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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 27, 201708:51 AM EST

Townhomes in review for Nero’s site

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Arlington property could become 66-unit Jackson Commons.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

For decades, Nero’s Italian Cafe in Arlington served as a centerpiece of what was the place to live among Jacksonville’s young executives.

As the general neighborhood declined and retailers left, the restaurant continued to operate before closing late last summer. 

Just as the restaurant served as the hub of activity in the community in its heyday, the site will become a catalyst for redevelopment of the area a mile north of Jacksonville University if a developer has its way.

 Orlando-based Tramell Webb Partners Inc. is proposing Jackson Commons Townhomes, a 66-unit development on the 3.3-acre site that incorporates three parcels at Fort Caroline Road and University Boulevard. 

The site includes the now-demolished Nero’s, the Blue Boy Sandwich Shop and a vacant lot.

Taylor & White Inc., on behalf of the owners, has filed an application for a zoning exception with the City of Jacksonville for the property.

It currently is zoned Commercial Community General (CCG-1), under which multifamily residential may be integrated with a permitted use, in this case 4,125 square feet of new retail space at the corner of Fort Caroline Road and University Boulevard. 

Immediately surrounding the site are commercial uses including a restaurant, car wash, retail, gas station, bank and professional office space. 

The site fronts Fort Caroline Road, a four-lane major roadway. According to the application the property includes adequate room for parking and maneuvering of vehicles per the proposed site plan.

Jackson Commons will include 17 four-bedroom/four-bathroom townhomes, one three-bedroom/three-bath townhome, 18 three-bedroom/three-bath flats and 30 two-bedroom/two-bath flats. 

The plan includes a swimming pool for use by the residents. It is believed by the developer, according to the application, that Jackson Commons will help revitalize that area of Arlington and attract additional economic development to the neighborhood.

The total assessed value of the three parcels in 2016 was $1.07 million. 

City Council member John Crescimbeni, whose At-Large residency includes Arlington, said he is unaware of the Jackson Commons proposal but is very aware of the location, having grown up nearby. 

He expressed concern about townhomes being the highest and best use of the property and how such a project might fit into the overall scope of continuing work by the Renew Arlington Community Redevelopment Agency.

“I grew up two streets from that intersection and used to catch a bus there to high school,” said Crescimbeni. “I saw that corner go from a gas station to an Italian restaurant and back to a vacant lot, so we are all about seeing redevelopment within the CRA boundaries.”

Crescimbeni wants more information before endorsing the project.

“It would have to be beneficial to the area in the long term and not just in the short term, and I am a little skeptical about townhomes there. I would have to learn more about what kind of townhomes we are talking about before I could get behind that.”

The Renew Arlington boundary stretches along University Boulevard from the Arlington Expressway north to the Jackson Commons site, and west along Merrill Road from University Boulevard to Interstate 295.

Tramell Webb Partners Inc. specializes in single-family land development, multifamily development and real estate consulting services.

Principals Joe Tramell, John Webb and Toby Arnheim have experience in large, master-planned, mixed-use communities, including planning, designing, financing, construction and development.

They could not be reached for comment.

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