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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 15, 202205:00 AM EST

DIA panel OK’s $7.15 million for Furchgott’s renovation

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Lotus Commercial USA plans to adapt the former Downtown department store into 40 apartments and ground-floor retail.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Downtown Investment Authority board is poised to approve a $7,150,690 city-backed forgivable and deferred loan package for Lotus Commercial USA LLC’s plan to renovate the historic former Furchgott’s Department Store into apartments and retail space.

The DIA Strategic Implementation Committee voted 3-0 on March 14 to recommend the board approve the deal at its next meeting.

City incentives paid through the Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program would fund about 40% of the total development cost for the $17.71 million, 40-unit mixed-use residential project at 128 W. Adams St.

According to the committee materials, the incentives would be awarded in three parts:

• A $2,846,162 Historic Preservation Restoration and Rehabilitation Forgivable Loan.

• A $2,874,390 Code Compliance Renovations Forgivable Loan.

• A $1,430,138 DPRP Deferred Principal Loan.

The deferred principal loan would be repaid by the developer.

Lotus Commercial, led by CEO Soo Gilvarry, paid $1.3 million for the five-story, 65,000-square-foot building in March 2020.

The Jacksonville City Council voted 18-0 on Oct. 26 to designate the 81-year-old Furchgott’s building a local landmark.

The Council must approve the loan package before Lotus Commercial can receive the incentive.

The project will be the fifth set of forgivable and deferred loans awarded to restore a historic or aging Downtown structure since the DIA created the Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program in October 2020.

Agency staff said the city will receive 51 cents for every $1 of taxpayer investment in the project. The historic loan programs allow projects with city ROIs as low as 50 cents to qualify for the incentives.

Lotus Commercial  plans to make a $2.7 million equity investment in renovating Furchgott’s.

The DIA report says the developer plans 3,872 square feet of rentable ground-floor retail in three suites along with a fitness center, workspace and a conference room for tenant use.

Steve Kelley, DIA director of Downtown real estate development, said at the March 14 meting that Lotus Commercial is considering a rooftop amenity but he didn’t say if it would be exclusive to the residents or for public use.

According to the project summary, the building’s basement could have uses for the residential and commercial tenants.

“The basement level will provide caged storage, a dog washing station, and bike storage,” it says.

“A large portion of the basement area will be ‘white boxed’ for future tenants which may be office or retail tenants.”

The redevelopment will allow the retail space to support a food and beverage business with commercial kitchen ventilation and grease traps factored into the design.

The report says Lotus Commercial has not secured leases for the retail space.

The building at Adams and Hogan streets has been home to De Real Ting Cafe for more than 20 years. Gilvarry said in January that Lotus Commercial and the owners of the cafe have not reached an agreement for the business to remain in the building.

The DIA report says 34 units will be one-bedroom/one-bath from 598-1,010 square feet; four units are two-bedroom/two-bath at 1,130 square feet; and two units are planned to be two bedroom/one-bath ranging from 902-1,010 square feet.

The  average rent will be $2.38 per square foot, according to DIA staff.

The Downtown Development Review Board voted unanimously in January to grant preliminary approval for the project’s exterior design by architectural firm Robbins Design Studio.

The Lotus design and construction team comprises five Jacksonville-based firms: Danis Construction; Keister Webb Structural Engineering; civil and landscape engineer Baker Design Build; NineOaks Development; and TLC Engineering Solutions.

The Furchgott’s Department Store, built in 1941, was one of the largest remaining retailers in Downtown when it closed in 1984, according to a report 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.

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