A catalyst for Downtown revival

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  • | 12:00 p.m. September 25, 2009
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by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

Two events that occurred Downtown in 1916 had no connection at the time, but now 93 years later history is at a point of intersection. One of the notable events was the founding of Perdue’s Office Furniture on Bay Street, the other was the opening of Woolworth’s “dime store” on the corner of Main and Forsyth streets. Woolworth’s closed many years ago and Perdue’s moved away from Downtown to Baymeadows about 25 years ago.

The “intersection” will be realized in about a month when Perdue Office Interiors opens its new showroom in the former Woolworth’s Building, a relocation decision that Vince McCormack, president of Perdue Office Interiors, said is best for the growth of his company.

“We looked at more than 20 properties all over town,” he said. “We decided Downtown is where we want to be for the long-term.”

McCormack went to work for Perdue soon after the company moved to Baymeadows and purchased it several years ago. His connection to Downtown goes back much farther.

“I was born in Jacksonville and raised in Ortega. My father was a banker so he spent his entire career Downtown and I used to visit him at his office,” said McCormack.

As he stood at his new front door and surveyed the Downtown skyline Thursday morning, McCormack noted that the company was moving into the middle of the highest density of prospective clients for office interiors anywhere in Duval County.

“Think about how many tenants there are just in the Bank of America Building and they’ll be able to walk to our showroom,” he said.

The motives behind the relocation went beyond the benefits for the business. McCormack is active with the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce and its Cornerstone Regional Development Partnership.

“We have to have a thriving Downtown with an active business community. We were able for find a building with a great location and image and our being here will bring people Downtown who might otherwise not come here,” he said.

Perdue Office Interiors entered into a long-term lease with Petra Management, which represents a landlord with what is likely the most extensive portfolio of commercial space in the urban core.

Broker Rich Trendel commented, “There are companies that will look at Downtown. It just takes landlords that will work with businesses to make the numbers make sense. Downtown has to meet a business’s needs and their wants. That’s how we can get the ball rolling to revitalize Downtown.”

Trendel also pointed out the opening of Perdue’s showroom by the first of November will coincide with another opening a few blocks away. A new nightclub and lounge is under construction in the former Florida Ballet Building on Forsyth Street facing the Florida Theatre.

“That means there will be two new retailers opening Downtown in buildings that have been vacant for years,” he said.

In a statement released Wednesday, Mayor John Peyton said, “I am pleased that Perdue has chosen to relocate its offices to one of our most historic Downtown buildings and I hope its move serves as a catalyst for other companies to follow suit.”

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