Construction weeks away for the historic Barnett building downtown

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a high stakes project with a hefty price tag in downtown Jacksonville. The old Barnett Bank building at Adams and Laura Streets has sat vacant for more than a decade and is getting $30 million pumped into it.

Construction is scheduled to begin in about a month. During One Spark, the public can tour the historic building.

Steve Atkins says at about 6 years old he remembers walking by the Barnett building when it was a bank.

"I can distinctly remember the digital clock that use to be on the roof and it use to tell time and temperature," said Atkins.

He is the Principal and Managing Director of Southeast Development Group and says he has a personal stake in helping to turn things around in downtown. His group purchased the old building in 2013 and are planning to use the space for residential, commercial offices and even higher education.

"There's still naysayers today that don't believe in downtown revitalization but it's absolutely going to happen," said Atkins.

The Barnett building was built in 1926 and is 18 stories high. One Spark Worldwide will be set up inside soon. The first eight floors will be dedicated office space, along with a few University of North Florida programs. Floors nine through 16 will be filled with apartments renting on average at $1,000 a month.

"I think things are finally cutting loose," said Timothy Daniels.

Daniels is among the thousands of people who have chosen to stop in and tour the historic building during the One Spark festival. Daniels too is excited about the changes ahead for downtown.

"Outside investors are coming together to make it work," said Daniels.

Atkins says he has purchased three buildings across from the old Barnett Bank too. They will be turned into restaurants, boutique hotels and additional retail.

That project is expected to be finished by late 2015. And the Barnett building should be restored and opened by the summer of 2015.

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