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Construction soon will begin on Houston Street Manor, a 72-unit apartment building for seniors along Houston Street in LaVilla.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 2, 201712:00 PM EST

Long-awaited renaissance for LaVilla underway

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Decades from now, when Jacksonville historians look back on 2017, they likely will cite the revival of LaVilla as the major accomplishment for Downtown redevelopment.

The 246-acre plot of ground — bounded by State Street on the north, Broad Street on the east, Interstate 95 on the west and Brooklyn on the south — was a deteriorated neighborhood turned into bare ground ready to be renewed as part of the 1993 River City Renaissance redevelopment program.

Over the years, several projects were proposed, but only the Duval County Courthouse came to fruition.

That started changing in 2016 and by the end of this year, there will be an apartment community completed, another well under construction and a new Greyhound Bus Lines terminal that’s the first phase of a mass transportation complex.

The Vestcor Companies broke ground in October for Lofts at LaVilla, a five-story, 130-unit apartment development near the rime Osborn Convention Center.

The business model for the $22 million project is to set rents to attract Downtown workers and others whose annual income is 80 percent or less of the state median income — about $38,000 per year for a single person and about $49,000 a year for a family of four.

The project is supported by a $270,000 loan at zero percent interest from the Downtown Investment Authority and $270,000 from the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority.

Vestcor will begin accepting lease application in the spring and the apartments will be ready for occupancy in the fall, said Vestcor spokeswoman Holly Hepler.

Sarasota-based Beacon Communities closed last week on the final parcel of land needed for Houston Street Manor, a seven-story, 72-unit apartment building for seniors at Houston and Jefferson streets near the courthouse.

The $18.8 million project will receive $15.8 million in tax credits from the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and $115,000 from city housing funds.

Construction is scheduled to begin as soon as February, with the project expected to be complete by April 2018, said Kim Purtee, Beacon development and construction coordinator.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority plans to schedule a groundbreaking ceremony this month for the new Greyhound Bus Lines terminal between Adams, Houston, Johnson and Stuart streets near the convention center Skyway station.

When it opens in early 2018, the new facility will allow the relocation of Greyhound from the corner of Bay and Pearl streets near EverBank Center.

It’s the first phase of JTA’s $33 million Regional Transportation Center.

When complete, the complex will include a new Downtown terminal for the authority’s fixed bus routes, a hub for the First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit service and administrative offices.

Looking ahead into this year, the DIA and JTA are working together to develop a master plan for LaVilla, anchored by the transportation center.

When the partnership was announced, authority CEO Aundra Wallace said the area represents a “rare development scenario” with so much land available so close to the Class-A office towers in the urban business district.

“We want it to be a real estate development implementation plan,” he said then. “It’s a heck of an opportunity. There are some great parcels just waiting to be developed.”

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