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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 13, 202103:20 PM EST

LaVilla town house development up for final DDRB vote

The development team is investing $18 million in the 91-unit community next to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

The Downtown Development Review Board is scheduled to take a final vote Sept. 16 on designs for Johnson Commons, a proposed 91-unit town house development in LaVilla.

In a report released Sept. 9, DDRB staff recommended the board approve the JWB Real Estate Capital LLC and Corner Lot Development Group’s joint venture proposed on 3.45 acres next to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park in the historic Downtown neighborhood.

According to JWB President Alex Sifakis, the development team plans an $18 million investment in the town houses.

The three-story town houses will be for purchase and will feature a shotgun-style design with gabled roofs, inspired by LaVilla’s architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was a thriving and predominantly African American neighborhood.

The base price of the homes is $250,250 with Johnson Commons required to give the city 50% of the net sale proceeds above that.

Johnson Commons made a few design changes after the board voted 7-0 on June 10 to approve the project concept.

The report says Johnson Commons raised the doorways and added stoops and overhangs to the front entrances of many of the units to make them more visually interesting a have a “comfortable pedestrian scale.”

The developer also changed materials and coloring from the previous designs to address what the board staff said were flat facades that did not define the units individually, according to the report.

Johnson Commons is considering a second phase with 10,000 square feet of stand-alone retail or a multifamily residential project with at least 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

City Council approved a development agreement Aug. 24 to give the developer city-owned land appraised at $3.58 million for the town houses.

The rear garage area of the Johnson Commons town houses.

That deal included a $150,000 donation from Johnson Commons to help construct Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park.

The development agreement says the base price of the homes is $250,250 with Johnson Commons required to give the city 50% of the net sale proceeds above that.

JWB and Corner Lot took over the project this year after a Vestcor Companies Inc. subsidiary abandoned plans for the project and returned the land to the city. 

Johnson Commons finished second to Vestcor in a 2019 Downtown Investment Authority request for proposals to develop the site, bounded by Adams, Lee, Houston and Forsyth streets.

Landscape architectural firm Marquis Latimer + Halback and environmental and engineering firm GAI Consultants worked on the site plan, according to documents submitted to DDRB staff.

Law firm Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow represented Johnson Commons during the approval process.

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