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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jul. 18, 201805:20 AM EST

Mayor Curry confirms Berkman Plaza II sale

Investor will renovate the structure into a hotel with parking and entertainment.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

Adecade after construction halted on the 18-story Berkman Plaza II condominium project, a buyer wants to transform the Downtown structure into a hotel. 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry confirmed Tuesday that a developer, which he did not identify, bought the unfinished Berkman Plaza II at 500 E. Bay St. Downtown. 

Atlanta-based Choate Construction Co. has owned the building and the 2-acre site since 2014 but did not immediately respond to calls or emails. 

A deed was not recorded as of Tuesday afternoon.

The mayor said the developer plans to renovate what’s left of the concrete structure into a hotel, with a parking garage and entertainment element. 

“For three years now we’ve been working with Choate to resolve the problem that is Berkman II,” Curry said.

“It’s been incredibly hard at times but we’re there,” he said.

He said the transaction closed Monday night, but did not provide a price. The Duval County Property Appraiser assesses the property at $2.8 million for tax purposes, with the riverfront land value accounting for $2.6 million of that.

“We’ve worked with them and a number of prospective buyers aggressively but the economics have to work,” said Curry of delays for redevelopment.

“Whenever developers came in and for whatever reason their numbers didn’t work, we continued to push and work with Choate,” he said.

Curry said Choate found the right model that “works best for Jacksonville.”

During a June interview, Curry and his team suggested the city would take action if Choate did not close on a deal with developers.

“We’ve made it very clear to them that if this deal doesn’t close, the city will act,” he said, without explaining those options.

The property was rezoned in 2016 to accommodate a hotel.

Berkman Plaza II halted construction in 2007.

Failed expectations

The building was designed as the second phase of high-rise residences next to The Plaza Condominium at Berkman Plaza and Marina when it was announced in 2006. 

Plans called for a 23-story, 222-unit tower, offering buyers a variety of floor plans facing the St. Johns River. 

It was scheduled to be completed by 2008. 

The building has remained untouched since 2007, when a six-story parking garage next to the tower collapsed, killing a construction worker and injuring several others. 

That and the Great Recession halted construction, leaving an unfinished shell of concrete and steel next to The Plaza Condominium. 

In April 2014, after being granted a $10.2 million judgment and lien, Choate Construction, the development’s general contractor, took possession of the property in a foreclosure auction.

As the only bidder, Choate paid $100. 

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