It’s old, renovated, technically Downtown and now has what its longtime owner considers the right buyer.
“I think the O’Steens are the perfect people,” said photographer and artist Daryl Bunn, who sold his 101-year-old Edison building to O’Steen Investment Group LLC two weeks ago after his 38 years of caregiving.
“They love the building.”
The O’Steen Investment Group plans to move its headquarters there.
“It is a neat old building and it has the balcony up top, and the area is growing,” said Mark O’Steen, a partner in the investment group.
“We have been looking around. We wanted to lease or purchase a corporate office and my son came across the Edison property and we fell in love with it,” he said.
O’Steen Investment Group LLC, through Edison Property LLC, bought into the Brooklyn-Riverside area of Downtown with the $825,000 purchase Sept. 18 of the Edison building. Duval County property records show it was built in 1919.
The two-story building is at 635 Edison Ave., just off Riverside Avenue and near the 220 Riverside apartment community, the Fidelity National Information Services Inc. headquarters development and the Park Street revitalization.
It sits within the Downtown Investment Authority overlay district, an area the city targets for redevelopment.
“We like the Riverside area and we definitely like that area because it is up-and-coming,” O’Steen said. “It really is growing.”
O’Steen said his group looked “everywhere,” and the Edison offered easy access to Interstate 95 and is convenient to their homes and well-known area auto dealerships.
The 5,855-square-foot building occupies 0.14 acres at Edison Avenue and May Street.
The Edison can be used as commercial or residential space with an open floor plan with restrooms and a kitchen on each of the two floors.
O’Steen said the investment group will perform some renovations, such as painting and creating six offices and meeting space.
“The building is in pretty good shape,” he said.
He expects that work will be completed in about 60 days.
The group is flexible – it can use either the top or ground floor and allow the other to be leased to a tenant, possibly for offices or for retail such as coffee and wine shops.
The group had considered four or five locations. Mark O’Steen’s son Chip O’Steen proposed looking near Downtown and found the Edison online.
O’Steen, his brother Harold “Hal” O’Steen Jr. and their cousin, Tom O’Steen, are the managers of O’Steen Investment Group LLC.
“After we put a pencil to the project, location, the mixed-use ability and the future growth of Brooklyn, the project made perfect sense, along with its major character factor,” said Robert O’Steen, Tom O’Steen’s son and head of corporate development and investments for the investment group.
More than auto sales
The O’Steens are well known for their automotive dealerships.
Mark, Hal and Tom O’Steen are partners and officers in O’Steen Automotive Group Inc., which owns O’Steen Volvo and O’Steen Volkswagen in Jacksonville.
O’Steen Automotive Group of Georgia owns a Volkswagen and Subaru dealership in Valdosta, Georgia.
The three O’Steens along with Chip O’Steen and Jason Archer are partners in the Georgia dealerships.
Chip O’Steen is COO for O’Steen Automotive Group and O’Steen Automotive Group of Georgia.
O’Steen Investment Group owns the properties used by the automotive group in Jacksonville, but not the dealership business. It also owns some commercial rental properties, as well as the Edison.
The investment group is establishing itself.
Robert O’Steen said the group “will continue to evaluate and pursue possible investment real estate deals, dealership acquisitions and other diversification and growth opportunities.”
He said there are no plans to reach out to DIA but would welcome a conversation if the authority wants to talk about the building.
The investment group headquarters now is at 11401 Philips Highway, the O’Steen Volkswagen dealership.
Mark, Hal, Tom and Robert O’Steen will have offices in the Edison. Mark O’Steen’s sons Chip and Cody could have offices there eventually. Doug Ison, auto group comptroller, also might have one.
Cody O’Steen is a project manager at The Vestcor Companies, a Jacksonville developer that is building apartments throughout Downtown.
Bunn and the Edison
The Edison property holds history, having survived for decades before it found itself surrounded by growth in the reviving Brooklyn area.
“Yes, I sold my beloved Edison to the O’Steens,” said Bunn, who operated Daryl Bunn Studios on the ground floor and lived on the top floor.
Eric Maimo of Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Properties served as a transaction broker and marketed the property.
Bunn said that after 43 years of commercial photography and supporting the arts in Jacksonville, he recently returned to Michigan to help care for his parents, in their 90s.
He said he wants to thank Jacksonville for its support.
Chip O’Steen found the building online. Bunn found it on two wheels.
“I got on my bicycle and rode all the streets and saw Edison Avenue,” he said of the building.
“It was boarded up. It was very close to being condemned.”
He found that florist and caterer Richard Stuart owned it.
“He said, OK, you think you’re man enough to save that building?” Bunn recalled as Stuart’s challenge.
“I was young, strong and stupid and we did a 10-year lease on it starting at $300 a month.”
Its many previous uses included Stuart’s Corner House restaurant.
When Bunn moved in, the Edison had plywood as a front door and most of the windows were broken out.
“What a different neighborhood it was in 1982,” he said. Bunn rented the building for 10 years while restoring it.
The rent escalated and Bunn, putting monetary and sweat equity into renovations, asked annually to buy the building. Stuart always said no.
But Stuart instructed his estate that after his death to “do everything you can to let Daryl buy the building,” Bunn said.
In 1992, Bunn bought the Edison from the estate and renovated the structure three times over the years.
Bunn said the building is not designated historic or as a landmark. He didn’t seek those preservation tax credits because he wanted to ensure the Edison was functional, and a designation would direct what he could and couldn’t do.
Visitors interested in the building took a last look Sept. 4-6 when China Cat Estate Sales ran the Daryl Bunn Studios sale.
It featured artwork and photography by Bunn and others; custom and other furniture pieces; photography equipment; electronics; and miscellaneous items that included a snow shovel and bolts of fabric.
Bunn said the snow shovel was from North Carolina property he sold and the fabric was used with a charity display.
He wasn’t at the sale, but Facebook friends posted what they bought. “So many things ended up where they will be loved like I loved them and taken care of,” Bunn said.
In a December 2016 profile in the Daily Record, Bunn said he had been a Jacksonville commercial product photographer who has been producing images for clients for more than 40 years.
He also is a fine art photographer, serigraphy artist, art collector, designer and woodworker.
Bunn said his passion for photography began when his parents gave him a camera for Christmas in northern Michigan. He spent three years in the Navy as a photographer, which brought him to Cecil Field in Jacksonville.
After a brief return to Michigan, he came back to Jacksonville to start a photography business in the back of a frame shop at San Juan Avenue and Blanding Boulevard. He found a niche shooting for advertising agencies, eventually doing tabletop and product work.
Bunn’s woodworking included building the kitchen cabinets at the Edison along with some tables used to display his art collection.
His fine art photography can be found on the walls of the Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, law firms and in private collections throughout the area.
Bunn, 67, said Sept. 28 it was time to move on.
“I did my gig and it treated me extremely well, as did Jacksonville,” he said.
Bunn said he supported the arts and the community. “Any charity that wanted to use Edison Avenue, it was theirs for free.”
After deciding to sell it, Bunn said he showed the building “hundreds of times” to prospective buyers, and some wanted to tear it down.
“It needed a new caretaker and I think the O’Steens will take care of it,” Bunn said.