I was delighted to see the article in the Jax Daily Record noting the city had approved the adaptive reuse of the historic Independent Life Building in downtown Jacksonville. The building has been vacant since its previous owner, JEA moved out in the 90s. That’s way too long for a building to sit without life and without any revenues for the city.
The plans are to convert the Independent Life Building into housing and commercial space. Augustine Development Group is the developer of the project, which plans to convert the 19-story building into 135 studio, one- and two-bedroom units on floors two through 16, a 21,000-square-foot grocery store on the ground floor, a 10,000-square-foot restaurant and an executive sky lounge. The project will also include the restoration of the spire rising above the roof and the re-illumination of the building. The project has been in review and planning for more than three years and is expected to cost $30 million, with a $3 million historic preservation grant approved by the Jacksonville City Council.
There are several potential benefits to this project:
1. Preservation of a historic building: By converting the Independent Life Building into housing and commercial space, the developer is preserving a historic building in the Downtown North Core of Jacksonville.
2. Economic development: The project is expected to create jobs during construction and also to attract new businesses and residents to the area. The addition of a grocery store and restaurant can provide much-needed amenities for the surrounding community.
3. Increased tax revenue: The renovated building is likely to increase property values in the area, which could lead to increased tax revenue for the city.
4. Sustainable development: Adaptive reuse projects like this one can help to reduce waste and environmental impact by repurposing existing buildings rather than building new ones.
Similar redevelopment projects in other cities of the same size and scope have seen great results. Here are a few examples:
1. The Arcade Providence – Providence, Rhode Island: This historic building was built in 1828 as a shopping arcade and was redeveloped into a mixed-use project in 2013. The building now includes 48 micro-loft apartments, offices, retail shops, and restaurants.
2. The Pizitz Building – Birmingham, Alabama: Originally built in 1923 as a department store, the Pizitz Building was redeveloped into a mixed-use project in 2017. The building now includes 143 apartments, offices, and retail space.
3. The Bakery – Atlanta, Georgia: This former industrial building was redeveloped into a mixed-use project in 2018. The building now includes 80 apartments, a food hall, and retail space.
4. The Foundry – Providence, Rhode Island: This former industrial building was redeveloped into a mixed-use project in 2018. The building now includes 45 apartments, offices, and retail space.
These examples show that adaptive reuse projects like the Independent Life Building project are becoming increasingly popular as developers look for ways to preserve historic buildings and create vibrant, mixed-use communities.
Buildings of such magnitude lying dormant have negative consequences and the building itself such as:
1. Blight: A vacant building can quickly become an eyesore and can contribute to blight in the surrounding neighborhood. Over time, a vacant building can attract vandalism, graffiti, and illegal dumping, further contributing to blight.
2. Decreased property values: A vacant building can negatively impact nearby property values, as potential buyers may be deterred by the perceived blight and security risks associated with the building.
3. Safety hazards: A vacant building can pose safety hazards to nearby residents and visitors, as it may be structurally unsound or may attract criminal activity.
4. Loss of revenue: A vacant building can also have economic consequences, as it is not generating any revenue for the property owner or the community.
We hand off a WINK to the DIA, the City Council and to the Augustine Development Group for bringing life back into this beautiful building while preserving historic architecture and character.
We love handing out Winks! Keep giving us opportunities to do so!