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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 23, 200112:00 PM EST

Downtown Real Estate

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Daily Record staff writer Michele Newbern Gillis asked several commercial realtors, “Do you think downtown will ever be commercially viable for entertainment venues, including restaurants, dinner theaters and nightclubs. If so why? and if not why? “ Here are their answers:

“There is definitely a desire by entrepreneurs to provide entertainment, nightclubs and restaurants downtown which did not exist two or three years ago. Our firm has worked with many prospects on different buildings, but encounter several problems. The biggest problem is the costs of renovating some of the remaining older buildings downtown. If you get past the cost issues, then you get to the parking issue. There are plenty of street parking places after hours, but they are not perceived to be safe or secure in many areas. However, I don’t think there is any more crime in the CBD downtown than other parts of town, and probably less. Nightclubs and restaurants selling alcohol have to maintain a distance of 1,500 feet from a church or school in Duval County. This would effectively preclude a nightclub, dinner theater or restaurant serving alcohol from locating in an area measuring approximately three/quarters of a mile by one mile around First Baptist Church, which would include the area around Hemming Park. The proposed entertainment district on East Bay Street sounds like a good viable area for such venues, but most of the property is zoned CRO, which does not allow any nightclubs. It also takes a special exception for retail sales and restaurants to locate in this zoning district. A CCG-1 zoning makes a lot more sense in an entertainment district.”

— Bob Knight

Schultz Foster Addison Real Estate, Inc.

“Night clubs are not real popular in development business right now so I don’t think that is a good concept. I think restaurants and retail will come when residents come. For example, they say retail follows rooftops. I don’t see theme restaurants as likely in the near future.”

— Robert Leapley

Pappas, Metcalf Jenks and Miller, PA

“Jacksonville, like many major cities, has realized the importance of transforming a once blighted downtown area into an entertainment epicenter. The City is taking a pro-active approach to establish the required infrastructure to convert downtown Jacksonville into a commercially viable area for entertainment venues by making a commitment to establish a 24-hour residential downtown community to support these businesses.”

— Bart Hinson

Colliers Dickinson

“I think that downtown could be commercially viable for entertainment venues, but it is probably a couple of years down the road. I believe that you need to have housing downtown and then that will breed other things such as retail shops and things like that. People need to have a reason to come downtown. As things expand to the South, more people are going in that direction. There is stuff to do out there and a lot of people live there. It is a long commute to come back downtown for activities depending on where you live. I do come downtown from the beach for shows and things like that, but that happens infrequently. There is not a lot of draw down here right now. I do hope that that will change in the near future though.”

— Bob Hillis

Easton Sanderson Commercial

“Absolutely. If developments are done with some style and substance, and as the city continues to grow, residents are looking for a hip environment in which they can reside, work, exercise and socialize then all of the ingredients are there. It’s just a matter of time.”

— Donald Ster

Colliers Dickinson

“I do believe downtown will become a viable location for entertainment and dining as residential development increases. Also with the addition of the new sports complexes there will be a need for more dining alternatives. I have seen examples of this in downtown Coral Gables where nearby entertainment venues have increased over the years to cater to the growing number of residents in the central business district. Also witnesses the growth of restaurants in downtown Greenville, S.C. after a new arena was constructed in the business district.”

— Ross Carrier

Trammell Crow Company

“It will be interesting to see how some of the residential developments now underway progress. Their success will be a critical indicator of just how strong an attraction the downtown area is. Personally, I believe they will be successful. Their price points will attract those with disposable income levels which will not only accommodate, but demand high quality food and entertainment venues within walking distance of their apartments. Perhaps more importantly, the secret that is our beautiful city has been slowly leaked to the world. We are no longer regarded as a small, regressive Southern town. Quite the opposite: we are a very progressive city, with the vision to be great while maintaining the warm, friendly, genteel atmosphere of the South. During the Super Bowl our entire region, but more specifically the city of Jacksonville and the Central Business District (CBD), will be under the media microscope. When we demonstrate that we can put on a Super Bowl worthy of the confidence the NFL has placed in us, our cover will be completely blown.”

— Douglas A. Hudson

Coldwell Banker Commercial Nicholson Williams Realty

“Yes. History repeats itself. Downtown will soon be our center for commercial activity. The beginning of downtown growth will occur upon the completion of the new federal courthouse building. When the new library is built, the new courthouse, and the loft apartments are built, the downtown area will be a thriving center for business. The entertainment amenities will then follow suit.”

— Phillip Parsons

Colliers Dickinson

“I think it is now. I think as the city grows and all the initiatives behind the the incentive programs that the city has put in place to try to attract people downtown we will see a lot of redevelopment work as we are in LaVilla for example. When there are more people downtown during the week, it creates a demand for particularly Friday night entertainment. I think it’s a matter of the choices that are available, it can’t be just the Jacksonville Landing. The Florida Theater is busy and The River Club has done really well with their program they run with the Jacksonville Symphony, where they serve dinner beforehand, so those types of things are opportunities. I think a dinner theater would work out well. People will hopefully move downtown and the more people you have living and working in the vicinity will create that demand.”

— Alan Sheppard Jr.

LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene and MacRae

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