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Snyder Memorial, the historic former Methodist Church Downtown at Laura and Monroe streets, will be offered to developers through a Request for Proposals to be issued by the Downtown Investment Authority.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 24, 201612:00 PM EST

City offering Snyder Memorial, Brewster Hospital for sale or lease

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Two of Downtown’s historic buildings will be offered for sale or lease by the Downtown Investment Authority.

Requests for Proposals are being drafted for Snyder Memorial, the former Methodist Church at Laura and Monroe streets, and for Brewster Hospital at 843 W. Monroe St. in LaVilla, the hospital for African-Americans that opened in 1901.

Both buildings are owned by the city and have been vacant for years.

The authority’s Strategic Implementation Committee on Monday put the finishing touches on the requirements to be included in the requests, including a $2,500 application fee due along with any proposal submitted.

“That would let us look at people who are serious about following through,” said Guy Parola, DIA redevelopment manager.

The fee would be refunded to unsuccessful applicants.

Since taking over the building in 1992 after the Methodist Church disbanded the congregation, the city has invested almost $2 million in maintenance and repairs to the structure.

Parola said ideally, Snyder should be sold to someone who would put in a restaurant or retail store to add to activity along Laura Street near Hemming Park.

“It should have an open-door element,” he said, as opposed to selling the building for development as office space.

Committee member Brenna Durden said Snyder is a good choice for the city to begin turning vacant Downtown properties it owns into active businesses added to the tax rolls.

“This is one of the most important efforts we can make in the coming year,” she said.

Asked whether the city should seek to lease Snyder or sell the building, “It would be to our advantage to entertain whatever is submitted,” Parola said.

A request for proposals also will be issued for Brewster Hospital at 843 W. Monroe St.

When it opened in 1901 in a former private home, Brewster was Jacksonville’s hospital for African-Americans and a teaching hospital for nurses.

Parola said the city has invested quite a bit of money in Brewster as well and he anticipates leasing the building to a tenant rather that selling it.

The site has challenges including no parking available on the site and the building does not conform to Americans with Disabilities Act standards for access.

Parola said the city owns property near the hospital that could be included in a lease for parking.

Authority Vice Chair Jack Meeks, who has completed historic preservation projects in Springfield and is currently renovating the Elena Flats apartments in The Cathedral District, said respondents on both requests should be required to have experience in preserving historic buildings.

“It’s not going to happen if people don’t know what they’re getting into,” he said.

A third property, without historic provenance, also will be offered for proposals.

It’s a poorly maintained structure at 324 N. Broad St., near the Duval County Courthouse.

“It’s vacant and deteriorating. There’s nothing special about it,” Parola said.

The building was acquired by the city in 1994 and, like Brewster, has no parking available on the site.

“We hoped that when the courthouse opened, there would be some interest (in the building) from a law firm, but that hasn’t happened,” Parola added.

The authority’s board is expected to review the final language of the requests when it meets in June.

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