Article by Mike Field

Investors Jack Meeks and JoAnn Tredennick, through J Properties III LLC, bought the almost 7,000-square-foot building at 122 E. Duval St for $20,000 on August 26, 2015. After securing historic tax credits and investing nearly $3 million in restoration costs, the building has new life again as a quadroplex. Four market-rate, 1,700 sqaure feet, two bedroom and two and a half bathroom apartments are now available for rent. Each unit features a front parlor with fireplace, a formal dining room, a private back porch and a shared front porch.

Elena Flats is one of the last historic structures in what was once a vibrant downtown rooming house district built after the Great Fire of 1901. This compact cluster of residential structures in what is now known as The Cathedral District, helped fuel the economic growth of Jacksonville’s urban core during reconstruction efforts following the fire. The informal district of yesteryear provided a steady stream of residents and visitors that supported third places such as restaurants, bars, dry goods stores and social clubs. These buildings also offered inexpensive and convenient boarding options for employees of both small and large businesses throughout downtown. By 1913, more than 20 of such structures existed within a few blocks of one another. Now, only three remain.

The Elena Flats building in 1968. (UF Historic Preservation Studies Collection within the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida)

The Elena Flats building in 2020.

Initially catering to middle-class workers, the Elena Flats building was later converted to a rooming house for Jones College students in the 1950’s. By the late 1970’s, the building had been subdivided into as many as 25 rooms. Over the next several decades, the building began to deteriote from a lack of maintenance. It was last used as nightly and weekly rental housing in the early 2000’s.

The Elena Flats building in 2015.

Meeks and Tredennick began to shore up the building in 2016. When they began to empty the building, they found piles of discarded furniture from floor to ceiling and a small tree that had grown through the second floor. The roof was all but missing. Because the structure was subsequently exposed to the elements for so long, water damage was so severe that several walls had collapsed upon themselves.

Next Page: Rebirth of the Cathedral District