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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jun. 17, 201612:00 PM EST

Life returning to LaVilla with 130 affordable apartments

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

In the beginning of the 20th century, LaVilla was one of Jacksonville’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

The area went into decline in the late 1960s. In the early 1990s, the area — between Downtown’s core and Interstate 95 — was cleared of virtually all buildings as part of the River City Renaissance Plan.

In about two years, residents will return to LaVilla, following final approval Thursday of Lofts at LaVilla, a 130-unit apartment development near the Prime Osborn Convention Center and the Federal Reserve Bank.

The Downtown Development Review Board in April approved the conceptual design.

At the time, 120 apartments were planned within the five-story structure. But after evaluating the potential rental market, floor plans were changed to reduce the number of three-bedroom units and add more studios and one-bedroom apartments.

The final design also reduced the building’s footprint, allowing additional landscaping and pedestrian access around the perimeter, said Ryan Hoover, vice president of TVC Development Inc., a division of Vestcor.

Elm trees will provide shade along the Water Street side of the building and sable palms and a ligustrum hedge were added along the Lee Street side of the building, he said.

The business model for Lofts at LaVilla is to set rents to attract Downtown workers and others whose annual income is 80 percent or less of the state median income — or about $38,000 a year for a single person and about $49,000 a year for a family of four.

The $22 million project is supported by a 20-year, $270,000 loan at zero percent interest from the Downtown Economic Development Fund and $270,000 from the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority.

Vestcor also is seeking participation from the Florida Housing Finance Corp.’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

“We plan to start construction in August and have it finished within 18 months,” said Hoover.

The board also approved a modification the Planned Unit Development at 721 W. Duval St. in LaVilla.

Three buildings, each about 3,000 square feet, currently comprise 29 dorm-type rooms. The owner, Volunteers of America of Florida, intends to demolish the interiors of the buildings and convert them into 13 one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The site is at the corner of Duval and Jefferson streets, near LaVilla School of the Arts.

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