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Springing back in Springfield

Local developer planning $8 million retail, condo complex in historic area

By RYAN GEDDES, The Times-Union

San Marco-based real estate developer Cesery Cos. is planning a new $8 million retail and condominium complex in Springfield, at the corner of Main and 3rd streets, on a site that's now home to a used car lot.

Co-owners Barbara and Bill Cesery said they have the half-block site under contract and are planning a four-story development featuring about 40 condos, 7,500 square feet of retail space and about 70 parking spaces.

"Rather than waiting to find a building, we decided to create our own building," said Barbara Cesery, in an interview at the family's offices on San Marco Boulevard.

Cesery Cos. has been active in San Marco in recent years, developing the block of storefronts that is home to upscale restaurant Bistro Aix and renovating a nearby school last year into a for-lease residential project called Lofts San Marco.

The brother and sister also manage property in Arlington, where their father, William Cesery, was a pioneering developer in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Ceserys said a move into Springfield is a logical next step for the company because of its location convenient to downtown and its historic architecture.

"It's going to be the next desirable place to live," said Bill Cesery.

But he admits he was not always a believer in the old neighborhood's charms. Thanks to pioneering infill developers and rock-bottom interest rates, Springfield has been springing back after decades of decay.

The Lofts at Third & Main, as they have been tentatively named, would sell from about $250 to $275 per square foot.

Special to the Times-Union

Once known for crime and blight, the neighborhood's tight grid of streets is now crowded with construction vehicles. Small-time remodelers painstakingly retouch paint on Queen Anne fixer-uppers next door to colorful craftsman knockoffs created by ground-up developers like SRG Homes & Neighborhoods.

On a Wednesday morning tour around Springfield with Mack Bissette, SRG's CEO, the construction activity is intense and neighborhood-wide. The company has built 30 historically-inspired homes in Springfield and has 21 more under construction. Driving up and down Springfield's streets, Bissette points out a handful of sites in Springfield where developers like the Ceserys are planning commercial or multifamily projects to both complement and take advantage of the residential growth.

"They're putting about $1 million into that one," says Bissette, pointing out a halfway-finished building on the corner of Laura and 4th streets.

The site will eventually be home to the offices of Meeks, Ross, Paulk & Assoc. LLC, an accounting firm making a move into a mostly residential area of Springfield.

A few blocks to the northwest, Bissette rolls by the future site of Symbiosis Investments' $17 million retail, office and residential loft complex on three corners of 8th and Pearl streets, just down the street from Shands Jacksonville.

But of all the new mixed-use developments in Springfield, Cesery's would be closest to downtown, and that proximity is what the company would be offering, said Bissette.

"What they are selling is that view," said Bissette.

Although the site's immediate vicinity is populated by a gas station, a vacant lot and a tired-looking storefront, Jacksonville's skyline looms to its south.

And the Lofts at Third & Main, as the Ceserys have tentatively named them, will rise 45 feet from the ground, giving residents a good look over their neighbors' heads at the city beyond.

Although Cesery Cos. did not have an estimate of the project's total cost, they said the units would sell from about $250 to $275 per square foot. The second-floor condos would be smaller flats and the two top floors would be two-story townhouses, the Ceserys said.

The company is still working to get approval from the city for Lofts at Third & Main, but it has already had successful meetings with Springfield Preservation And Revitalization Council and other community groups, Bill Cesery said.

"We are moving forward, and we anticipate starting to sell these by fall and to start construction by the end of the year."

ryan.geddesjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4689

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Here are the renderings

68020_400.jpg

68051_400.jpg

This is great news for Springfield!! There is finally some urban development beyond the downtown core!

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This is great news for Springfield!! There is finally some urban development beyond the downtown core!

Lets not forget about the boom going on in Five Points/Riverside.

Great news, indeed. It looks like they've also improved the look of the buildings since the meeting with the DRC a couple of weeks ago. It should be interesting to see if the market will be willing to pay $250 - $275/sf. If so, this means there's definately a real demand for urban multi-family housing in the area. With this coming in, Main Street getting a new streetscape, and the 10 story project at Main & Union Streets, Confederate Park/Hogans Creek, the new library and the Landing renovations, Main Street has the potential to be one of the most diversified pedestrian friendly corridors in town.

I wish the city would have considered rebuilding the old streetcar line down Main, before the streetscapes began! We could have own mini Garden District atmosphere.

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Lets not forget about the boom going on in Five Points/Riverside.

Great news, indeed.

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This is awesome! I hate that used car lot, hate it with a passion! This is the perfect kind of development for Main Street!

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