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Jax Daily Record Monday, Oct. 1, 201212:00 PM EST

Latitude 30 signs letter of intent to lease The Library

by: David Chapman

Latitude Global Inc., a Jacksonville-based entertainment company, has signed a letter of intent to lease the 120,000-square-foot former Haydon Burns Library, now known as The Library, at 122 N. Ocean St.

“We would bring a Latitude 30 Downtown,” said Philip Alia, Latitude chief marketing officer, who confirmed the agreement Friday.

It would include 12 bowling lanes, a sports theater and meeting rooms, among other features, as well as the corporate headquarters, he said.

Broker and contractor Bill Cesery said Thursday a potential tenant would lease the entire space but he would not elaborate.

“It would be exciting for Downtown,” he said.

Alia said Friday the letter of intent was signed the week before and provides a 90-day window for Latitude officials to determine whether to enter a purchase-and-sale agreement.

Alia said engineers and consultants are reviewing the structure to determine build-out costs, feasibility and other factors to determine the cost of the project. That cost will be presented to Latitude’s board for a decision.

Alia expects to hear from the engineers and consultants within 60 days.

Latitude would incorporate three facets of its business into the three 35,000-square-foot floors, he said.

The first floor will incorporate an entertainment venue similar to other Latitude locations, such as Latitude 30 on Philips Highway.

It would not include a games room because fewer children are expected to visit a Downtown venue, he said. The company hasn’t determined if a movie theater, which is featured at other locations, will open Downtown.

Additionally, Alia said the first floor would feature a restaurant, the 360 Grill, on the southeast corner of the building facing Ocean and Forsyth streets, with a sightline of The Florida Theatre. It would also have a patio and stage area.

Combined, the entertainment areas would need about 60-75 employees, he said.

The second floor would become the company’s headquarters, which currently are housed in the Brownstone Building at 6022 San Jose Blvd., near University Boulevard.

Alia said the corporate office has 30 employees but is anticipated to grow to about 50 by the first quarter of next year.

He said company executives initially looked at the building for its headquarters but during the visit they determined an entertainment venue was also a possibility.

They see their clientele as Downtown workers and the growing number of residents, as well as visitors.

“We want to grow with the Downtown area,” Alia said.

The third floor, along with the first floor, would be used for company training, such as management and point-of-sales systems and equipment, he said.

He said project costs will be determined by the engineers and consultants. Parking also will be determined, although he said it was a “minor concern” at this point. He said nearby surface lots could provide space.

Alia said the company would seek financial incentives for a potential move Downtown if plans proceed.

“Absolutely. We will explore any and all funding opportunities,” he said.

He also said several cities have approached the company about moving its headquarters out of town, but Alia said the plan is to remain committed to the Jacksonville community.

“We want to stay. We want to be a part of the Jacksonville skyline,” he said.

That skyline addition would also potentially be the company’s signature globe on top of the library building, but much of the historic nature of the building would likely be retained and is one reason company officials are attracted to it, Alia said.

“This fits our mission statement to a T,” he said. “It’s a historic, iconic building.”

Alia said Latitude will open three more locations, in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Chicago, by the end of the year. That will push its employee count to about 800 people.

Two other locations are lined up, but he could not provide to provide details, he said.

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