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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 31, 202005:20 AM EST

Plan would transform Morocco Shrine Center property

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Site could become community with housing, educational, retail and entertainment uses.
by: Scott Sailer Staff Writer

Property owner Morocco Temple Association Inc. wants to transform its Morocco Shrine Center property at 3800 St. Johns Bluff Road S. into a 36.76-acre community called The Village at Town Center.

Developers envision people of all ages, from students to seniors, living in the community with educational, retail and entertainment amenities that could include a food hall.

The location is south of Beach Boulevard and north of the University of North Florida and St. Johns Town Center.

The association plans for up to 1,025 multifamily units developed around the converted main temple building.

The 100,000-square-foot temple building would comprise 40,000 square feet for educational uses; 30,000 square feet for retail, food and grocery uses; 15,000 square feet for gym and fitness; 10,000 square feet of common area; and 5,000 square feet for a theater.

Conceptual site plans indicate multifamily units are proposed among 12 buildings ranging from two to seven stories. There would be surface parking as well as parking spaces within some buildings.

Plans for transforming the Morocco Shrine Center include more than 1,000 multifamily units, community amenities including pools and tennis courts and parking surrounding the 100,000-square-foot temple building.

Community amenities include a 1.5-acre park; pools; tennis courts; golf chip and putt; basketball and volleyball courts; and a dog park.

Morocco Temple Association Secretary Gary Thigpen said Jan. 30 the property is under contract but could not provide details.

Attorney Steve Diebenow, with Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, submitted a land use amendment application to the city that requests a change in the land use designation.

He describes the need for the change as:

“A unique infill redevelopment project in order to create a truly walkable intergenerational development with a mix of students, conventional apartment/condominium dwellers and potentially seniors in one condensed space with shared lifestyle amenities, retail and entertainment.”

It continued:

“An adaptive reuse of the Morocco Shrine Building will be the central feature of the project containing a food hall, workspace and venues for health, art and entertainment.”

The development would allow apartments, student housing, condominiums, townhomes, housing for the elderly, secondary educational and public facilities and recreational uses.

Plans show the Morocco Shrine Auditorium would remain at the center of the transformed property.

A plan dated Dec. 10, 2018, with the application identifies Alliant Engineering Inc. as a project engineer. 

Proposed Ordinance 2020-45 seeks a large-scale land use amendment from public buildings and facilities and low-density residential to regional commercial.

It is subject to “Future Land Use Element, Site Specific Policy 4.4.15.,” which sets specific conditions that have been incorporated in the development plan and stated in the application. 

All principal and secondary uses allowed in community general commercial and recreation and open space land use categories would be allowed on the property if approved.

Proposed Ordinance 2020-44, submitted by the city Planning and Development Department, allows the proposed development by amending the regional commercial future land use category in the COJ 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

It says that it would “allow for a creative integration of uses to facilitate innovative site planning, adaptive reuse, infill development and smart growth techniques.”

The property is bounded by St. Johns Bluff Road South and apartments to the east; apartments, church and office uses to the south; commercial and industrial buildings to the north; and wetlands buffering the single-family residential to the west.

The entrance to the Morocco Shrine Auditorium.

Property records show the Morocco Shrine Auditorium was built in 1985 and expanded in 1990. It is leased for parties, banquets, conferences, wedding receptions, conventions, trade shows and other events.

It has a tiered auditorium and stage; a dining room and lounge; and an activity building auditorium. 

The grounds also are leased for events.

The land use amendment is within the transmittal round of legislation. 

A citizen information meeting on the proposed land use change is scheduled at 4 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Ed Ball building at 214 N. Hogan St., Room 3112.

The Jacksonville Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the project Feb. 20, followed by the City Council Land Use & Zoning Committee and the full Council.

The state then will review the amendment.

After that, the application returns to the city for the adoption round review and a companion rezoning to change from planned unit development and residential low density-60 to a new PUD.

The Morocco Campground at the rear of the property.
The Morocco Shrine Center is a 36.76-acre site along St. Johns Bluff Road S.
The rear of the Morocco Shrine Auditorium.

 

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