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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Feb. 23, 202104:50 PM EST

Potential Berkman Plaza II developer says city demolition order hindering sale

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Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization wants to buy and demolish the structure and redevelop the site.
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Park Beeler, the co-managing member of developer Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization, told a City Council and Downtown Investment Authority joint workshop Feb. 23 that his company intends to buy the unfinished Berkman Plaza II within two weeks and start demolition at the end of March.

Those plans are complicated by a city order to demolish the riverfront structure at 500 E. Bay St.

Beeler said at the workshop that city officials informed Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization it will not cancel a public demolition order issued in October when the structure was condemned by the Municipal Code Compliance Division.

“I must be very honest with you, this is a situation that is of concern to us because it’s a blight on (the) title,” Beeler said. 

“Any kind of a demolition order is a title defect. It makes it difficult to complete the closing,” he said.

Beeler said after the meeting that the city demolition order created a problem for obtaining title insurance for the debt financing. 

“We also hope the city will reconsider its position on leaving the demolition order in place,” he said.

Beeler’s group already has its own permit to demolish the structure.

The city issued a permit Jan. 20 for Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization to demolish the 18-story high-rise at a job cost of $1.09 million. Orlando-based contractor Pece of Mind Environmental Inc. is the contractor.

In July, Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization signed an agreement with Berkman owner 500 East Bay LLC to buy the land and shell structure, which has been vacant for more than 13 years. 

The developer plans a high-rise with 300 residential units, retail and public park space at the site. 

Riverfront Revitalization plans a conventional demolition because previous plans to implode the building faced concerns by the city and nearby residents.

City officials worried implosion could result in debris falling onto the adjacent Shipyards property and disturb ground contamination that could enter the St. Johns River. 

Residents of The Plaza Condominiums at Berkman Plaza & Marina to the west expressed concern about damage to their building from an implosion, Beeler said.

The developer filed an amended permit application Jan. 6 with the city Building Inspection Division for a floor-by-floor demolition. 

Documents filed with the application show Pece of Mind plans to use a crane and 135-foot boom to demolish the 279,000-square-foot structure from the top floor down. 

The company will use a debris curtain to keep material contained at the demolition site. The developer will have to obtain an air easement right from the city to erect a platform to support the crane.

Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization is managed by JRR Management Partners led by Brian Wheeler, the owner of GGI Tapestry LLC and a former Genesis Group partner; Beeler, F3 Global Solutions managing member and a former executive at The Charter Co.; and Chris Young, president of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Biotech Restorations Holdings LLC.

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