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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 13, 202108:30 PM EST

Union Terminal Warehouse approved for landmark status

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Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures plans to pursue historic tax credits for an adaptive reuse project.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

The Jacksonville City Council named the Eastside area’s historic Union Terminal Warehouse at 700 E Union St. a local landmark at the request of the owner East Union Property Owner LLC.

Council voted 19-0 on April 13 to approve the landmark designation, which will make Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures LLC’s plans to convert the structure into apartments eligible for city incentives and federal historic tax credits.

The final vote follows the Council Land Use and Zoning Committee’s 7-0 approval April 6.

East Union Property Owner, a Columbia Ventures subsidiary, bought the more than 7-acre property near TIAA Bank Field and north of the Arlington Expressway on Dec. 3, 2018, for $4.6 million.

The company’s proposed development includes up to 750,000 square feet of residential and nonresidential uses within the existing or new buildings. The mix allows up to 473 dwelling units.

Proposed nonresidential uses include retail, offices, galleries, child care, hotel, storage, veterinary, restaurants, nightclubs, breweries, fabrication, churches and pharmacies.

Staff with the city’s Planning and Development Department Historic Preservation Section found the warehouse meets five of the city’s seven criteria for landmark status, according to the Council Ordinance 2021-0139. 

The staff’s Feb. 24 report says Union Terminal Warehouse is significant for its contribution to commerce in Jacksonville as a successful wholesale/grocery/merchandise storage facility from its completion in 1913 through 1934. 

Among the findings, the staff report says the building’s architecture is a “rare and intact” example of one of the largest reinforced concrete industrial steel loft buildings of its time in Jacksonville.

Columbia Ventures subsidiary, bought the more than 7-acre property near TIAA Bank Field and north of the Arlington Expressway on Dec. 3, 2018, for $4.6 million.

Turner Construction Co. built Union Terminal Warehouse from 1912-13 and has been vacant only for a brief period in the 1970s, according to the report. 

Property records show additions to the site at 640-648 E. Union St. continued through 1990.

The city Historic Preservation Commission recommended Feb. 24 that the Council approve the designation.

Ward Architecture + Preservation of Savannah, Georgia, prepared the owner’s application, according to documents submitted to the city.

Columbia Ventures co-founder and Managing Partner Dillon Baynes signed the application through subsidiary East Union Holdings LLC, according to the records.

The main building has been housing creative loft spaces for artists, woodworking, makers and manufacturers. The other buildings have office space, car repair services and leased storage space.

Baynes said in January he wants to keep as many of those creative tenants as possible as Columbia Ventures adapts the space for commercial, retail and residential uses.

Baynes said the renovations also could create opportunities for dining and entertainment.

The main warehouse, which has a basement, is leased for loft space for artists and for manufacturing. The other buildings are used for storage, office, internet auto sales and car repair.

The company obtained a $4.5 million mortgage from the Jacksonville branch of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, through its acquisition predevelopment loan program.

In January, Baynes said he would pursue federal historic tax credits to help offset construction costs. 

He said residential won’t be the primary use for the main building but that workforce housing will be included. 

Columbia Ventures is affiliated with the Atlanta-based housing development and property management firm Columbia Residential, which has apartment communities and senior living facilities in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. 

In May 2019, Council approved the Jacksonville Planning Commission’s recommendation to rezone and amend the land use of the property at 648 E. Union St. for mixed-use development, including residential, commercial and compatible light industrial uses.

Those plans showed the 7.35-acre property included the main warehouse and six more warehouse and office buildings.

The columbiaven.com site says Columbia Ventures plans its adaptive reuse “as a vibrant mixed-use community, utilizing historic tax credits and opportunity zone equity as key components of the capital stack.”

The city issued a permit Jan. 6 for WPC – Winter Park Construction – to perform the $2.7 million demolition and concrete restoration of the four-story, 365,434-square-foot building for mixed uses.

Columbia Ventures partner Jakob von Trapp said in a May 5 email that the demolition is for initial repairs to the building’s interior to prepare for the adaptive reuse project.

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