deal fell through in April to turn the unfinished Berkman II into a 340-room hotel and resort, amusement park and parking garage by Barrington Development, through 500 East Bay LLC.

The development group sent a letter to Downtown Investment Authority then-interim CEO Brian Hughes asking the administration to withdraw legislation approving the deal in City Council.

Barrington Development sought $36 million in city-backed financial incentives to proceed with the project it anticipated would require $122 million in private capital to complete.

Atlanta-based Choate Construction Co. acquired the property in a foreclosure sale in 2014 and sold it in July 2018 to 500 East Bay.

A lawsuit filed by Cambridge Capital Group LLC, A&T Development Company LLC and Tallahassee attorney Tim Howard in July 2018 against developer Bob Ohde and 500 East Bay Street, along with Choate and MVJFL LLC, was dismissed in December 2018.

Cambridge Capital Group and Howard sought $1.1 million in damages tied to a previous agreement between those parties and Ohde’s group. 

A deal fell through in April to turn the unfinished Berkman II into a 340-room hotel and resort, amusement park and parking garage.

 

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