A rebirth of the Cathedral District

Until restoration work began on the Elena Flats building, the Cathedral District had seen little residential construction over the last 60 years. In the late 1960’s, several rent-subsidized senior and disabled housing projects were constructed, such as Cathedral Towers, Cathedral Townhouse and Cathedral Court. In the late 1970’s, the Ida M. Stevens Foundation purchased the former Duval High School building and converted it into a 52-unit, rent-subsidized senior-living apartment building called the Stevens Duval Apartments. In the mid-2000’s the St Johns Cathedral donated land to build a 51-unit for-sale townhouse development called The Parks at the Cathedral.

An aerial view of the Cathedral District in 1968. Most of the housing stock seen in this image has been demolished. (Florida State Archives)

This aerial depicts the Cathedral District of today. The Elena Flats building can be seen here undergoing renovation. This picture also provides an important visual context, as one can see how close this neigborhood is to the historic core of Downtown’s Northbank. (Cathedral District Jax Inc, a Florida nonprofit founded in 2016)

Seen here in 1968, 605 Ocean Street was originally built in 1907 as the Duval High School. Today, the building has been in continuous use for over 40 years since being adaptively reused as the Stevens Duval Apartments.(UF Historic Preservation Studies Collection within the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida)

But activity in the neighborhood has gained tremendous steam, as of late. The Elena Flats restoration preceded several additional housing projects in the Cathedral District that have broken ground over the last 12 months.

The restoration of four Cathedral District multifamily properties are underway at 505 North Liberty Street after being acquired for $365,000 in April 2020. Constructed in 1909 and 1910, these buildings (seen below) will be used as short term rentals marketed on AirBnB.

Construction has begun to transform a 1.02-acre surface parking lot at the northwest corner of East Ashley and Newnan Streets (pictured below) into an affordable housing development for residents aged 62 years old and up. A joint venture between Tampa-based Blue Sky Communities, LLC. and Aging True, the $15 million project will include the construction of a six-story, 120 unit residential structure and 160-space parking garage.

Located at the intersection of East Duval Street and Washington Street, Arkest LLC has torn down five existing 100 year old structures, and plans to transform a 3/4-acre site into a new building with 45 residential units and 26,500 square feet of retail space which would include an art incubator (rendering below).

The progress for the development of a shipping container infill residential project by JWB Real Estate can be seen below at 412 Ashley Street. The project calls for the retrofitting of 18 shipping containers into 320-square-foot apartments.

Next Page: The restoration of Elena Flats