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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 27, 202205:00 AM EST

DIA may put historic Snyder Memorial building on the market

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The city-owned property last received an unsolicited offer in 2018.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Downtown Investment Authority says it will try again to put the Snyder Memorial building on the market to find a buyer or developer to repurpose the historic church.

DIA Director of Downtown Real Estate Development Steve Kelley told the authority’s Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee on June 15 that it plans to solicit a request for proposals.

“Snyder Memorial church is a catalyst site within our Downtown,” Kelley said. 

“It’s a property that DIA at a staff level has discussed on numerous occasions and has plans to implement a notice of disposition following a formal process — an RFP — hopefully within the next two quarters, or soon anyway.”

The building, at 226 N. Laura St., was built in 1903 and borders James Weldon Johnson Park. It was last used as a church in the 1970s, when it was acquired by the city. It later was sold and reacquired by the city in 2004.

The 12,337-square-foot Gothic-style church was part of the first development wave Downtown after The Great Fire of 1901.

Kelley told the committee DIA staff rejected an April 2020  unsolicited proposal by Life Church International to buy the property, saying the offer did not meet the criteria for an unsolicited proposal. 

City code requires the DIA board to vote on and advertise a formal request for proposals to sell or lease Snyder Memorial if it doesn’t receive a qualified unsolicited bid for the property. 

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said the city is working on $600,000 in structural, fire and safety improvements, including asbestos removal, a fire sprinkler system, water line upgrades and lighting for security. 

“It’s a challenge to keep it secure,” Kelley said. “There’s a lot of activity around the property where people are trying to break into it. So that also requires attention.” 

City Council approved money for the repairs in the city budget’s Capital Improvement Plan in fiscal year 2017-18.

The city has spent nearly $2 million on Snyder Memorial over the years, including the acquisition from United Methodist Church, maintenance and repair costs. 

In 2000, the St. Johns River City Band acquired the building with a $650,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The group fell behind on its payments and left, leaving $800,000 in unfinished renovations and $250,000 in contractor liens.

In 2004, Council authorized spending $1 million in historic preservation trust funds to pay the creditors and tax liens and again took ownership of Snyder.

In 2006, the city repaired the roof for $385,000 and in 2014 made $432,000 in structural repairs.

The Duval County Property Appraiser lists the assessed value of the property at $630,748 and values the Snyder Memorial church building at $326,756.

The building was listed on the Jacksonville Historical Society’s 2021 list of 22 endangered structures. 

The 12,337-square-foot Gothic-style church was part of the first development wave Downtown after The Great Fire of 1901.

Kelley said the DIA has a running list of buyers and developers who have contacted the agency with interest in Snyder Memorial. The DIA did not respond to a records request for the list by June 22.

DIA staff said the church site, which is near City Hall and directly south of James Weldon Johnson Park, is important to the Downtown Northbank’s continued redevelopment.

“There are a lot of people Downtown who would like to see this building activated,” Kelley said. 

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