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Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 12, 202208:00 PM EST

City review board advances Downtown multifamily, residential projects

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The developments include the former Furchgott’s Department Store and apartments in the North Core, Brooklyn and the Southbank.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The designs for a planned restoration and retrofit of the historic former Furchgott’s Department Store Downtown to a 40-unit apartment building are moving forward. 

The Downtown Development Review Board approved the designs from Robbins Design Studio for the Lotus Commercial USA LLC project May 12 in a 7-0 vote.

The board approved the Furchgott’s plans in a meeting that included final approval for Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s $370 million Four Seasons hotel project, as well as decisions on five other multi- and single-family residential projects under development. 

Lotus plans to build-out three ground-floor retail spaces, cowork and fitness facilities in addition to the one- and two-bedroom apartments in the six-story, 65,000-square-foot local landmark.

The final design also includes uplighting on the building exterior and a replica of the historic department’s store signage that’s not currently on the building. Robbins Design and Lotus will have to bring the signage back to the board for further approval.

The building, at 128 W. Adams St., is occupied on the ground floor by the De Real Ting Cafe restaurant.

Lotus Commercial acquired the Furchgott’s building in March 2020 for $1.3 million. 

CEO Soo Gilvarry said Lotus intends to apply for city incentives to help finance the project.

The Furchgott’s Department Store building was built in 1941 and was one of the largest remaining retailers Downtown when it closed in 1984, according to a report in August by the city Planning and Development Department.

The art deco building was designed by the Jacksonville architectural firm Marsh & Saxelbye, which the report called “the most prolific” firm working in the city from 1919-46.

Board Chair Trevor Lee and members Fredrick Jones were absent for the meeting May 12.

Other projects approved include: 

The proposed 132-apartment, mixed-use restoration of the historic Central National Bank Building Downtown.

Central National Bank, 404 N. Julia St.

The board awarded Augustine Development Group subsidiary AXIS 404 Julia LLC final design approval for a proposed 132-apartment, mixed-use restoration of the historic Central National Bank Building Downtown.

The 6-0 vote will allow the St. Augustine-based developer to move forward with its plan to renovate the 1950s-era building and add an eight-story apartment building and eight-story parking deck.

Plans by Dasher Hurst Architects show the historic 404 N. Julia building will be the apartment’s main lobby and house 29 residential units and 3,240 square-feet of commercial/retail space. 

The addition will have 103 apartments and a 487-space precast concrete parking structure.

Architect Tom Hurst told the board May 12 that the project lost seven units for past plans after the National Park Service declined to allow Augustine Group to add windows to the historic building. 

The federal agency regulates historic restorations to buildings in National Register Districts like Downtown Jacksonville. 

The DDRB staff report says the developer received its Certificate of Appropriateness from the city April 12 to adapt the existing building. 

Company President Bryan Greiner and CEO George Bochis are working toward renovating two other historic buildings in Downtown’s North Core — the  Ambassador Hotel at 420 N. Julia St. for a TRYP by Wyndham hotel/restaurant and the 19-story Independent Life Building at 233 W. Duval St. into apartments and a grocery store.

Board member Bill Schilling left the meeting before the vote. 

Cathedral Commons is an 175-unit, 18-building apartment community in the Cathedral District.

Cathedral Commons, Downtown Cathedral District

The board voted 4-0 to award conceptual design approval for JWB Real Estate Capital LLC’s 175-unit, 18-building apartment community in the Cathedral District.

The 2.08-acre site for the Cathedral Commons project comprises multiple parcels bisected by East Duval Street. It is bounded to the north by Church and Duval streets; to the east by Catherine Street; to the south by Duval and Newnan streets; and to the west by North Washington Street.

Design renderings by Studio 9 Architecture show three-story buildings in five architectural styles. 

JWB has contracted with Jacksonville-based civil engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. and construction manager Opus Group for the project, the renderings show.

Duval County property records show JWB bought the project parcels through FITOZ LLC from October 2020 through September 2021. 

Acting board chair Craig Davisson and board members Joesph Loretta and Schilling recused themselves from voting. Davisson is principal architect and partner of Studio 9. 

Schilling is an engineer for Kimley-Horn. 

Loretta is operations manager for Halff Associates which he said is contracted on JWB projects outside the Downtown Core.

Columbia Ventures' five-story, 341-unit mixed-use apartment development at Park and Forest streets in Brooklyn.

Columbia Ventures mixed-use, 390 Park St.

The board voted 6-0 to grant conceptual approval for Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures LLC plans to build a five-story, 341-unit mixed-use apartment development at Park and Forest streets in Brooklyn.         

Renderings and plans by Studio Architects of Atlanta show a project that includes restaurant and retail spaces and a 428-space parking garage at 390 Park St. 

Kimley-Horn also is on the project team.

Schilling recused himself from the vote.

The Den is a 84-unit, mixed-use apartment project in the North Core.

The Den adaptive reuse, Downtown North Core

An estimated $55 million effort by investors Jim and Ellen Wiss to rehabilitate two historic buildings and connect two new structures into a 184-unit, mixed-use apartment project in the North Core is moving forward.

The board voted 4-1 to approve conceptual designs for the development that would comprise nearly a full city block bounded by Ashley, Hogan, Beaver and Julia streets.

According to the plans and a DDRB staff report, two new six-story buildings will have 175 apartments and a combined 89 ground-floor parking spaces. 

The four-story historic building at 211 W. Ashley St. would have nine apartments, a common amenity area and a rooftop terrace.

The two-story historic structure at 604 N. Hogan St. will offer retail and office space.

Board member Christian Harden voted against approval May 12. He said the project need more differentiation in materials and said the public is “looking for the architecture to drive (projects) a little bit more.”

Hardin, Loretta and board member Linzee Ott said the project should have more parking. Plans currently call for 0.5 to 0.6 spots per unit.

Jim Wiss is the president and founder of Homkor Companies. Ellen Wiss is vice president of Homkor Companies and president of Homkor of Florida Inc. 

The Kansas City, Missouri-based company has experience with historic renovations in its home city and in Colorado.

Homkor recruited Rosin Preservation of Kansas City, led by CEO and Principal Elizabeth Rosin, as a consultant to help with the government historic restoration regulations. 

Studio 9 Architecture is the project’s designer; Kimley-Horn is listed as the project civil engineer.

Schilling and Davisson recused themselves from the vote. 

Toll Bros. plans 39 for-sale town houses at RiversEdge, formerly called The District.

Toll Brothers town houses, RiversEdge Southbank 

The board voted 6-0 to allow Toll Brothers to make changes to the master site plan for its two parcels within the “RiversEdge: Life on the St. Johns” mixed-use development on the Southbank. 

The Jacksonville-based home builder plan 39 for-sale town houses at RiversEdge, formerly called The District. 

Dallas-based Preston Hollow Capital LLC is the RiversEdge master developer. According to the site plan, RiversEdge could have could have up to 950 residential units, 147 hotel rooms, 200,000 square feet of office space, 134,000 square feet of retail and a 125-slip marina.

The board’s decision allows Toll Brothers to build 17 of the town houses with garage doors facing a cul-de-sac planned for the end of Prudential Drive. The developer also can use the garage doors as primary entrances for those units, which was not allowed in the original master site plan. 

The plan amendment allows the town houses to use different materials and have a reduced amount of glazing. 

The board action May 12 affected only the two town house development parcels.

Kimley-Horn is the civil engineer for RiversEdge, and Schilling recused himself from the vote.

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