Construction begins on project that will bring apartments, retail Downtown.
The University of North Florida is negotiating to move some functions Downtown.
The UNF Coggin College of Business confirms it is negotiating to lease space in the Barnett National Bank building, which is being renovated.
Dean Mark Dawkins said Thursday the university wants to lease the fourth floor of the 18-story building for the school’s Entrepreneurial Development and Business Incubation Center and possibly the fifth floor to house graduate classes.
He estimates the build-out of both floors will cost at least $1.5 million.
Dawkins said the college is negotiating with developer Steve Atkins but has not signed a lease.
“We’re in the very early stages and hope to be in there next year,” Dawkins said.
The Barnett building, 112 W. Adams St., is part of an estimated $90 million renovation by SouthEast Development Group and The Molasky Group of Cos.
Atkins is the principal and managing director of SouthEast Development Group.
Renovations include the adjacent Laura Street Trio and construction of a 550-space parking garage on West Forsyth Street.
Vagabond Coffee Co. is the only confirmed Barnett tenant.
Atkins said he could not identify other tenants because of lease negotiations.
“As soon as we get those deals signed, we’ll announce it,” he said. “Right now, we’re just excited to get construction going.”
Atkins previously confirmed that an international banking center would lease the ground floor, although no financial institution has been named.
While marketing materials inside the Barnett show JPMorgan Chase & Co. could be a tenant, Atkins said those materials are not accurate.
A representative from the New York-based bank did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Dawkins said the entrepreneurship center was in development “long before the school began looking at the Barnett as a possible location.”
He said a task force in 2015 found that Jacksonville lacked a true “living-learning lab” for prospective business owners.
“They can bring ideas in the very early stages here, and learn how to develop them,” Dawkins said.
Participants will be able to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts, with a chance to win up to a year of free space at the center for vetting and developing their ideas, Dawkins said.
“They’ll have access to mentorship from business professionals, entrepreneurship experts and possibly private investment if their ideas warrant it,” he said.
He said the fifth floor of the building could possibly house the college’s MBA and Master of Science in Management graduate course, with four classrooms, office space and conference rooms.
“Access to those classrooms and the entrepreneurial center would be open to everyone on campus,” he said. “It’s a true collaboration between all four colleges.”
SouthEast Development Group announced Monday in a joint news release with development partner The Molasky Group of Cos. that renovations would begin on the building.
Danis Builders LLC is overseeing the restoration, which is expected to take between a year and 14 months.
Project Superintendent Bill Squires said the building is “structurally sound,” but that there was plenty of work to do.
He said crews are working to put the building’s original elevators in service so they can begin renovating the upper floors.
Squires said it would take six to eight weeks to get an elevator running. In the meantime, crews are using the stairs.
Squires said they prefer to work from the top down in the building.
He said Danis has designs for the top 11 floors and that the remaining will be made ready for tenant build-out.
The lower seven floors are expected to be a mix of office, retail and educational space.
Squires said work continues in the basement, where bank vaults and other equipment is housed, as well as other areas to bring the building back to code. The original vault doors and safe-deposit boxes remain.
Among the building’s most noticeable features are large holes on each floor, which were carved out for a center stairwell when a previous investor tried to develop the property more than a decade ago.
“We’ll close those back in,” Squires said. Inside, another stairwell will be constructed in a corner of the building.
Squires said the previous developers also demolished most of the building’s interior to the original brick and concrete, “which makes it much easier for us.”
The building, built in 1926, does not have central heat and air and it needs extensive electrical work, Squires said.
He said work on historic buildings always comes with the “unknowns,” but those challenges make the work interesting for him and the crew.
“We’ll come upon some stuff that you can’t see, and so we call in the structural engineer or the architect to come look at it,” he said. “That’s what’s neat about these buildings.”
Design work also started on a 550-car parking garage nearby on Forsyth Street that is scheduled to open when the Barnett building is complete.
Work on the Laura Street Trio will be last. When completed, the Trio will house a Marriott-branded hotel with about 143 rooms, a high-end restaurant, a speakeasy and an urban grocery store.
Atkins’ group received $9.8 million in financial incentives to complete the restoration in five years, according to the economic development agreement with the city.