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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 25, 202101:45 PM EST

City Council approves town house proposal in LaVilla

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Johnson Commons agreed to build 91 units and donate $150,000 for improvements to Life Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Jacksonville City Council agreed Aug. 24 to give 3.45 acres of city land in LaVilla for a town house development near Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park. 

Council voted 16-0 to approve a development agreement with Johnson Commons LLC, which will build 91 three-story town houses in the historic Downtown neighborhood in two phases along with 10,000 square feet of retail space.

 The land was appraised at $3.58 million.

Johnson Commons is a joint project of  JWB Real Estate Capital LLC and Corner Lot Development Group.

The company finished second to Vestcor Companies Inc. in a 2019 Downtown Investment Authority request for proposals to develop the site, bounded by Adams, Lee, Houston and Forsyth streets.

The Downtown Investment Authority board allowed JWB and Corner Lot to take over the project in March after Vestcor subsidiary VC LaVilla Townhomes Ltd. abandoned its plans and returned the land to the city. 

According to Johnson Commons, the town houses will feature a shotgun-style design with gabbled roofs, inspired by LaVilla’s architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was a thriving and predominantly African American neighborhood.

The development agreement says the base price of the homes is $250,250 with Johnson Commons required to give the city 50% of the net sale proceeds above that.

JWB  plans to build the town houses first. In the second phase, the developer is considering 10,000 square feet of stand-alone retail or a multifamily residential project with at least 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow partner and attorney Cyndy Trimmer, who represents Johnson Commons, told the Downtown Development Review Board in June that all 91 town house units would come online at once.

“That will not be phased, and it will give that a little bit of time for absorption so that can get to occupancy before the retail comes online,” she said.

The project needs final design approval by the review board, which granted conceptual approval in June.

The deal attached to Council Ordinance 2021-0496 requires Johnson Commons to make a $150,000 donation to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park which city officials expect will break ground in late 2021.

Council member Ron Salem recused himself from the vote due to a financial relationship with JWB.

Council member LeAnna Cumber was absent from the Aug. 24 meeting, as was Tommy Hazouri. He is hospitalized due to complications with a lung transplant last year.

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