Developer seeks to begin selective demolition at Union Terminal Warehouse

Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures plans to restore, convert building into apartments.

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Atlanta-based Columbia Ventures LLC applied to the city for selective demolition within the Union Terminal Warehouse at 700 E. Union St. as it plans to convert the structure for mixed uses.

WPC - Winter Park Construction - of Maitland is listed as the contractor for the $2.7 million demolition and concrete restoration of the four-story, 365,434-square-foot building.

Columbia Ventures intends to convert the structure into apartments through adaptive reuse and a historic tax credit conversion.

Plans say the demolition is for a project that involves the remodeling of the historic Union Terminal Warehouse built in 1913. 

“We have filed a partial interior repair and demolition permit simply to make initial repairs to the interior of the building in preparation for our planned adaptive re-use of the building,” said Columbia Ventures partner Jakob von Trapp in an email May 5.

COVID-19 is a determining factor on timing.

“In light of the uncertainty in the capital and real estate markets that the global pandemic has created, it would be irresponsible for us to speculate on exact timing and program for our proposed adaptive re-use,” von Trapp said.

“That said, we continue to move the design forward,” he said, and hopes to know more in the third quarter.

Plans say the original windows have been replaced but the majority of the existing historic elevators, stairs and canopies exist.

Columbia Ventures intends to convert the structure into apartments through adaptive reuse and a historic tax credit conversion.
Columbia Ventures intends to convert the structure into apartments through adaptive reuse and a historic tax credit conversion.

The renovation permit is not part of the demolition plans.

Dasher Hurst Architects of Jacksonville is the architect.

Through East Union Property Owner LLC, Columbia Ventures bought the more than 7-acre property Dec. 3, 2018, for $4.6 million.

Partner Dillon Baynes said then the adaptive reuse could include commercial, retail and residential elements as well as opportunities for dining and entertainment.

“This is a building that after 106 years has some deferred maintenance that needs to be addressed before we do anything else,” he said of the 298,171-square-foot main structure. 

Property records show seven buildings built between 1912 and 1990 at 640-648 E. Union St.

The property is north of the Mathews Bridge ramp and near Hogans Creek, not far from TIAA Bank Field.

The main building has been housing creative loft spaces for artists, woodworking, makers and manufacturers. The other buildings have office space, car repair services and leased storage space. 

Baynes said he wants to keep as many of those creative tenants as possible. 

The company obtained a $4.5 million mortgage from the Jacksonville branch of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, through its acquisition predevelopment loan program. 

Baynes said he would pursue federal historic tax credits to help offset construction costs. He said residential won’t be the primary use for the main building, but that workforce housing will be included. 

Columbia Ventures is affiliated with the Atlanta-based housing development and property management firm Columbia Residential, which has apartment communities and senior living facilities in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. 

A year ago, May 9, the Jacksonville Planning Commission recommended approval to rezone and amend the land use of the property at 648 E. Union St. for mixed-use development, including residential, commercial and compatible light industrial uses.

Those plans showed the 7.35-acre property included the main warehouse and six more warehouse and office buildings constructed between 1912 and 1990.

 In 1913, owner C.B. Gay declared the Union Terminal Warehouse to be the largest warehouse in Florida.

The main warehouse, which has a basement, is leased for loft space for artists and for manufacturing. The other buildings are used for storage, office, internet auto sales and car repair.

The proposed development includes up to 750,000 square feet of residential and nonresidential uses within the existing or new buildings. The mix allows up to 473 dwelling units.

Proposed nonresidential uses include, for example, retail, offices, galleries, child care, hotel, storage, veterinary, restaurants, nightclubs, breweries, fabrication, churches and pharmacies.

City Council enacted legislation in May 2019 to change the land use designation and to rezone the property for the mixed-use development.

The site says Columbia Ventures plans its adaptive reuse “as a vibrant mixed-use community, utilizing historic tax credits and opportunity zone equity as key components of the capital stack.”