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Firehouse Subs co-founders Chris Sorensen, left, and Robin Sorensen, right, along with partner Stephen Joost shared memories with staff Thursday as they prepare to relocate from the Kori Road headquarters to Flagler Center. Today is the last day at th...
Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 16, 201612:00 PM EST

Spring start likely for East San Marco development anchored by Publix


It now looks like spring for construction work to start on East San Marco, the Publix-anchored retail and multistory apartment project at Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard.

Jason Jacobson, regional partner of developer ArchCo Residential LLC, said Thursday work probably will begin about April, with completion in about two years.

That’s later than what Jacobson forecasted in March, when projections called for construction to start after permits were issued, expected in August. That led to an expected September groundbreaking.

But what are six or seven months for a project that has been a decade in the making?

“We thought that, believe me, we would be under construction by now,” Jacobson said.

The reason for the wait is a combination of current construction market conditions and a difficult financing environment, he said.

Jacobson said the equity capital has been in place for some time through New York-based Bluerock Residential Growth REIT Inc., and the ownership group is talking with construction lenders.

“It takes a little longer to get people lined up,” he said.

Jacobson said the construction contracting market also has been hard because contractors are busy.

“Prices are coming in on the high side and we have had to work through that and work closely with the contracting community to get the numbers where they need to be,” he said.

Jacobson hopes to have those numbers in January. He said the general contractor has not been chosen yet.

He doesn’t expect a problem. “We are close. We are getting there,” Jacobson said.

East San Marco’s address is shown as 1532 Atlantic Blvd.

BR ArchCo ESM LLC, a venture of Bluerock Residential Group REIT and Atlanta-based ArchCo Residential LLC, intends to buy the 4.3 acres for the development from Jacksonville-based Regency Centers Corp. after the building permits are issued.

Jacobson expects those by the end of the year. He said if all goes as planned, his group will buy the property in January.

The city issued a site-work permit Nov. 29 for tree removal and is reviewing seven permits for the project. Those show an estimated construction cost of $41 million.

Jacobson said the site work probably won’t start until the spring.

Completion had been expected in late 2018. That now will be early to mid-2019.

Jacobson said it would be a 26-month process and he hopes to have the 27 rental townhomes completed then, too.

Publix will anchor the retail component of East San Marco, which will include more shops as well as a separate garage for customers.

The development will feature 239 apartments and a separate parking deck to serve tenants. The plans say there will be 42 studio, 117 one-bedroom, 76 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom units.

The seven permits comprise:

• Publix, 33,481 square feet.

• Retail space, 13,524 square feet. The interior space will be submitted for permits when tenants have been identified.

• A ground-level parking garage for customers of Publix and the retailers.

• Three permits for a five-story and two four-story components of the residential portion.

• A six-level parking deck for the residential tenants.

The retail stores and apartments will wrap around the parking structures.

The Preston Partnership LLC of Atlanta is the architect.

Jacksonville-based Whitehall Realty Partners is a co-developer with a focus on local matters, Jacobson said.

Regency Centers, a nationwide retail developer and owner, will buy back the retail portion and serve as the landlord for it.

East San Marco was first announced in 2006 by Regency Centers and The St. Joe Co., a former developer on the deal.

It stalled along the way with the recession and other delays.

Jacobson said previously that ArchCo and Bluerock began looking at the project in 2014 and a purchase agreement was executed in February 2015.

Firehouse Subs HQ moving over weekend

Firehouse Restaurant Group Inc. and its subsidiaries will move headquarters this weekend to Flagler Center, leaving its longtime operations along Kori Road in Mandarin.

“We are official Monday at the new location with well over 100 staff reporting for duty,” said Cecily Sorensen, vice president of corporate communications.

Firehouse Restaurant Group is the parent company of the nationwide Firehouse Subs chain.

Sorensen said Thursday it was a bittersweet day, “a lot of memories.” The last day in the office is today.

Firehouse Subs is moving into Suite 150 at 12735 Gran Bay Parkway.

Co-founder Robin Sorensen said in July the 22-year-old company will move 110 employees from six buildings in Mandarin to Flagler Center. It also will leave leased space along Shad Road.

The new location gives the company space to grow, almost doubling in size from nearly 17,000 square feet now to 31,525 square feet. He said it is an 11-year commitment.

Sorensen said the move solves parking issues, offering 189 spaces; upgrades the office space; and provides a convenient location for staff.

Flagler Center comprises about 1,000 acres. Baptist Medical Center South, Citicorp and are a few of the organizations that operate there.

Sorensen said Firehouse Subs now operates in six buildings, primarily along Kori Road and another facility on Shad Road.

The main Kori Road operation began as a single office originally occupied by Firehouse Subs partner Stephen Joost in the mid-1990s. It has expanded to almost 14,300 square feet.

The company leases 2,400 square feet at 5220 Shad Road, Suite 405. That began in November 2011.

Sorensen and his brother, Chris, are co-founders of the Firehouse Restaurant Group.

There are 1,038 Firehouse Subs in 44 states and Puerto Rico and four in Canada. Of those, 32 are company-owned and the others are franchises.

Firehouse projects sales of $680 million for 2016.

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