Vestcor wants to add a second phase to Lofts at LaVilla

Apartment project isn't finished, but already fully leased.

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  • | 6:50 a.m. November 1, 2017
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Downtown’s LaVilla neighborhood could gain 132 more residences and a possible commercial project on a vacant city-owned site.

The Downtown Investment Authority approved several resolutions Tuesday that allow DIA staff and developers to take steps toward the development.

Vestcor Inc. wants to continue building housing in LaVilla with a proposed $28 million second-phase addition to the Lofts at LaVilla.

The first phase, a 130-unit apartment project near the Prime Osborn Convention Center, is scheduled to open by year-end and is completely leased. The company also is building the 118-unit Lofts at Monroe nearby.

The DIA approved a $400,000 loan from the Downtown Economic Development Fund along with a Recapture Enhanced Value grant for 75 percent of the ad valorem tax increment generated over 15 years.

The REV grant, funded through the Northwest Tax Increment Finance District Trust Fund, would not exceed $2.98 million over that time.

Of the 132 one- and two-bedroom apartments, 80 would be considered affordable housing and reserved for people with incomes below 60 percent of Jacksonville’s area median income. That cap is $51,000 for a family of four.

Vestcor would need to seek approval from the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority and Florida Housing Finance Corp. for a 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credit for those 80 units.

The other 52 apartments would be workforce housing for those with incomes below 140 percent of the area median income. That cap is $91,000 for a family of four.

Aundra Wallace, CEO of the DIA, said the REV grant is needed to make the project feasible for the 52 workforce housing units, since the entire development won’t be affordable housing.

Vestcor also is working to secure a $1.5 million loan from Local Initiatives Support Corp. to fill a shortfall in the initial development budget.

According to Resolution 2017-10-05, the city would be responsible for repaying the loan through REV grant payments over the first 15 years, “upon correct and sufficient documentation of payment of the ad valorem taxes,” with any additional payments being made by Vestcor.

Wallace said all of the approvals rely on Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

“I won’t take this to City Council until I know they’ve received those tax credits,” Wallace said.

He said the Jacksonville Housing Finance Authority could approve the credits by Nov. 8, with a decision from the state by spring.

“With this project, we’re taking the next step,” Wallace said. “We’re moving away from affordable housing with more workforce housing.”

Wallace said the next step is to generate demand for market-rate rents “as we begin to bring this neighborhood back.”

Pending approvals, Vestcor will develop the block between Lee and North Jefferson streets and between West Bay and West Forsyth streets.

“This is about finishing a particular block so we can move forward with other opportunities in the area,” Wallace said.

It would be Vestcor’s third LaVilla housing project, after the first phase of the Lofts at LaVilla and the 118-unit Lofts at Monroe. The three projects add 390 residential units to the historic neighborhood.

The DIA also voted to give Vestcor the development rights to the property through a separate resolution.

DIA to market property

DIA board members approved marketing the former Lee & Cates Glass building at 905 W. Forsyth St. in LaVilla to potential developers.

The city bought the property in 2003.

A recent appraisal by Jones Lange LaSalle IP Inc. valued the almost quarter-acre site at $250,000.

Built in 1908, the building has been vacant for several years and suffered interior fire damage, according to DIA Chair Jim Bailey.  

The original structure is about 5,600 square feet with a 1,700-square-foot addition.

According to DIA Operations Manager Guy Parola, two parties who “seem capable and have the will to develop the property” have expressed interest.

The DIA will post a 30-day public notice soliciting proposals from potential developers.

According to DIA Resolution 2017-10-03, prospective buyers will need to demonstrate they have the financial resources, development experience and the ability to take on the project consistent with the Northbank and Southside Community Redevelopment Area, and a competitive financial offer for the property.