DIA board gives Ambassador Hotel developer until March 2023 to complete work

The city agency could grant AXIS Hotels another three months, if needed, for what the developer says are supply chain-related slowdowns.

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A city agency is giving Augustine Development Group LLC more time to complete its estimated $17.6 million renovation of the historic Ambassador Hotel in Downtown because of what the developer says are supply chain-related slowdowns.

The Downtown Investment Authority Board voted 6-0 on Oct. 20 as part of its consent agenda to allow Augustine Development subsidiary AXIS Hotels LLC, until at least the end of March 2023 to complete renovations on what the company says will be a 127-room TRYP by Wyndham hotel and restaurant. 

The DIA board can issue up to a six-month extension under the city’s redevelopment agreement that includes a $1.5 million grant for the city’s Downtown Historic Preservation and Revitalization Trust Fund.

City Council approved the original redevelopment agreement in January 2019. The DIA and city amended the deal in June 2020 to financially separate the Ambassador project from Augustine Development’s multifamily renovation of the Independent Life building at 233 W. Duval St. 

The DIA and City Council agreed in 2021 to extend the performance schedule of the agreement to give AXIS Hotels until Dec. 31, 2022, to complete construction of the project at 420 N. Julia St.

Work has been ongoing.

DIA Director of Downtown Development and Real Estate Steve Kelley told a board committee Oct. 19 that the developer’s supplier has been slow to deliver custom windows needed to comply with National Park Service standards for the hotel, which was built in 1922. 

Kelley requested the board only grant a three-month extension so DIA staff could reassess the construction progress in March to ensure AXIS Hotels finishes work by the end of June 2023 — the end of its last available contract extension. 

Any additional extensions would need Council’s approval. 

Augustine Development Group is restoring three designated historic buildings, including the Ambassador, in a two-block area of Downtown’s North Core.

Through subsidiary PEP10 LLC, Augustine Development is working on a $30 million, 135-unit apartment and ground-floor grocery store retrofit of the 19-story former Independent Life building. 

The third project proposed by subsidiary AXIS 404 Julia LLC would convert the 1950s-era Central National Bank Building at 404 N. Julia St. into the lobby of a 139-unit, eight-story mixed-use apartment building. 

The three developments would share a 487-space parking garage and provide space for the nearby Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department headquarters.