City fining Berkman Plaza 2 owners for code violations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- More than 6 years after a deadly accident during construction, the Berkman Plaza 2 sits as a shell in downtown Jacksonville. First Coast News sought to find out some answers as to what the future of the building might be, and found answers hard to find.

The Berkman Plaza 2 sits as an eyesore on East Bay Street. It''s been like this for more than six years since the deadly garage collapse during construction in 2007, then the real estate collapse in 2008.

It has been described as Chernobyl in downtown Jacksonville, a miniature Detroit.

Stephen Mutaali works downtown at the Jacksonville Landing. He wishes it wasn't there, saying it doesn't help draw people downtown and wonders why the city just lets it sit.. He said it looks like an old movie set.

"Maybe they will think about using it in a movie set , just blowing it up," said Mutaali. "I mean wow that would probably work. Cause it is an ugly movie set. Just call Hollywood and say, 'Hey we have a building we want you to blow up in one of your scenes. You'd love to see that? I would love to see that , that would be great, a nice little implosion (laughing).That would look awesome!'"

Since 2009, the municipal code enforcement division has issued four citations for nuisance overgrowth, trash and debris, the city correcting those violations on two occasions. One citation was issued for loose handrails on the property and was corrected by the property owner.

Five time, the property owner, Berkman Plaza 2 LLC out of Atlanta, Georgia were cited for fence damage. It has not been repaired and the city began fining the property owners $250 a day for non-compliance in mid-2013. There is currently a lien on the property of over $3,000.

FCN tried to contact the property owners in Atlanta. Their number was no longer in service.

The building is assessed at more than $3.2 million dollars on the city tax rolls. But Sherry Hall with the Tax Collectors office says the 2012-13 taxes of around $62,000 were not paid. The taxes for 2013-14 will be late after March 31st, and they have yet to be paid.

Hall said an investor bought a tax certificate on the property and paid the taxes, hoping within two years the property will be sold and he will get the money back with interest.

In the meantime, Attorney Joby Bir with Jimerson-Cobb says they represent Choate Construction out of Georgia, which was never paid for building the building. Choate won a $12 million lawsuit against Berkman Plaza 2 LLC but they have never been paid. Bir said they filed for foreclosure on the property in the last two weeks, and if they win a judgement in court, could take title to the property.

How long this property could sit in its present state? No one appears to be able to answer that question right now.


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