Jacksonville-based Vestcor Companies intends to develop 70 townhomes on this property if given the property for free.

Jacksonville-based Vestcor Companies has rapidly become the dominant residential developer in Downtown Jacksonville. Already with 475 multifamily residential units under its belt and another +600 under construction or proposed, the developer now plans to add 70 townhomes in LaVilla to its urban portfolio. The company has set its sights on three blighted city owned blocks bounded by Lee, Adams, Stuart, Houston, Johnson and Forsyth Streets. There, the company would construct townhomes that would be priced at $250,000 in addition to making a $100,000 donation for the improvement of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park, which is the historic homesite of brothers James Weldon and John Rosamond Johnson. However, to make the project feasible, Vestcor is prepared to ask the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) to donate all of the vacant city-owned property. If the DIA agrees, Vestcor plans to break ground on the project in this year.

Conceptual site plan for Vestcor Companies’ latest multifamily proposal in LaVilla.

If the DIA approves, it would be a total reverse of the board’s 2017 decision to reject all three bids for retrofitting a poorly maintained vacant city-owned building due to being unsatisfied with offers well below their desired appraisal price. Acquired by the city in 1994 for $34,300 as a part of a plan to raze the entire community, the 4,104-square foot historic black business district building drew offers of $10,000, $9,188 and $3,000 to purchase. While mysteriously appraised at $180,000, due to more than 20 years with no maintenance, the roof and second floor of the building had already collapsed, requiring each developer to spend a fortune on renovation. Not satisfied with the low offers to purchase and return the property back to the tax rolls, the DIA rejected all offers and two years later the property still sits empty and in despair with no hope of redevelopment taking place anytime soon. If given away for free, as Vestcor desires for its latest proposal a few blocks west, 324 Broad Street could have already been back on the tax rolls as a combination of office, retail and dining space, sparking the redevelopment of other properties surrounding it.

Located four blocks east of Vestcor’s project site, the DIA rejected all redevelopment offers for 324 Broad Street because the offers for purchase were lower than the building’s appraised value.

Arkest LLC, led by Downtown Development Review Board member Rafael Caldera, offered $9,188, with a plan to invest an additional $660,000 to renovate the property.

Caldera, who attended the meeting, said the capital investment only accounts for initial construction costs and would most likely be higher.

“The building is falling apart,” Caldera said when questioned by DIA board member Brenna Durden about his offer.

“The only way this project is going to be viable is to get the property at a low purchase price, because we’re going to have to invest a lot,” Caldera said.

Source: https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/dia-rejects-3-offers-to-buy-vacant-lavilla-building

When asked if he plans to revisit the idea with a new proposal, Caldera said he would give his attention to other projects.

“That’s it for me,” he said. “This is going to sit here for another few years, empty, in my opinion.”

Source: https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/article/dia-rejects-3-offers-to-buy-vacant-lavilla-building

The rear of city owned 324 Broad Street