By Lindsay Forrest, DVI Intern

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All photos taken by DVI

On January 28, 2015, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission held a press conference to debate another demolition of a historical site in Downtown Jacksonville. Located directly across from the Basilica of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the Elena Flats building is a historical landmark distinguished by original glass windows, rustic cherry red hardwood floors and decades of history.

After the Great Fire of 1901, which damaged more than 2,368 buildings in the heart of Downtown Jacksonville, the city reconstructed more than 146 city blocks. Among the restoration, the city built a 22-room inexpensive boarding house for local residents called the Elena Flats. The rooming house offered close access to local job opportunities, businesses, restaurants, bars and numerous activities creating a surplus of economic growth for the recovering metropolitan area.

Fast forward 107 years later and the elenaElena Flats building is still standing on East Duval Street. Do not let the caution tape, abandoned rooms, and scaffolding equipment turn you away from this hidden beauty. The previous owner applied for a permit to tear down the building and convert it into another parking lot. Fortunately, current owners Jack Meeks and his wife, JoAnn Tredennick marveled at the significance and beauty of the Elena Flats property hidden deep underneath the fragments. The age, history and importance of the building made it eligible for a complete renovation and noted as a historical preservation site in Jacksonville.

elenafalts

Following the renovation, the Elena Flats will house four luxury condominiums complete with private patios, luminous skylights and spiraling staircases. In order to still embody all the history of Elena Flats, the restoration plans utilize the original hardwood floors, skylights and tile flooring. The renovations will be completed and ready to rent in early 2017.

We are excited to witness the restoration of this hidden local gem planned for early next year in #DTJax!

 

Matthew Clark lives and works Downtown and wouldn’t have it any other way. The vice president of prime retail services for Prime Realty is optimistic and inspired by Downtown Jacksonville’s growth over the last few years. He’s also excited that one of the properties he markets is getting a well-deserved upgrade to compete with the increased interest in Jacksonville’s urban-core real estate. The building, “100 North Laura” or “The Jacksonville Bank Building,” is a 10-story, 130,000 square-foot mixed-use building located on the corner of Laura and Forsyth streets. We recently caught up with Matthew to find out what’s on the horizon for this Downtown architectural centerpiece.

 

WATCH THE VIDEO.

Photos provided by Prime Realty

The Jacksonville Bank building, center, at 100 N. Laura St. Photos provided by Prime Realty.

 

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Matthew Clark in a raw, available office space on the ninth floor of 100 North Laura.

Matthew Clark on the ninth floor of 100 North Laura, a raw space available for lease.

Tell me about 100 N. Laura St. – its history and use.

100 North Laura has always had a presence in the Jacksonville banking community. The building was built in the ’60s and was home to a large bank training facility and even had a drive-through. The drive-through entrance was on Laura Street and exited onto Forsyth Street where the restaurant space is currently. The tenancy in the building is made up of creatives and business professionals. I love that we have a photography studio, a tech start-up, a nonprofit and an attorney all on a single floor. The mix creates awesome synergy and, ultimately, a great community.

Why is now the time for renovations of the building?

The renovation plans for the building have taken a couple of years to bring to fruition. The good thing is we have been able to get a good sense of the tenants attracted to the building and modify our plans accordingly. In order to compete in the market, we need to deliver a product that doesn’t exist in Jacksonville – one that is truly unique. The influx and quality of office users coming into the market today expect and deserve the renovations.

What will the renovations entail?

Exterior renovations include replacing building awnings; replacing both the Laura and Forsyth streets’ entrances; transforming the loading dock on Laura Street into a hybrid storefront, which will serve as the 24/7 access for Anytime Fitness; waterproofing and painting the entire building; installing an exterior, variable colored LED up-lighting system so we will be able to coordinate the building colors with holidays and special events; and replacing all exterior signage.

Rendering of 100 North Laura lobby improvements

Rendering of 100 North Laura lobby improvements

Interior renovations include an overhaul of the lobby, combining the aesthetic of a boutique hotel with the progressive feel of a tech start up; installing wood-coffered ceilings, with LED pendant lighting and recessed lighting; installing all-new flooring, with porcelain tile throughout, walk off carpets at both main entries and carpet tiles defining new collaborative seating areas; adding wayward signage and televisions for up-to-the minute building and local information, as well as a new security system; modernizing the elevators; and installing private bathrooms with showers in the lobby, along with lockers and bike storage for tenants who walk or bike to work.

Any new tenants you’re excited about?

We are finalizing the retail space and look forward to their announcement in the near future.

Why is the renovation of this building so important to Downtown?

For the last couple of years, this building has increased occupancy with a mix of creative and executive professionals. The renovation is symbolic of the building’s success and Downtown’s success. More and more businesses and their employees want to be a part of the change Downtown. We hope the renovation of the building enhances the retail and office experience in Downtown Jacksonville.

What have you noticed as far as the interest in Downtown real estate?

The energy and momentum is here. I have investors from Atlanta and California who see the difference in the activity Downtown today compared to a few years ago. Retail lease rates in the core are up 50-60% over leases signed just a few years ago. As the cumulative mass of retail in the core continues to grow, it will only help attract more office users. I have a couple of properties in the core that are more than 95% leased.

Current office space in 100 North Laura

Current office space in 100 North Laura

Why would you recommend someone move their business to Downtown?

Downtown has unique office options that can’t be found in other areas of Jacksonville. There is a wide variety of business resources concentrated within walking distance of virtually all Downtown office space. The beauty of doing business in Downtown is it’s small enough for people to feel connected but large enough to give a business everything it needs to thrive.

What do you love about Downtown personally?

I have always loved the hustle and bustle of an urban environment. I actually live Downtown. My home is a loft apartment in a 100-year old building. I walk outside my front door, and I am minutes away from restaurants, bars, the Florida Theatre and EverBank Field. When I walk my dog, I always bump into someone I know. If people don’t remember my name, they definitely remember my dog, Darby. I love that because it means we’re a part of a great neighborhood.

 

For more information on the Jacksonville Bank Building at 100 N. Laura St., you can contact Matthew Clark at MClark@primerealtyinc.com or 904-239-5269.

Jason Hunnicut is one of three owners of 1904 Music Hall and the adjoining Spliff's Gastropub, opening this fall.

Jason Hunnicutt is one of three owners of 1904 Music Hall and the adjoining Spliff’s Gastropub, opening this fall. Photo by DVI.

From 2008 to 2011, Jason Hunnicutt got a glimpse of what Downtown Jacksonville’s entertainment district could be. A member of the band Greenhouse Lounge, he toured the Southeast playing in the region’s top music scenes.

“We were seeing all of those awesome cities and awesome music scenes,” he said. “Jax needed this.”

When he left the band to settle down, he decided to call Downtown home, living the life of a Jacksonville urbanite. His “rosy eyes” for Downtown – thanks to a steadfast love for the urban core – spurred Hunnicutt and his former bandmate, Duane De Castro, to start a Jacksonville version of those Southeast music scenes they admired.

Hunnicutt and De Castro soon recruited friend Brian Eisele to join their new business venture: a live music venue with impressive bands and an equally impressive tap list.

“We all love music and beer, thus the concept was born,” Hunnicutt said. Now they just needed a location. After looking at spots in Springfield, San Marco and Riverside, De Castro serendipitously stumbled upon a historic building on Ocean Street with a “for rent” sign posted.

Interior of 1904 Music Hall. Photo provided by the venue.

Interior of 1904 Music Hall. Photo provided by the venue.

Turns out, that building – constructed in 1904 – was the perfect venue for their concept with its large open floorplan, back patio space and front sidewalk on a major thoroughfare Downtown. And as luck would have it, the spot also inspired their venue’s name: 1904 Music Hall.

“I love knowing that from 1880 to 1965 or so this city was a thriving metropolis,” De Castro said. “The idea that we are part of that history and are in the process of making our own history is a great honor.”

The first year was slow-going, Hunnicutt admits. Their focus was simply building relationships with bands, fellow business owners and the community at large.

“I looked at it as an investment in not just my future but my friends’ future,” Hunnicutt said. As 2012 progressed, they booked bigger bands and found 1904 Music Hall listed on larger show rosters.

“It kind of snowballed from there,” Hunnicutt said. “We thought, ‘OK, where are going to be here awhile.’”

In 2014, that realization sparked an interest in the spot next door. The first idea was simply to expand the music hall. They went back and forth with concepts for months, ultimately determining Downtown needed another lunch, dinner and, especially, a late-night eats spot.

Co-owner Jason Hunnicut and Spliff's mural.

Co-owner Jason Hunnicutt and Spliff’s mural.

Build-out started earlier this year on Spliff’s Gastropub, which is scheduled to open in just a few weeks after final inspections are scheduled and completed.

“I am very excited about the concept we’ve put together,” De Castro said. “I think the atmosphere of Spliff’s will be a unique and fun experience for our guests. I am proud we are going to be the first true gastropub in Downtown Jacksonville.”

Featuring original brick walls and reclaimed wood paneling, Spliff’s will have craft beers, international wines and sake, a Southern comfort menu (with vegan options), table seating, bar-like window seating overlooking Ocean Street, and beer-garden access out back. Menu highlights include 20 flavors of macaroni and cheese, baked chicken wings and West-Coast-style tri-tip roast beef, with the full menu under the direction of Daniel Johnson, a classically trained chef from San Diego.

“We are a big believer of putting aces in their places,” Hunnicutt said.

Speaking of aces in their places, you could say the same for De Castro, Eisele and Hunnicutt in relation to Downtown. As urban-core business owners soon opening another business next door, the trio took a risk on Downtown, helping cultivate a district of nightlife pioneers in what is now known as The Elbow.

“The development is everywhere,” Eisele said. “New businesses are recognizing the potential in Downtown and are looking for chances to contribute. People are coming through our doors and often ask us: “When did Downtown become so cool?”

View from the entrance of Spliff's.

View from the entrance of Spliff’s. Photo by DVI.

DeCastro agrees.

“I am excited for the future of Downtown,” he said. “We have all seen the progress over the last few years, and I believe we have already reached the tipping point. Major players are starting to take notice, and once the Cowford Chophouse is open, I think we will see an explosion of new bars and restaurants on The Elbow, which will forever change the city landscape.”

When can you get your first bites of Spliff’s Gastropub? Hunnicutt said the announcement will come soon to its official website and Facebook page. Tonight, Aug. 27, the trio is hosting a fundraiser to ease the build-out costs burden. (Enter the raffle for a chance to win free food for an entire year at Spliff’s!)

If you need a summary on why you should check out this new hangout opening soon Downtown, we’ll let Eisele do the honors: “Good food, good beers, and great people! Another reason to check out The Elbow.”

By Tenley Ross, DVI Intern

Walk around Downtown, and you’ll be in awe by the modern high-rises with their sleek exteriors and windows that seem to glitter in the sun.

What might not capture your attention right away but are still impressive are the historic buildings of Downtown’s bygone eras that, thanks to visionary developers, are breathing new life.

Some of these projects were recognized in this year’s City of Jacksonville (COJ) Annual Preservation Awards and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Honor and Design Awards.

The Seminole Club Building (Now Sweet Pete’s Candy and The Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails)
400 N. Hogan St.

Sweet Pete's and Candy Apple Cafe and Cocktails

Sweet Pete’s and Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails

From the COJ Preservation Awards, the Seminole Club building was awarded for its commercial rehabilitation into Sweet Pete’s Candy and the Candy Apple Cafe & Cocktails.

Built in 1903, the Seminole Club was a social club for men. It hosted numerous famous people including Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Closing in 1989 after losing popularity, Restitution, Inc., an investment group, reopened the club from 1998 until 2004.

It was vacant for 10 years until Sweet Pete’s and The Candy Apple Café and Cocktails moved in late 2014. Through the renovation process, the two businesses worked with the Jacksonville Historical Society to keep the building’s historical integrity.

In addition, the new Seminole Club owners are now planning to expand the business into two neighboring historic buildings. Read more here.

by: Jennifer Hewett-Apperson in Historic Preservation No Comments  

Recently, CBS’s venerable “Sunday Morning” show highlighted an architecture firm that specializes in buildings with finishing touches you don’t normally see in new construction. In other words, they build ‘em like they used to.

This resurgence of building with “old world” details speaks to the way beautiful design makes us feel and the importance of rehabilitating Downtown’s existing stock of historic buildings begging for attention. While it can be less expensive to build new, restoring craftsmanship of bygone days lends a richer hand to the tapestry of a city.

Downtown Jacksonville is fortunate to still have a significant stock of historic architecture, despite a rash of demolitions by wrecking ball or implosion (e.g., the Rhodes Furniture Building) and demolitions by neglect (e.g., the Centre Theatre) over the past 30 years. Despite the holes, there is still a patchwork of buildings in various states of repair with such materials as terracotta cornices, heart pine floors and marble exteriors.

Why undertake such an arduous task as restoration of a building that some say should meet the same fate as its neighbors? It comes down to authenticity of place. Historic city centers hold a presence of the past – that draw of an authentic place, that sense of wonder that occurs when you go into a building that’s stood for more than a century and has seen more than you ever will.

There’s a building Downtown some believe is haunted. In three years’ time, three different ghost-hunting expeditions spent nights there – and one expedition detected something:

An apparition of a body sitting in balcony chair.

That apparition was detected at the Florida Theatre, one of Downtown’s most beautiful historic landmarks. If the walls of the Florida Theatre could talk, there would be some amazing stories to tell. Lucky for us, though, the Florida Theatre staff offers tours to the public. I had the opportunity to do so at a recent First Wednesday Art Walk.

This tour explores of the stage, backstage, the “green room,” dressing rooms, the promenade, the Barnett Room and the balcony. It’s awe-inspiring from start to finish. Here are a few fun facts about the venue that fascinate me most:

  • Elvis Presley performed at the Florida Theatre in 1956, one of his first headline concerts appearances on an indoor stage. The performance was the subject of a LIFE Magazine feature, and a local judge sat through the concert to make sure Presley’s dancing was not too suggestive.
  • When the Florida Theatre opened in 1927 as a movie theater, Forsyth Street was known as “theatre row,” with half a dozen other theaters nearby. The Florida Theatre is the only one remaining.
  • The theater is the city’s only remaining example of 1920s fantasy architecture and is one of only four remaining high-style movie “palaces” built in Florida during this period.
  • The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
  • The back of the theater was originally open – no doors. After the Great Fire of 1901, many buildings were built in a way that large groups of people could exit quickly. Doors were not added until the 1980s restoration.
  • Every level of seating in the theater contains different types of chairs. Rocking chairs were once used, and the balcony seats are original.
  • Most ghost “activity” is said to take place in the projection booth. Speaking of the projection booth, the theater’s original projection equipment is used to screen the annual Summer Movie Classics series.
  • The theater’s Barnett Room was a fully functioning nursery from 1927-1952 for patrons’ children while parents enjoyed a theater show.
  • One of three original telephone booths just outside the theater doors still contains a telephone. Another houses an ATM; the other is used for storage.
  • The elevated theater boxes to the right and left of the stage are purely decorative and were never used for seating.
  • The architecture of the building has French, Italian and Moroccan influences.
  • Capitals of the columns upstairs contain carvings of dolphins – look closely, and you’ll find them.
  • The grapes on the vines just outside the theater doors are made of hand-blown glass, created especially for the theater in 1927.

Want to learn more? Take a tour: groups are invited to schedule a tour of the Florida Theatre; call 904-355-5661 for more information. Public tours are offered at the First Wednesday Art Walk. And, if you’re not faint of heart, stay tuned to the Florida Theatre website for future paranormal tours information.

It’s historic structures like the Florida Theatre that shine a light on the importance of historic preservation and show that with a little love and restoration, Downtown historic buildings can continue to tell great stories.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Historic Preservation, Spotlight No Comments  

Looking to ditch the drab cubical farms with their drop ceilings and fluorescent lights? Ever dream of spending your days in creative workspaces like these? Maybe you remember our article on photographer Tiffany Manning working Downtown.

Flagg Design Studio: lots of natural light, exposed brick and wooden beams

Creative, quirky and customizable office space is in high demand these days. And luckily, Downtown you’ll find just such gems – often tucked away in historic buildings, and walkable to the river for moments of meditation, numerous dining options to keep your palate guessing, and cultural venues to spark that next big idea.

Take the Flagg Design Studio space, pictured right. Cradled in the heart of Downtown’s entertainment district, The Elbow, the studio capitalizes on the bones of the historic 1906 “Livery Building,” the same building that is home to Tiffany Manning Photography.

About the “Livery Building:

“This building is a pleasant reminder of the days when horses and carriages were the primary means of transportation in Jacksonville.  The McMurray Livery, Sale & Transfer Company was established in 1880 by Thomas McMurray, an Irishman.  He came to Jacksonville as a Union soldier in 1864, and he remained here as Chief Deputy U. S. Marshall, a post that he held for eleven years.  His original livery stable was on the corner of Forsyth and Newnan Streets, where he had a lively trade renting and selling carriages and horses.  This business burned in the 1901 Fire, and a new stable was rebuilt on the same site.  The livery business prospered with the post-Fire building boom in this city; and in 1905 McMurray Livery, Sale & Transfer Company purchased this present site for expansion purposes.  This building was constructed the following year, serving as a carriage showroom, blacksmith shop, and stable for horses.

Over the years, as the increasing number of automobiles in Jacksonville helped bring about the demise of the livery business, this property was sold and was variously used as a plumber’s shop, a printing company, a gas station, and a garage.  In 1972 architect William Morgan purchased the former livery stable and restored its facade to the original configuration. Its interior now houses professional offices and a parking garage.  The east wall of this structure marks the approximate location where Jacksonville founder Isaiah D. Hart built his log cabin when he came to Cow Ford in 1821.”

- Excerpt from Metro Jacksonville.

For more information on available space in the Livery Building, contact Bob Ascher, Guardian Commercial at 904-880-5656. If you’re looking to bring your office or retail business Downtown, we’d be happy to work with you to locate spaces to fit your needs or connect you with a local realtor. Contact Terry Lorince at 904.634.0303.

We also offer a number of resources on our website under “Doing Business,” such as: Demographics & Statistics, Economic Incentives and Legislation, Available Retail Space and Downtown Sustainability information.