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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 28, 201905:20 AM EST

Morgan wants grocery, boutique hotel at Town & Country Shopping Center

The District 1 council member says she’s also been approached by a developer about the former Thunderbird Motor Hotel site.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor
District 1 City Council member Joyce Morgan

District 1 City Council member Joyce Morgan says she will meet with Jacksonville developer JWB Real Estate Companies LLC in early September to discuss its plans for the Town & Country Shopping Center in Arlington.

During a town hall meeting Monday night at Fort Caroline Presbyterian Church, Morgan also told constituents she has been approached by a developer interested in purchasing the Bethelite property at 5865 Arlington Expressway, the former Thunderbird Motor Hotel and Thunderbird Dinner Theatre.

After the meeting, the second-term Democrat said she wants the proposed Town & Country mixed-use redevelopment to include a boutique hotel and small grocery store, although Morgan said she has no knowledge about the developer’s proposed uses for the site. 

Town & Country Shopping Center Inc. President Leonard Setzer sold the property Aug. 15 for $5.8 million to 903 University Blvd LLC — a JWB subsidiary. The company is led by Alex Sifakis, who focuses on urban redevelopment and infill housing.

Sifakis’ development group is working on the Ashley Street Container Project – 18 studio units made of shipping containers at 412 E. Ashley St. in Downtown’s Cathedral District.

The Bethelite property at 5865 Arlington Expressway. (Google)

Town & Country was developed in 1953 and expanded to about 200,000 square feet of space on 18.24 acres at 903 University Blvd.

Morgan also sees the property’s existing parking lot, which is about a third of the parcel, as an inefficient use of space. 

“It does not function at this point,” Morgan said.

Regarding Bethelite’s potential buyer, Morgan wouldn’t go into detail. She called the interest a “positive step.”

“If what he wants to do there happens, you all will absolutely love it,” Morgan told the 50 people in the church sanctuary.

The 18.7-acre Bethelite property was developed in 1964. After its time as the Thunderbird and a Ramada Inn Conference Center, the 11-building, 277-room motel and conference center deteriorated.

 It’s been sold several times over the years including to Bethelite Inc., affiliated with Bethel Baptist Institutional Church. The property has been unoccupied for more than a decade.

Aventura-based 770 Inn and Suites LLC acquired the property in June 2017 for $3 million and has been determining its use. 

Bethelite is 3 miles from the Downtown Northbank and urban core, across the Mathews Bridge and St. Johns River. 

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