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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Sep. 10, 202007:46 PM EST

Redevelopment of Federal Reserve Bank, Baptist Convention buildings win DDRB conceptual approval

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JBW Real Estate Capital plans apartments, restaurants and retail space for the structures.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Downtown Development Review Board granted conceptual design approval Sept. 10 for the redevelopment of two historic structures near City Hall. 

Plans for JWB Real Estate Capital’s mixed-use projects at the Federal Reserve Bank Building at 424 N. Hogan St. and the adjacent Baptist Convention Building at 218 W. Church St now advance to final approval.

The vote was 5-0 in favor of both projects. Board member Brenna Durden abstained because she said her law firm, Lewis, Longman & Walker, performed work on JWB’s behalf.

Board member Christian Harden left the meeting before the vote.

JWB Real Estate Capital, led by President Alex Sifakis, bought the properties in August. 

Plans released Sept. 3 in DDRB meeting documents show a restaurant space on the basement and ground levels, two mercantile suites at the ground floor entrance and 24 studio and one-bedroom apartments in the 218 W. Church St. property. 

The courtyard would serve restaurants in three buildings.

The Federal Reserve Bank Building redevelopment includes a restaurant, business and banquet space, along with an exterior courtyard for outdoor dining.

The DDRB gave preliminary approval with no debate and praised the project’s design team for its thorough planning and historic sensitivity. 

The five-story, 26,500-square-foot vacant office building at 218 W. Church St. was developed in 1924 and designed by architect Henry J. Klutho.

The 18,000-square-foot Federal Reserve Bank Building was built in 1922. Board member Craig Davisson said it was designed by Henrietta Dozier, who was Jacksonville’s first female architect, according to the Jacksonville Historical Society. 

“Even more so than the previous Baptist Convention Building by (Henry J.) Klutho, in my opinion, this is Jacksonville’s No. 1 jewel,” Davisson said. “It’s architecturally and historically significant and probably the most well-built building in town.” 

Brooke Robbins of Robbins Design Studio is the principal architect on both projects. She told the board that JWB is pursuing historic tax credits for both restorations and are seeking approval from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and the National Park Service. 

An aerial rendering shows a courtyard linking the two buildings and the Seminole Building, home to the Sweet Pete’s candy store at 400 N. Hogan St., which JWB bought in January.

Robbins said the courtyard will support outdoor seating for restaurant space in all three buildings with space reserved for a future bar. 

The architect said JWB and her firm are not proposing any “major changes” to the exterior of either structure. Most of the work will be structural and facade repairs, Robbins said.

A site plan for the redevelopment.

“We are actually repairing the windows on this property, not replacing them, and cleaning the limestone,” Robbins said of the Federal Reserve Bank Building. “The building has a copper decorative soffit that has had some damage due to water penetration. That’s being repaired as well.”

Board chair Trevor Lee suggested Robbins include a green wall or screening to “soften” the emergency egress stairwell on the Baptist Convention Building. 

JWB’s project will be bolstered by the proposed Emerald Trail, which will connect pedestrian and bicycle traffic throughout Downtown to the St. Johns River. 

The Federal Reserve Bank Building at 424 N. Hogan St.

The trail would run on the Hogan Street side of JWB’s redevelopment as well as the companion Hogan Street cycle track.

Robbins told the DDRB that JWB’s design team does not plan to make streetscape improvements on the Hogan Street frontage of the Federal Reserve Bank Building because it will likely be removed by the city once trail construction begins. 

JWB assembled a group of Jacksonville-based firms to round out the engineering and design team. 

TLC Engineering Solutions will handle the fire, plumbing and electrical work on both projects. AES Atlantic Engineering is contracted for structural design; Connelly & Wicker Inc. will provide civil engineering services; and Auld & White Constructors LLC is the project contractor.

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