Former First Baptist Church main auditorium now NoCo Center
The rebranded facility Downtown is hosting the “Beyond Van Gogh” exhibit.
Daily Record Staff
| 3:40 p.m. September 16, 2022
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By Karen Brune Mathis & Mike Mendenhall | Staff Writers
The former First Baptist Church of Jacksonville main auditorium has a new name now that it has a new purpose, as exhibited by “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” that runs through Nov. 16.
It’s now NoCo Center.
The name stands for North Core, the Downtown area under redevelopment by Alex Sifakis and Andy Allen, along with others.
The North Core generally is bounded by Beaver, Hogan, Duval and Clay streets.
Sifakis and Allen are partners in the ownership of the auditorium at 119 W. Beaver St.
“We chose the name carefully to capture the momentum that’s occurring in Downtown Jacksonville and represent the North Core neighborhood where so much of that revitalization is occurring,” said Allen, Corner Lot CEO, in a statement Sept. 16.
“We’re already looking beyond this first exhibit and fully expect the NoCo Center to become a Downtown destination for future events, concerts, and shows.”
Allen said recently that Corner Lot’s joint venture with JWB Real Estate Capital, led by Sifakis, spent nearly $750,000 to prepare the auditorium for the interactive traveling Van Gogh art exhibit that opened Sept. 16.
Through subsidiaries, the companies bought the auditorium as well as the neighboring parking garage at 712 Hogan St. N. for $8.39 million on June 24.
Contractor Opus Group removed pew seating for 5,000; upgraded the auditorium’s air conditioning, internet, security and bathrooms; added 3 feet of flooring; and made other improvements to prepare for the exhibit.
The city issued a permit Sept. 8 for Opus Group to complete a $500,000 build-out of 23,284 square feet and prepare the space for Beyond Van Gogh.
Allen said previously the Jacksonville developers signed a one-year lease with “Beyond Van Gogh” producer Paquin Entertainment Group.
He said he hopes community response to the event will spur the producer and its partner, Normal Studio, to bring more entertainment events to the auditorium in the North Core.
“This is more of a passion play and about bringing an amenity into Downtown Jacksonville,” Allen said.
“Our goal is not only to exceed their expectations but to be one of their top markets,” he said.
“It will show the art and entertainment world that that space in Jacksonville is legitimate.”
Property records show 119 Beaver Street West LLC and 712 Hogan Street North LLC bought the two city blocks from First Baptist on June 24, paying $2.3 million for the auditorium and $6.09 million for the parking garage.
The venue was built in 1995 and the parking garage has been in operation since 1989.
Instead of demolishing the 103,016-square-foot auditorium for redevelopment, Corner Lot and JWB Real Estate Capital saw an opportunity to create an event venue that could hold thousands of guests.
“I think as Jacksonville’s Downtown gets (re)developed, we have to do placemaking and give Downtown residents and visitors places to go,” Allen said.
In the past two years, JWB and Corner Lot have separately purchased multiple Downtown North Core properties for redevelopment.