Just 15 months after the first cohort of students began taking classes, the Jacksonville University College of Law is preparing to move out of VyStar Tower and into a larger Downtown campus.
The city is reviewing a permit application to build-out four floors at 121 W. Forsyth St. at a construction cost of almost $4.3 million.
“We conducted an extremely thorough evaluation of a large number of options. Close to the courts and in the center of the legal community, it is the most excellent spot of many that we considered,” Randall C. Berg Jr. Founding Dean Nick Allard said Nov. 21.
“And it’s close to my favorite hot dog stand at Laura and Forsyth streets,” he said.
The law school’s space in the five-story Building 100 at the corner of Hogan and Forsyth streets that is connected to the 10-story historic 121 Atlantic Place across the street from the Bank of America Tower.
The new multilevel campus was previously occupied by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s administrative offices until it moved to the Regional Transportation Center in LaVilla in 2020.
The project scope includes part of the first floor and the entire second, third and fourth floors, totaling 47,355 square feet, about triple JU’s space on the 18th floor at VyStar Tower.
Plans show the name “121 Atlantic Place” will be removed from the front of the building above the door and replaced with “College of Law.”
Jacksonville-based Auld & White Constructors LLC is the contractor. Jacksonville-based TTV Architects, working with SmithGroup, is the designer.
Codes-ABC Inc. of Orange Park is handling code compliance.
Christian Harden of NAI Hallmark brokered the lease. John Hodges of International Management Company represented the building owner.
The plan for the first floor comprises a reception area, student lounge, administrative offices, catering area and stairs to the second floor. It will take the space occupied by Workscapes, which will move to Dennis + Ives in the Rail Yard District.
The Jacksonville Daily Record offices also are on the first floor. The Daily Record is not moving.
The second floor will have classrooms, flex space, counseling rooms, administrative offices, a faculty conference room, a reception room, student meeting spaces and a kitchenette for students.
The third floor includes instructional spaces, library offices and study space, faculty and administrative offices and a lounge.
The dean’s office, administrative offices, the law library, instructional spaces and flex space are on the fourth floor.
Plans show an atrium and stairs between the third and fourth floors.
Including construction, fixtures and equipment, the budget for the new campus is about $12.5 million.
JU said in a news release Nov. 22 that the city plans an investment of $6.5 million in 2024, subject to City Council approval.
In May 2022, the Council voted 17-1 to enact Ordinance 2022-0317, which included $2.5 million of the $5 million Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration committed to the JU College of Law during a public announcement in February 2022.
The space is scheduled to be ready for move-in by summer 2024 and classes for the 40 students currently enrolled and the next class of 1L students will begin at the new campus in August.
“We knew when the first classes started we needed a place to go, so we began looking immediately. This is an ideal location. It is perfect for what we need,” Vice Dean Margaret Dees said.
“This is exactly the type of transformational project that Jacksonville needs in its Downtown revitalization goals – the economic vitality of hundreds of students living and learning in the downtown core and the preservation of one of Jacksonville’s iconic historical buildings,” city Chief Administrative Officer Karen Bowling said in a news release.
Allard said the American Bar Association is developing updated accreditation standards related to technology and digital access for students, professors and staff. JU’s new law school campus is designed with the future in mind.
In addition to traditional classrooms, the campus will feature communal study spaces and a law library designed to meet the evolving digital needs of the legal profession.
“Our students will be utilizing virtual reality and artificial intelligence, with the help of JU’s health care faculty that is already using that technology for instruction,” Dees said.
The new space will accommodate as many as 450 law students, plus faculty and staff within five years, Allard said.
“We plan to grow without sacrificing quality. We will maintain JU’s high standards.”
“There is a successful culture at JU and we replicate that in the law school,” Dees said.
The university has a 10-year lease for its new law school with options to renew.
“That embodies the sense that we are committed and here to stay,” Allard said.