DIA to consider JU expansion, Jones Brothers building restoration

University wants to expand film program; furniture store could become apartments.

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  • | 5:31 a.m. March 21, 2018
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The Downtown historic Jones Brothers Furniture Building could be transformed into apartments, retail and office space.
The Downtown historic Jones Brothers Furniture Building could be transformed into apartments, retail and office space.
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Jacksonville University intends to expand its Downtown presence by moving a film program to the WJCT station, while owners of the historic Jones Brothers Furniture Building want to restore it for apartments, retail and office use.

The Downtown Investment Authority is scheduled to review both proposals Wednesday. 

Arlington-based JU wants to expand its Downtown campus by moving its Bachelor of Arts in Film program to the WJCT television offices at 100 Festival Park Ave. near EverBank Field. The school set up its first Downtown programs at the SunTrust Tower.

The school seeks a five-year, interest-free $100,000 loan from the DIA through its Downtown Development Fund.

According to a DIA term sheet, the private university wants to increase its film program enrollment of 17 undergraduates by partnering with the Beijing Film Academy to bring 60 international students to the school by the fall 2019 semester. 

JU plans to invest $100,000 in tenant improvements, capital expenditures and tangible personal property at the WJCT facilities.

The loan is forgivable, at a rate of 1.667 percent per month, if the school meets enrollment benchmarks. 

The school must enroll 12 students in the program in the first semester, 17 in the second and 40 students after that. Loan forgiveness would start after the first month of the lease period, regardless of when the loan is disbursed. 

The deal expires May 15 if not executed.

Jones Furniture Building 

Office, retail and 28 apartments are planned for the vacant Jones Brothers Furniture Building at 520 N. Hogan St. and an attached retail space at 502 N. Hogan St. 

Developer ACE JAX LLC seeks $2.25 million from the city to redevelop the seven-story historic structure and neighboring building. 

According to a DIA resolution, ACE JAX plans to invest $11.1 million in the renovation. 

ACE plans to build-out 28 apartments, 10,247 square feet of retail space and 1,040 square feet of office space. 

The former Jones Brothers Furniture Co. building is owned by O U R Properties Inc. and the building next door is owned by Mandarin Emporium Inc. 

ACE JAX LLC is led by managers Elias Hionides and Christian Allen of Atlantic Beach.

Hionides is vice president of Petra Management Inc.

ACE JAX requests a $1.5 million grant from the Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund. The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission would have to approve the grant, which would not be disbursed until the last Certificate of Occupancy is issued. 

According to a DIA term sheet, ACE JAX also seeks a $750,000 loan from the Downtown Economic Development Trust Fund, payable over 20 years at 1.5 percent per annum. ACE JAX would make interest-only payments for the first 12 months, with the rest amortized over the next 240 months. 

The city will have the second position on the mortgage. 

Additionally, the city will sell ACE JAX an adjacent 1.7-acre parking lot along West Ashley Street for $1. According to the Duval County Property Appraiser, the land is valued at $120,670. 

An agreement must be approved by the DIA, City Council and the mayor’s office.

The deal expires April 3 if is not executed. 

The DIA is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Lynwood Roberts Room on the first floor of City Hall at 117 W. Duval St. 



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