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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 19, 201901:31 PM EST

City receives no offers for Fire Station No. 5 in Brooklyn

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The vacant 109-year-old structure likely will be demolished.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

It’s now likely the vacant 109-year-old Fire Station No. 5 in Brooklyn will be demolished. 

Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer said the city received no response to its 30-day request for proposals to purchase and relocate the 7,152-square-foot structure from 347 Riverside Ave. 

The notice closed Dec. 16.

The city Department of Public Works plans to clear the property by March to remain on schedule for a planned realignment of Forest Street across Riverside Avenue. The street realignment will provide improved access to Sidney J. Gefen Riverwalk Park and the future $145 million Fidelity National Information Services Inc. headquarters.

The planned 12-story, 300,000-square-foot FIS world headquarters will be built on the adjacent 4½-acre property at 323 Riverside Ave. and support 1,716 employees. It is expected to break ground in the second quarter of 2020.

Boyer told DIA board members Dec. 18 she “was really disappointed” that no proposals came in, but the property is now in the control of public works officials.

The city Department of Public Works plans to clear the fire station property by March.

The fire station is not designated as historic and is considered blight by the city.

It was built in 1910 and used until 2008, when the city relocated the service to 234 Forest St.

Alan Bliss, director of the Jacksonville Historical Society, said the building may not have a historic designation but could be eligible by U.S. Department of Interior guidelines.

“We recognize it as having a role in the fabric of the city’s historic built environment,” Bliss said. "It's an artifact of Jacksonville's past.

The building has been on the historical society's Jacksonville's annual endangered buildings list for the past 11 years.

Boyer said before the notice was issued she and DIA board member Carol Worsham were approached by members of the historical society as well as “at least one end-user” who was interested in the century-old structure. 

Bliss said he last spoke with the interested local developer two weeks ago and suggested he reach out to Boyer. He did not have permission to release the developer's name. 

The historical society already maintains four historic buildings on Downtown's eastside and with a $250,000 yearly budget. Bliss said his organization cannot afford to take on Fire Station No. 5.

Boyer said she doubts a proposal will come forward now if the historical society and the unnamed possible buyer could not get a proposal together in the past 45 days.

She said there still could be an opportunity for a person or group to obtain the building, but the clock for financial assistance is running out.

“That’s not to say if someone called me tonight or tomorrow with a plan we wouldn’t listen to it. But the problem is if that plan now wants an incentive, I can’t do that before my January board meeting, and this has to be off the site in March,” Boyer said. “You’re running out of time.” 

Bliss said many people he's talked to who do not want the building demolished don't "seem to have the financial capacity to mount any type of rescue."

"I think we’re like everybody else we lament the demise of an old building … to move a building like Fire Station No. 5 it takes a lot of money," he said.

The DIA and city considered offering incentives to help pay for the relocation. Hygema House Movers & Foundation Repair provided an estimate to the city that it would cost about $500,000 to move the station a few blocks. 

How much money the city was willing to offer was not put in writing, but the DIA wanted to keep the fire station in the Brooklyn and Riverside area.

 “We were trying to put all these people together to see if we could come up with a proposal, but we did not receive it,” Boyer said.

FIS parking garage

DIA will file legislation with City Council to give FIS 16,971 square feet of surplus land from the Forest Street realignment in exchange for 130 public parking spaces in the company’s future parking garage. The garage property will also have urban open space available to the public. 

Boyer said Dec. 18 there were no other purchase offers from a 30-day notice of disposition issued for the surplus land.

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