View looking at construction of the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company home office building. Image courtesy of the Robert E. Fisher Collection and the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Stretching 260 feet into the air, the 19-story, 162,000-square-foot tower was recently acquired by St. Augustine-based Augustine Development Group for $3.7 million.

The developer plans to transform the tower, originally built for the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company, into a mixed-use residential and retail project. The modern reinforced concrete building’s interior once dominated by the use of granite, limestone and marble finishes, the modern reinforced concrete building’s second through 18th floors are slated to become 240 market-rate apartments. In addition, Augustine Development intends to lease the building’s 21,000 square feet of ground floor retail space along Julia Street to an urban grocery store operator. Once home to a sky lounge, the rooftop will be remodeled to include a high-end seafood restaurant, lounge and terrace with a pool.

Construction of Hotel Robert Meyer in 1960. The recently completed Independent Life Building can be seen in the background. Image courtesy of the Louise Frisbie collection and the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The developer intends to begin construction on the $28 million adaptive reuse project in the first quarter of 2020 with a 14-month construction schedule to follow. Officially abandoned since March 1999, the tower served as the headquarters of the Independent Life and Accident Insurance Company until One Independent Square was completed in 1975. It was then used by JEA prior to its full relocation to the Universal Marion Building in the 1990s.

Specializing in adaptive reuse projects, the transformation of 233 West Duval will be Augustine Development Group’s second redevelopment project in Downtown Jacksonville. Currently, through Axis Hotels LLC., the firm is working to bring the nearby Ambassador Hotel back to life as a 127-room La Quinta Inns & Suites hotel. That project will also include a 200-unit apartment building and a parking garage that will serve all three redevelopment sites.

The Ambassador Hotel is being renovated by the Augustine Development Group into a 127-room La Qunita Inns & Suites hotel.

In honor of Downtown Jacksonville’s longest abandoned building finally being reoccupied with activity, here is a “before” look inside the ghostly bowels of 233 West Duval.

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