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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 20, 202005:08 PM EST

Group planning to renovate Downtown building says it has operator for a grocery store

Company president says renovation of Independent Life Insurance Building is on track.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Augustine Development Group has secured a grocery store operator for its planned renovation of Downtown’s Independent Life Insurance Building.

Company President Bryan Greiner confirmed the deal in a phone interview Feb. 20 but said he could not disclose the tenant for the 21,000-square-foot, ground-floor grocery space.

He said the renovation project is on track to start work in the second quarter. Augustine Development Group has a construction lender and final design plans are “90% complete.”

Greiner and investment partners DLP Capital LLC purchased the 19-story office building at 233 W. Duval St. in early October through PEP10 LLC for $3.7 million.

Augustine Development Group expects to invest about $28 million into the 64-year-old, 180,000-square-foot building to develop apartments and retail space.

An artist's rendering of the Independent Life Insurance Building.

The Downtown Development Review Board granted conceptual approval for the plans Nov. 14.

Plans show 140 market-rate apartments and a rooftop terrace with a pool. Greiner called the proposed all-glass, rooftop infinity pool a “dynamite amenity.”

A lounge and a sushi and seafood restaurant will fill the 17th and 18th floors. The space was Independent Life’s executive sky lounge, Greiner said. 

While design plans are finalized, City Council will consider Greiner’s request to designate the Independent Life building a local landmark.

Council President Scott Wilson filed legislation Feb. 19 at the request of the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission that would grant the status.

The historic designation would allow the developer to apply for grant money to pay for a portion of the renovation from the city’s Downtown Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

Greiner said the development group has not pursued a formal application for trust fund money but is entertaining the idea.

According to the commission, the Independent Life Building meets five of the seven criteria the city requires to become a local landmark.

The commission’s staff report issued Jan. 22 said the building is Jacksonville’s second modern skyscraper and a forerunner to others  that followed in the 1950s and 1960s. 

KBJ Architects designed the building, completed in 1955. The staff report called KBJ “a leading Florida architecture firm since the end of World War II” that designed 17 of Jacksonville’s tallest buildings and is responsible for creating the city’s modern skyline. 

In 2016, the National Register of Historic Places district nomination for Downtown Jacksonville recognized the Independent Life Insurance Company building as “one of Jacksonville’s landmarks, noting the original design as remarkably intact and timeless,” the legislation states.

Independent Life relocated its offices in 1975 to what is now Wells Fargo Center, and the Jacksonville Electric Authority acquired the Duval Street building in 1976.

JEA moved from the building in the 1990s.

PEP10 LLC applied for landmark status Dec. 24, and the commission recommended approval during its January meeting. 

Only the Council can award landmark designations.


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