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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 20, 202212:00 AM EST

City Council committees advance deal for proposed Bay Street music venue

A Miami-based developer asks the city to help finance renovation of the 118-year-old building.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

A $1.53 million incentives package to help finance a Miami-based developer’s plans to renovate a historic Bay Street building into a music venue is headed for a final vote by the Jacksonville City Council. 

Two Council committees approved a forgivable and deferred loan deal brokered by the Downtown Investment Authority with 323 E Bay Street RE LLC for its $4.8 million plan for the vacant two-story building. 

The package for the property at 323 E. Bay St. includes: 

• A $624,158 Historic Preservation, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Forgivable Loan.

• A $414,050 Code Compliance Forgivable Loan.

• A $498,142 Deferred Principal Loan.

A bar is planned on the roof of 323 E. Bay St.

The Council Finance Committee voted 6-0 on July 19 to advance Ordinance 2022-0452 to the full Council. The Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee voted 6-1 on July 18 to move it forward.

Council member Al Ferraro voted against the proposal. He told DIA Director of Downtown Real Estate and Development Steve Kelley he didn’t know enough about the project to support the bill. 

Finance Committee Chair Aaron Bowman was absent for the vote July 19. 

The development group comprises Eric Fuller and Miami-based Fuller Entertainment LLC, Aleksander Lukaj and Albacore Jax LLC, which is led by Manjola Rajta of Jacksonville Beach.

The group, managed by Fuller, wants to renovate 10,400 square feet of the 15,759-square-foot building for a tenant that will operate the space as a live music venue. 

The view from the rooftop bar.

Plans include a 2,250-square-foot covered space on the rooftop along with an open-air bar.

If approved by Council, the money will be awarded through the DIA and the city’s Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program. 

Kelley told Council members July 19 that a bulk of the city loan will help repair water infiltration in the basement to create a dry storage area for the club.

The company’s plan to expand the rooftop with an outdoor bar will not be financed by city money, Kelley said. 

The draft redevelopment agreement with the city includes a clawback provision that would require 323 E Bay Street RE to pay back a percentage of the forgivable loans if it sells the property within five years. 

The payback would reduce by 20% each year of the agreement. 

323 E Bay Street RE will pay the interest on the deferred principal loan and repay the balance in full after 10 years.

In June 2021, Council approved the company’s request to give the building local landmark status which made the project eligible for the DIA incentive program.

In June 2021, Council approved the company’s request to give the building local landmark status.

Real estate attorney Steve Diebenow of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, who represents 323 E Bay Street RE, told the DIA board in January that ShayCore LLC is the project’s general contractor consultant. 

Jacksonville-based JAA Architecture led the design team.

According to Kelley, work is expected to start on the club within four months after the deal is approved by Council and will take 18 months to finish. 

The Council will likely take a final vote on the incentives legislation at its July 26 meeting.

The development group paid $1.4 million in January 2021 for the 118-year-old building and 0.13 acres from Insetta Family Properties LLC, which previously attempted to sell the property for an entertainment venue.

The 323 E. Bay St. before renovation.


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