Laura Street Trio plans may take an upscale turn

Developer Steve Atkins plans to start work in 2021 on the Downtown project that could become part of the Marriott Autograph brand.


The Laura Street Trio at 51 W. Forsyth St. Downtown comprises the Florida Life Building (left), the Bisbee Building and the Marble Bank Building (front).
The Laura Street Trio at 51 W. Forsyth St. Downtown comprises the Florida Life Building (left), the Bisbee Building and the Marble Bank Building (front).
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SouthEast Development Group LLC Managing Director Steve Atkins said Dec. 14 Marriott is reviewing the proposed Laura Street Trio adaptive reuse project Downtown as a candidate for its Autograph Collection of hotels.

SouthEast Development Group LLC Managing Director Steve Atkins intends to transform the Laura Street Trio into a mixed-use development with a hotel and grocery.
SouthEast Development Group LLC Managing Director Steve Atkins intends to transform the Laura Street Trio into a mixed-use development with a hotel and grocery.

The possibility of raising the Trio hotel’s profile from the previously announced Courtyard by Marriott to Autograph comes as Atkins and the Downtown Investment Authority work toward a new city-backed development deal to renovate the three historic vacant structures at 51 W. Forsyth St.

Atkins said he intends to submit final documents to the DIA before its January board meeting.

The Trio is designed as a hotel, office, commercial and retail space that includes a small grocery.

Marriott’s possible upgrade adds another element to the project, which occupies the high profile northeast corner of Laura and Adams streets.

The chain has 180 independent boutique hotels worldwide that feature custom designs in the Autograph brand, according to the hotel company’s website. The closest is the Casa Monica Resort & Spa in St. Augustine.

“We’re already exceeding the Courtyard standard,” Atkins said. “So we are already checking all the boxes. It sort of makes sense.”

Atkins said a restaurant and bar planned for the Trio’s Marble Bank Building is part of Marriott’s review. 

He said the restaurant and 145-room hotel are required to be a minimum four-star quality for the Autograph brand and the restaurant must serve three meals per day.

Atkins purchased a Marriott franchise in 2014. He said Oct. 23 that he’s working with a third-party group that specializes in adaptive-reuse hotels to manage it.

Atkins said he expects an adaptive-reuse product like the Trio could be on the front end of a hospitality market rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

New deal

Atkins faced starts and stops in the Trio renovation since his holding company, Southeast Holdings LP, purchased the property in March 2013 through Laura Trio LLC.

The Florida Life Building, the Bisbee Building and the Marble Bank Building comprise the Trio.

Atkins acquired the former Barnett National Bank Building at 112 W. Adams St. in a deal, aided by $3 million in financing from a company led by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

But that deal fell through after litigation and Atkins entered a partnership with Las Vegas-based The Molasky Group of Cos. to co-own the Barnett in 2017 through Barnett Tower 2 LLC. 

State records show it is managed by Barnett Tower Holdings LLC, which Atkins said is a joint company of SouthEast and Molasky.

City Council approved $9.8 million in June 2017 for SouthEast and Molasky to renovate the Barnett and the Trio.

The Laura Street Trio as seen from the roof of The Barnett building next door. Steve Atkins was part of the group that redeveloped The Barnett into apartments.
The Laura Street Trio as seen from the roof of The Barnett building next door. Steve Atkins was part of the group that redeveloped The Barnett into apartments.

The deal included $8 million from the Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund and a Recapture Enhanced Value grant up to $1.8 million to be paid out over 20 years.

After SouthEast missed a deadline to complete a parking garage that was part of a deal to redevelop the Barnett, DIA CEO Lori Boyer announced in September 2019 the DIA and project developers were renegotiating the city agreement to ensure the Trio is renovated.

Boyer told City Council members in October the Trio was one of three projects waiting for the Downtown Preservation and Revitalization Program to pass Council.

Council unanimously approved the overhaul to the city’s adaptive reuse incentives Oct. 13. 

SouthEast’s application to the DIA and city will request Downtown preservation incentive dollars and Atkins said he also plans to use federal historic tax credits to finance the project.

The developer did not release the breakdown between public and private investment, but he said there will be a “fairly large” private cash investment. 

Atkins said he has secured the private capital financing portion of what he expects to be a $63 million to $65 million Trio project. 

SouthEast will not work with Molasky in the latest Trio proposal, Atkins said. 

The interior of the Marble Bank Building, part of the Laura Street Trio, could be transformed into a restaurant.
The interior of the Marble Bank Building, part of the Laura Street Trio, could be transformed into a restaurant.

The program

In addition to the hotel, Atkins plans a 4,000-square-foot bodega-style grocery store in the space. He has not released the identity of the operator.

“It certainly will address the lifestyle of a lot of our clientele Downtown,” Atkins said. “If they can just have a place to walk across the street and get some toilet paper, you don’t have to take a trek out of Downtown.”

There also will be about 4,000 square feet of additional ground-floor retail space, Atkins said.

“The program at Trio is fairly limited because of the size. We will have some additional street-level retail,” he said.

He said he has spoken with some operators but will not offer the space until about a year after work begins on the Trio.

“I’m specifically holding that piece until the end. The Trio program is about a 24-month build and markets can change a lot,” Atkins said. “But certainly it will be a very important corner to reactivate Downtown.”

Danis Builders LLC, which worked with SouthEast on The Barnett, will be the contractor.

A window at the Marble Bank Building.
A window at the Marble Bank Building.

Atkins wants to start work on the project in the first quarter of 2021.