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Jax Daily Record Friday, Nov. 15, 201903:30 PM EST

Fire at Bethelite property in Arlington won’t affect redevelopment plans

Shmuel Bonnardel is planning a 68-room motel on the eastern side of the property.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer
Shmuel Bonnardel

The fire that destroyed part of the Bethelite property, the former Thunderbird Motor Hotel in Arlington, won’t affect its redevelopment, property developer Shmuel Bonnardel said Friday.

The fire engulfed an empty storage building. Bonnardel called it a shed. 

He said the property’s redevelopment was beginning on the eastern side of the property, which wasn’t affected by the fire.

Bonnardel, who lives in Miami, said he hasn’t seen the extent of the damage.

Miami property developer Shmuel Bonnardel says the fire at the Bethelite property won't impact his plans to redevelop the site.

He said in January he is planning to redevelop the 18.7-acre site at 5865 Arlington Expressway in phases. The first is the 68-room motel and lobby building on the eastern end of the property. When the first phase is complete, Bonnardel said he would consider adding batting cages, miniature golf or go-karts to the property.

According to the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department fire report, the fire began Wednesday at 6:07 p.m. and was cleared by 9:18 p.m.

The fire marshal has yet to determine the cause of the fire. 

The destroyed an empty storage building at the site. (

In 2018, the property was issued 14 notices of violations, including fire and windstorm hazards, accumulation of junk and debris and electrical plumbing violations.

Other citations included failure to keep signs or billboards in repair; nuisance vegetation; trash and debris; graffiti; fences in disrepair; broken doors and windows; unsanitary conditions; missing handrails; deteriorated soffit; an abandoned vehicle; and more.

Before Bonnardel’s 770 Inn and Suites LLC bought the property, it was owned by Bethelite Inc. Affiliated with Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, it used the property as a conference center. It also was for a time a Ramada Inn. 

He said in January “we are not rushing” on the project.

As of Friday, Bonnardel was still waiting for building permits to be approved. 


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