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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 28, 201805:20 AM EST

220 Riverside helped ignite Brooklyn resurgence

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Hallmark Partners development “gave the comps for all the projects getting done today.”
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

The Brooklyn neighborhood began to change in 2011 and 2012.

That’s when Jacksonville-based Hallmark Partners and Franklin, Tennessee-based Bristol Development Group broke ground on 220 Riverside, a six-story, 294-unit apartment and retail complex along Riverside Avenue.

Alex Sifakis, who buys infill residential properties for renovation and construction, said every prospective developer should thank Hallmark for pushing the project.

“220 Riverside is the reason anything in Downtown Jacksonville is getting developed right now,” he said.

“It gave the comps for all the projects getting done today,” said Sifakis, referring to development characteristics that help determine appraisal values.

Atlanta developer Pollack Shores then built the five-story, 390-unit Brooklyn Riverside apartments between Magnolia and Park streets.

Pollack Shores sold its property in 2016 for $58 million to BR Riverside DST, a subsidiary of New York City real estate investment trust, Bluerock Real Estate LLC.

Bristol Development Group and NAI Hallmark Partners plan another project on property next to 220 Riverside.

Last year, the Downtown Investment Authority and the Downtown Development Review Board, which approves architectural and other standards for the properties in DIA boundaries, approved the 10-story Vista Brooklyn apartment and retail development.

It will feature 308 apartments, a rooftop pool and beer garden and private dog park built into the accompanying parking deck.

Another 13,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space is planned for the first floor fronting Riverside Avenue, near the established Brooklyn Station on Riverside retail center.

“They’re out with their equity partners shopping for the rest of the capital to do the project,” said DIA CEO Aundra Wallace. “That’s about all I know right now.”  

Keith Goldfaden, a principal with NAI Hallmark Partners, said by email the development group is working through the design and development process toward a fall groundbreaking.

Retail resurgence

As 220 Riverside opened, Jacksonville-based Regency Centers Corp. began building what would become Brooklyn Station between Riverside Avenue and Magnolia Street.

The 49,870-square-foot shopping center is anchored by The Fresh Market, with Zoës Kitchen, BurgerFi, Burrito Gallery, First Watch and other tenants on three outparcels.

The Ferber Company Inc. plans to build a 12,500-square-foot retail and dining project on 1.5 acres along Riverside Avenue and Leila Street called Brooklyn Place.

Tom Mundy, Ferber vice president of retail development services, said Tuesday his team is negotiating a development agreement with the city.

“We should have that wrapped up by the end of the year, and then we can break ground soon after,” Mundy said. He did not disclose potential tenants.

Not all projects have thrived in Brooklyn. Three restaurants closed at 220 Riverside.

Sbraga & Company closed in 2016 followed by Hobnob Food & Social Exchange, which announced in January it would close as a restaurant but continue as a private event space, and Brixx Wood Fire Pizza in May.

In December, the 17,000-square-foot retail portion of 220 Riverside was sold for $3.5 million to CRE Properties of Miami Lakes in lieu of foreclosure.

The city also spent $2.6 million to help build the adjoining Unity Plaza, which was billed as an entertainment hub for the area.

Since then, entertainment has been sparse.

The unity-plaza.org website, run by the former Unity Plaza Inc. nonprofit group, shows no major events for the rest of 2018, outside of twice-a-week outdoor yoga sessions.

According to Florida corporate records, the nonprofit has been inactive since 2013. Unity Plaza LLC, another group, was active until 2016.

The phone number listed on the website is not in service.

Wallace said he believes that struggles are temporary at Unity Plaza and for the shops at 220 Riverside.

“Retail in Unity Plaza will work itself out when you cater to the retail to the area,” he said.

“When they tailor retail that works for the people that live there and who work there Monday through Friday, retail is going to survive,” he said.

Corner Bakery Cafe, part of the Brooklyn Station complex, also closed. First Watch renovated it and moved in, which Wallace considers finding the right fit for the neighborhood.  

“It plays very well for people working out at the YMCA, being able to find the type of meals that they’re looking for,” said Wallace.  “That has worked from a second go-round.”

Sifakis, president of JWB Real Estate Companies LLC, said Brooklyn has potential and opportunity.

“The retail struggled because there wasn’t enough density there, but that’s going to change,” he said.

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