In the zone: JEDC wants to expand Bay Street entertainment area

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  • | 12:00 p.m. June 8, 2011
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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Downtown entertainment options are up for expansion this week at the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission.

Staff recommends the commission authorize the introduction of legislation to Jacksonville City Council to change the name of the Bay Street Town Center Entertainment Zone to E-Town Zone and expand its boundaries and include more businesses.

The legislation is one of several action items on the commission’s agenda at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall. In addition to the EverBank and parking garage projects previously reported, the commission is scheduled to consider two more Downtown projects as well as a vote concerning The Bolles School.

Expansion of the Downtown entertainment options would create more sidewalk cafes for eating and drinking.

Under a past ordinance, Downtown restaurants could use sidewalks fronting their buildings for expanded restaurant seating, provided that more than half of overall sales were from food and nonalcoholic beverages. Customers could consume alcohol only within the sidewalk café area.

In 2007, following the 2005 Super Bowl, Council amended the ordinance to allow bar owners along Bay Street to create a sidewalk café. Council then approved an ordinance creating the Bay Street Town Center Entertainment Zone, which included properties fronting Bay Street between Liberty and Ocean streets. It called for bar owners to serve alcohol only within their primary establishments or within the approved sidewalk café area.

Since then, more restaurants and bars opened along Bay Street and along nearby streets, including Ocean, Forsyth and Adams streets between Main and Liberty streets. The commission staff proposes the zone be expanded to accommodate bar owners who seek sidewalk cafes fronting their buildings.

That area would include:

• Forsyth Street between Main and Liberty streets.

• Adams Street between Main and Newnan streets.

• Ocean Street between Newnan and Adams streets.

• Newnan Street between Bay and Forsyth streets.

• Market Streets between Bay and Forsyth streets.

“The Bay Street Town Center Entertainment Zone has not experienced any negative consequences associated with patrons’ ability to drink responsibly within the approved sidewalk café area,” said the commission’s project summary.

Another Downtown action item is the “Churchwell Lofts Parking Lease.”

Staff recommends the commission authorize legislation for Council to approve a new lease and operating agreement with Churchwell Lofts at East Bay Condominium Association Inc. The project is at 301 E. Bay St., at Bay and Market streets.

The development consists of 21 units at the J.H. Churchwell building, built after the 1901 fire and renovated into lofts in 2006. The City and JEDC entered into a lease and operating agreement with the developer, Pavelka Properties LLC, for a City-owned parking lot at Market and Forsyth streets.

The project summary said Pavelka developed the lot into a 34-space surface lot for the lofts and the 9,000 square feet of retail and commercial space on the first floor. The City provided Pavelka with a rent credit of $120,000 when the lot was completed and Pavelka was to make quarterly rent payments.

“Due to the current economic conditions, Pavelka was not able to make rent payments as the condominium units were not selling and owners of the units were not paying their association fees,” said the summary.

It said operations were turned over to new operators Jay Mock and Harry Trevett, who agreed to end the existing lease and start a new one. The new lease has a shortened term and the City suspended rent payments for five years.

The current lease is for 50 years and the new one is for five years, with one five-year renewal option.

Rental payments under the current lease are $80 per space, about $2,720 a year. The new lease calls for free rent for the five-year term and market-rate rent for the renewal term.

Both leases say the developer is responsible for maintenance.

When the lease ends, the property and improvements are returned to the City, said the summary.

As for Bolles, the private college preparatory school has requested the commission to issue up to $10 million in industrial development bonds on its behalf. The commission and the City will have no liability for payment of any debt service on the bonds. The pledge sources of repayment of the bonds are loan repayments as part of a loan agreement with Compass Mortgage Corp.

A project summary shows that Bolles plans to refinance its existing debt and use about $1.1 million of the proceeds to update its campuses.

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