Developer: New Laura Street Trio proposal expected

DIA CEO Lori Boyer said three Downtown adaptive reuse projects could be announced soon with passage of the historic incentives expansion.

The Laura Street Trio at 51 W. Forsyth St. Downtown.
The Laura Street Trio at 51 W. Forsyth St. Downtown.
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Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer said Oct. 13 that she expects a new deal to redevelop the Laura Street Trio will be ready within six months after City Council passed a bill overhauling the city’s adaptive reuse incentives.

Boyer told Council members that plans for the Trio project and two others are nearing completion and were waiting for Ordinance 2020-0527 to be enacted.

Plans for the Trio at 51 W. Forsyth St. include a Courtyard by Marriott hotel, an urban grocery store and a restaurant.

“I have probably three applicants that you would see very quickly, including the Trio, who have been working on putting together a project,” Boyer said. 

The DIA CEO did not name the other two projects.

“There are a number of others that I would like to encourage to come forward and apply for it because they are eligible and I think it would dramatically improve Downtown if they move forward, but they have not been on their own initiating a request yet,” Boyer said. 

Council voted 19-0 at its Oct. 13 meeting to pass the bill that expands city programs that offer incentives for the renovation and redevelopment of historic properties and contributing structures to Downtown’s historic district. 

The contributing structures must be at least 50 years old.

Steve Atkins
Steve Atkins

Steve Atkins, Trio developer and SouthEast Development Group president, said Oct 14 the bill is “a true catalyst for some of our community’s most important projects.”

“For SouthEast’s part, we look forward to presenting a proposal to the city in the coming weeks that will allow the Laura Street Trio to finally move forward and once again become a vibrant fixture in the heart of our Downtown,” Atkins said.

The bill keeps the existing Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund for forgivable loans of $100,000 or less. The incentive can be approved by the DIA without Council approval.

It removes the $1 million cap on the grants that been in place since the trust fund was created in 2001. The bill provides specific percentages of total project costs that the city can reimburse.

The restructured incentives offer money for fire and other building code compliance upgrades, like sprinkler systems, that developers said are roadblocks with older and historic structures.

The Trio renovation is one of several deals the DIA used to show the need to revamp the incentives program. The change is an effort to close financial gaps for Downtown adaptive reuse projects and make them more viable and attractive to developers.

“This bill will do some great things in what I call the real Downtown. The core, the walkable core,” said Matt Carlucci, Council Finance Committee chair.

“I believe this is going to set off a series of construction and restoration projects that we haven’t seen done in Jacksonville for a long, long time in the most historic and significant corner of our community which is Laura and Forsyth (streets), the home of the Laura Street Trio,” he said.

The Council approved $9.8 million in June 2017 for SouthEast and The Molasky Group of Cos. to renovate the former Barnett National Bank Building and the Trio, which comprises the Bisbee, Marble Bank and Florida Life buildings.

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, Boyer announced in September 2019 the DIA and project developers were renegotiating the city agreement to ensure the Trio still is renovated.