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Scott-McRae Automotive Group wants to develop a new Ford dealership behind the existing one at 1616 Cassat Ave.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 19, 201512:00 PM EST

Duval Ford rebuilding dealership on Cassat Avenue


Duval Ford wants to rebuild its Cassat Avenue dealership on-site and complete the project by 2016, in time for its 100th anniversary.

“It’s going to be a really cool building. It will be the biggest facility we ever built,” said Hampton Graham, vice chair of Scott-McRae Automotive Group, which owns the dealership.

Graham’s great-grandfather, Walter McRae Sr., joined the company in 1916 and bought it in 1920. The dealership operated Downtown until 1969, when the 1616 Cassat Ave. operation opened.

“It’s a big deal for us,” Graham said. “The business has operated through the Great Depression, the Great Recession and two World Wars.”

Duval Ford LLC is part of Scott-McRae, based in Jacksonville’s Riverside area. It is one of six Scott-McRae dealerships, along with Duval Acura, Duval Honda, Duval Mazda/Avenues, Mercedes-Benz of Gainesville and Subaru of Gainesville. Graham said the Mercedes-Benz location also has Smart Car and Sprinter franchises.

Graham didn’t have an estimate of costs for the rebuilt Ford dealership.

“It is a big investment and we are proud to be investing in a brand that we have represented for a very long time,” he said.

The dealership will be built behind the existing showroom, which means business continues during construction. When it’s completed, eight of the nine existing buildings will have been demolished and an existing detail facility and office building will remain.

Most of the structures are 46 years old. “It is in desperate need of an upgrade,” Graham said. The remaining building was constructed in 1985, he said.

Graham said the new dealership will offer 59 service bays and 40,000 square feet of shop space. The showroom, parts and service will take another 30,000 square feet.

Graham said Duval Ford is the last of the Scott-McRae dealerships to be built or renovated.

Construction could start by early summer. Dana B. Kenyon Co. is the contractor.

Graham said 177 employees work at the dealership, comprising 161 at Duval Ford and 16 corporate staff.

A city mobility fee certificate and concurrency application shows that the 21.7-acre Cassat Avenue site could be redeveloped in several phases.

Those plans show eight of the nine buildings on-site would be demolished and a new dealership developed.

A ninth building, an 18,665-square-foot service and repair garage, would remain.

The demolished buildings total 84,848 square feet and the new development would be 75,000 square feet. That space doesn’t include the service drive or canopy, Graham said.

Duval Ford isn’t far from Ernie Palmer Toyota, which is redeveloping its dealership at 1290 and 1310 Cassat Ave.

“That was a big part of our decision to rebuild,” Graham said. “It was a big assurance that there were going to be car dealerships on Cassat Avenue.”

Duval Honda is nearby at 1325 Cassat Ave. That dealership was built in 2003.

Town Center developer to file plans in 60 days

Preferred Growth Properties intends to file a rezoning application with the city within 30-60 days for the property it wants to develop near St. Johns Town Center.

Preferred Growth Properties, part of Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million, has a contract to buy 74 acres from the Skinner family along Town Center and Gate parkways.

Of that, 45 acres can be developed. The rest of the acreage includes portions of the lake that will border much of the development, said spokeswoman Misty Skipper with the Dalton Agency.

Skipper said Preferred Growth Properties wants to create a pedestrian- and bicycle-oriented mixed-use development. It may include commercial, hotel, office, retail, multifamily residential and recreation uses.

She said plans include intersection improvements at Gate and Town Center parkways and along Town Center Parkway. Those improvements “would ease current traffic congestion in that area and address any impacts of the proposed development.”

Skipper said planning was in the early stage.

The Cantrell & Morgan Inc. real estate firm in Jacksonville is working with Preferred Growth Properties and posted conceptual plans on its website Friday. The plans were taken down after the Daily Record reported about them Friday and Monday and published one of the renderings.

Skipper said those graphics were prepared by consultants and were not an accurate or complete depiction of the current development plans.

She said Preferred Growth Properties wants to rezone the property as a planned unit development, which would establish its building and common area guidelines along with other features.

Skipper said the company was in its inspection period and was not discussing estimates about when the purchase might be completed or construction could start.

She also said there were no details about building sizes, potential retailers or whether the multifamily units would be apartments or condominiums.

There also weren’t specifics whether Preferred Growth Properties might sell parcels for individual developments.

Skipper said Preferred Growth Properties was not asking for city contributions or incentives.

A.C. “Chip” Skinner III, one of the nine Skinner family members that own the property, said Friday the property was under contract.

A map on the Cantrell & Morgan site showed the developable property among three parcels: 15.7-acre and 20.58-acre sites along Town Center Parkway and bordering the lake, and a 9.29-acre site along Gate Parkway.

The Skinner family also sold the property that became the Town Center, which opened its first phase in March 2005. The family owned that property and sold it to the developers.

SAO building named for Ed Austin

The new State Attorney’s Office at 311 W. Monroe St. is becoming the Ed Austin State Attorney’s Office.

City Council enacted an ordinance last year to rename the Old Federal Courthouse in honor of Austin, a former state attorney and also a former mayor. The building has been renovated for the State Attorney’s Office.

The city approved permits Wednesday for Brown Enterprises to put up four signs, totaling a job cost of $15,000, for “Ed Austin Building” and “State Attorney’s Office.”

Austin died April 23, 2011, at the age of 84. He served more than 20 years as the state attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit and as mayor from 1991-95, as well as serving as public defender and city general counsel.

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