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Grocery store, apartments are latest plans for the Berkman II property

The latest developer to tackle this property says he’s committed to Jacksonville, but there is a dangling "serious problem."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In front of the blighted Berkman II building Wednesday, demolition crews stopped while city councilmen and the latest developer unveiled what the riverfront property in downtown Jacksonville would look like once its ugly predecessor is gone.

"We think downtown is worth investing in," Park Beeler with Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization says his company has purchased the property for $5.6 million.  

The plans call for a 26-story tower and three shorter buildings, 30,000 square feet of enclosed parking, 537 parking unites, 40 townhouse units, four penthouses, and at least 240 more apartment spaces. It also includes a grocery store facing Bay Street, retail space, and greenspace. 

It's a $135 million venture.

Beeler said the company is committed to Jacksonville and hopes the city sees that.

"What we are not looking for is front-end cash from the city to make the project go," Beeler said. "This is somewhat different from every project going on. We’re taking a risk. We’re buying the property and we are absorbing all the cost internally on the demolition."

However, the red tape might be harder to cut through than the 13-year-old, 18-story abandoned Berkman II building.

Here’s the issue.

The City of Jacksonville has a demolition order on the property, even though the developer is paying a million dollars for the demolition. What’s the problem? Well, if there is a demolition order, then Beeler said, "it is a title defect and that’s a serious problem."

Basically, it means the developer will have to pay a lot more money to develop the property.  The city indicated this week that it’s not going to lift the order until the demolition is complete. City Councilman Reggie Gaffney thinks the city wants to make sure this latest developer means business and won't back out as other developers have. 

Gaffney is optimistic, saying, "You will see progress from the city as well as from the is development team in the days to come."

Beeler said, "We’re hoping the city will see that the good-faith progress we’ve shown up to this point."

Beeler did hint at a lawsuit against the city if the demolition order isn’t lifted, but he and the councilmen are "hopeful" it will be.

And so the saga of the Berkman II continues.


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