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Jax Daily Record Monday, Nov. 16, 202005:20 AM EST

New plan for San Marco bathhouse

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Developer Bill Ware plans to convert the condemned building on Hendricks into offices.

A 68-year-old San Marco building, used for decades as a men’s bathhouse, is slated for conversion into professional offices, a different direction from a previous plan.

Developer Bill Ware intends to buy the building, at 1939 Hendricks Ave., in January and start on the project for completion by summer.

He estimates work will start in the first quarter on the estimated $3 million project, which includes the purchase price, and be completed in four to five months.

“It’s a great piece of real estate with all that is going on in San Marco,” Ware said Nov. 10.

It is at northeast Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue, not far from the southeast corner where Publix Super Markets Inc. intends to anchor the proposed East San Marco shopping center.

Ware is vice president of development with Birmingham, Alabama-based Harbert Realty Services. 

He and his wife moved to the San Marco area four years ago from Alabama to be near their children and grandchildren.

He previously had the bathhouse property under contract with Andy Allen and George Leone of Corner Lot Development Group. They intended to demolish the buildings for restaurant and office development and heard from prospective tenants.

“Then COVID hit and that created a problem for the restaurant industry and the interest we had went away,” Ware said.

They terminated the contract and the property owners called Ware, saying they were receiving offers.

Developer Bill Ware plans demolish the rear of the former San Marco bathhouse building and gut the interior of the two-story front of the structure to transform it into offices.

“After some thought and the fact that I and my family now live in Jacksonville and San Marco, I decided to contract it personally. This is a personal investment,” Ware said.

Ware, Allen and Leone continue their joint investment in the development of the Park Place at San Marco apartment project proposed on property at South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church at 2137 Hendricks Ave.

The city is reviewing a permit application for Realco Recycling Co. Inc. to gut the interior of the two-story main bathhouse building and tear down a one-story structure that covered the pool and spa in the back of the property.

That’s a change from the previous plans to raze the entire property.

Group 4 Design Inc. is the architect and EnVision Design + Engineering is the civil engineer.

Ware intends to renovate the 8,300-square-foot, two-story building into Class A office space and build a lobby, public restrooms and an elevator where the one-story structure, about 2,000 square feet, will be removed.

Ware said the two-story structure initially was an office building and believes it had housed Independent Life insurance. 

The structure’s windows had been closed in and covered over the years and Ware will install new ones to open up the building, especially on the ground floor facing Hendricks Avenue.

Ware said both floor heights are more than 11 feet.

He also said the site provides 25 parking spaces, which is an advantage in the popular San Marco area. The property owner requests rezoning to accommodate parking on the overall parcel.

“Parking in San Marco is a commodity,” Ware said. 

“The 25 spaces we are providing will meet code, self-contain our parking, and not add to any shortfall of community parking.”

He said the property sits on about 0.33 acres.

The building was used as the Club Jacksonville men’s club. Descriptions online show an indoor pool, fitness equipment and other amenities.

The city Municipal Code Compliance Division condemned the structure July 26, 2019, deeming it unsafe and subject to demolition.

The two-story building was constructed in 1952 and is assessed at $691,021 for tax purposes, according to Duval County property records. Its property use is listed as club/lodge/union hall.

Records show the property is owned by the estate of Raymond P. Diemer in care of Athletic Ventures of Florida Inc., and Joan Diemer.

Owners applied to the city in February 2019 for a permit to make roof repairs, but the permit was returned for corrections and not issued. The application shows the property on “lockdown” and was coded as “unsafe/condemn.”

Ware said an environmental report showed asbestos in the building, which he will have abated in 30 days so demolition can start in December.

In the meantime, he is working with the design team on the plan.

Ware also will meet with the San Marco Preservation Society for its insights. He is talking with prospective tenants and hopes for two and no more than three.

In December, Ware, Allen and Leone announced they had a contract to buy the property and expected to close on the deal in April.

Ware said he will own the property through an LLC.

He has not named the project. “I hadn’t thought about it,” he said. “It’s too premature at this point.”

Allen, CEO of The Corner Lot Companies, said by email Nov. 12 he is happy to see the building become an adaptive reuse project.

“Our original intent for a high-end restaurant changed gears amidst the pandemic. Our partner, brother Bill, has since changed gears and we know he will deliver some awesome space.

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