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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 18, 201905:20 AM EST

Harbert Realty to develop San Marco church site

The Alabama company proposes 143 apartments at South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church, which will keep its sanctuary.

A central site in the historic San Marco neighborhood and shopping area is targeted for redevelopment.

Harbert Realty Services has a contract to buy about 2.1 acres from South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church at 2137 Hendricks Ave. to develop Park Place at San Marco, a 143-unit apartment community.

The church would retain its sanctuary and two buildings – administration and the community hall - on just under an acre, said church trustees Chair Jeff King, who referred other questions to Harbert.

“The location is second to none in terms of walkability and amenities within walking distance,” said Bill Ware, vice president of development with Harbert Realty Services of Birmingham, Alabama.

Ware did not disclose the contracted purchase price but estimates that investment in the development will top $30 million.

The church property is across Hendricks Avenue from the San Marco Square shopping and entertainment area and serves the residents of the neighborhood.

“We are going to do everything we can to maintain the charm and character of San Marco,” said Ware, who moved to Jacksonville three years ago from Alabama and lives in San Marco.

The Park Place site is bordered by Hendricks Avenue, Alford Place, Mango Place and Mitchell Avenue. 

The buildings that Harbert will buy will be demolished for the redevelopment. Matthew’s Restaurant, which is separately owned, sits on a corner and is not involved in the project.

Harbert intends to build one- and two-bedroom units in the four-story apartment building. An attached three-story parking garage will comprise four levels.

Eight apartments will be built against the garage facing Mitchell Avenue to maintain the residential character, Ware said.

The garage will provide parking on the ground floor for the church.

The apartments will front Hendricks Avenue and Alford and Mango places, while the garage will border Mango Place and Mitchell Avenue, Ware said.

One targeted market for the apartments is professionals, including those working in Southbank medical centers. Rents and sizes have not been determined.

The market-rate units will include the “full array of amenities” found in other San Marco and Southbank apartment projects.

“We are planning to do some upgrades in recognition of where we are here at ‘Main and Main’ in the heart of San Marco, so we are going to be amenity-heavy for our residents,” Ware said.

The site is near Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue, where one corner has been designed for a Publix Super Markets Inc.-anchored retail center. Ware said the Publix, which he expects will soon be built, will be another amenity.

Ware said there are plans to relocate the South Jacksonville Presbyterian Preschool to the Southside Baptist Church property a block north at 1435 Atlantic Blvd.

“The plan is for the preschool and staff to be relocated to Southside Baptist as it maintains a continuing relationship with the families that have been coming to South Jacksonville for generations,” he said.

Project renderings aren’t available. 

Asked if the site could accommodate retail or services development, Ware said Harbert was focused on apartments “at this time.” 

He said Harbert formed an entity with San Marco-based Corner Lot Development Group, led by CEO Andy Allen and COO George Leone, to develop Park Place at San Marco. Harbert will be the managing  partner.

Ware said EnVision Design + Engineering is the civil engineer and Group 4 Design is the architect. Both are based in San Marco.

Ware said Harbert is working with lawyers Paul Harden and Zach Miller with The Law Offices of Paul M. Harden to work through entitlements for a partial land use change and rezoning to planned unit development.

Ware expects to submit the PUD application to the city by the end of the month. Harbert will close on the purchase after the land use change and rezoning are approved.

Ware is working with Harden, Miller and Corner Lot to set up meetings with Mayor Lenny Curry; District 5 City Council member LeAnna Cumber, who represents San Marco; At-Large Group 4 council member Matt Carlucci; and Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer.

The development team also intends to meet with the San Marco Preservation Society, the San Marco Merchants Association and residents.

Boyer, who just completed two terms as the District 5 council member, said she was not aware of project specifics, but in general, she would be interested in the zoning, land use and other factors to see what is permissible.

“Generally, the folks in San Marco are concerned not just about density and parking but also about architecture,” Boyer said. 

“It’s not that they are opposed to new things, but they want to make sure they enhance the character. It’s a question of how it’s executed and what is envisioned,” she said.

Ware said he wants the meetings to help build relationships “to be sure we capture all of what San Marco is and has been and will continue to be.”

Allen said the project provides an option for people “to live near the action and amenities of San Marco.”

Pending approvals, Ware would like to break ground late in the first quarter. Construction could take 16 months, which indicates the project could be completed in summer 2021.

South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church was established in 1913. King said previously the campus was built for a membership of up to 2,000 and the congregation is less than 250.

Church leadership decided about two years ago to consider another use for the site while hoping to continue to use the sanctuary.

The church property was built in the 1930s and into the 1980s.

Ware said that through mutual relationships, he heard about the church’s interest in redevelopment. 

“Conversations led to action and actions led to more interest and we developed a good working relationship,” Ware said.

He expects Harbert Realty Services to pursue more area projects.

“There is active predevelopment,” he said. “I am working on some potential projects.”


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