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Riverside Renaissance

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By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

The Times-Union

Riverside is rumbling with development six years after the tree-lined neighborhood received a historic district designation and subsequently got a new supermarket and shopping center.

"It's been a process that just reached its critical mass," real estate broker and 20-year Riverside resident Sally Suslak said Tuesday. "We were moving slowly but surely, and when the area became a locally designated historic district with safeguards in place, the prices took off."

In previous years, Riverside home values appreciated 6 percent to 8 percent each year. But the figure spiked to 22 percent in each of the last two years, Suslak said.

"We are witnessing prices going up every day," she said.

Indeed, three weeks ago, six town houses planned for Riverside Avenue as part of the Villa Riva project sold in one day for $550,000 apiece, according to Bryan Weber, managing director of its developer, Flagship Communities LLC.

Since mid-May, developers have been taking reservations on a proposed $25 million retail and residential project at Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street called 1661 Riverside. Midland Development Group Inc. plans to build 69 lofts and 21 town houses along with 12,800 square feet of retail space and a four-level parking at the site.

Tripp Gulliford, Midland executive vice president, said construction could start in December and completed in March or April 2006. Prices for the condos will range from $250,000 to $660,000.

The units would be across Riverside Avenue from another project, The Villas of St. Johns, which added 257 apartments to the area three years ago.

Gulliford said the Villas of St. Johns, combined with the Publix supermarket that opened in 2002 at the site of the former Riverside Hospital, kicked-started development in the neighborhood.

A few blocks up Riverside Avenue, 40 of the 66 condominiums at Villa Riva are already sold -- with prices starting at $600,000 and topping out at $1.7 million. The project is expected to open next May, Weber said.

Riverside ranked 12th of the city's 31 ZIP-code areas in terms of housing unit turnover during 2003, according to Ray Rodriguez, president of the Real Estate Strategy Center of North Florida Inc. Ten percent of the neighborhood's units sold last year; the Kernan Boulevard area sold the highest portion in the city, 23 percent, Rodriguez said.

Sure, Weber had to deal with the Riverside Avondale Preservation group while planning his project. But to him it was worth it because the area's historic feel is what makes it popular in the first place.

"It keeps the whole character of that neighborhood in place," Weber said. "And that's what our buyers like."

They also like being able to walk to the market, a restaurant, coffee shop, or dry cleaners -- all of which became possible after the $8 million Riverside Market Square opened in 2002.

"It's a pedestrian-friendly place, and the architecture is wonderful," Suslak said. "You're not looking at the same-old, same-old all the time."

That diversity of housing should keep the area from becoming gentrified and forcing out long-time residents, said John Crofts, deputy director of the city's Planning and Development Department.

Despite the recent projects, Riverside isn't in danger of being overbuilt, he said.

"I don't think we're getting anywhere near that level of density," Crofts said. "You pretty much have a low-rise arrangement. High-rises are the exception."

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A sign at Riverside Avenue and Margaret Street announces a proposed $25 million retail and residential project planned for the area.

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The Villa Riva condominiums project is underway near St. Vincent's Medical Center in Riverside. BOB SELF/The Times-Union

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That's great news for Riverside. Since that project is right next to Riverside Market Square, it should be pretty successful. I love hearing that the Riverside/ Avondale area is coming along.

Just remembered: That will also somewhat bridge the gap between Riverside Market Square, and the Five Points shopping district.

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The Business Journal has an article out today about Brooklyn, which is the area between Downtown and Riverside proper. It discusses plans for a Master Plan of the area. In it, it mentions the Marks Gray Law Firm's plans for a new building. It has grown in size from 58,000 sq. ft to 100,000 and will grow in height as the four floors will now be on top of two levels of parking as opposed to the previous plan for surface parking. Apparently they are trying to conserve space for additional future development.

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Wow! I'm going to have to go out and buy me a copy when I get off work. I'm currently in the process of conducting a study for potential investment opportunities in Brooklyn. That area will get a great image boost, when Riverside Avenue, Forest St, & the riverwalk are completed.

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The expensive prices in Riverside are actually benefitting Springfield. New up-and-coming artists who can't afford to live in the Riverside "arts community" are now moving to Springfield, which has become the new "arts community". But I'm sure that eventually, Springfield might become just as exclusive.

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Pizza Palace expands again in Riverside

Owner to open his fourth restaurant later this year at former Hardee's site.

By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

The Times-Union

Jacksonville's ever-popular Pizza Palace is planning to open a fourth restaurant at a former Hardee's location in Riverside later this year.

Owner Elias Demetree said Friday he's leasing and renovating the 2,600-square-foot former Hardee's at 9200 Margaret St., at Post Street. He's expecting to be open for business in November.

Pizza Palace's original restaurant opened in 1991 on King Street. But it has comparatively little seating. The new place will seat 90 and should attract plenty of business in Riverside, Demetree said.

"We have such a following and good, loyal customers there," he said. "We needed to do something else in Riverside."

The new restaurant, across Margaret Street from Riverside Park, will be called Pizza Palace on the Park, Demetree said.

He's planning to spend $250,000 upgrading and equipping the new restaurant.

Last year, Pizza Palace completed a $100,000 expansion and renovation of its San Marco location at 1959 San Marco Blvd. when it took over adjacent space previously occupied by a dry cleaning shop.

Demetree also owns the Pizza Palace restaurant at 9850 San Jose Blvd. in Mandarin, which opened three years ago. The 9-year-old San Marco location remains his busiest.

Restaurant consultant Tom Borchert said the new Pizza Palace's proximity to the hip and edgy Five Points neighborhood should benefit its success.

"Young people is your biggest market," he said, "and walk-up traffic, it would be there."

Demetree's restaurants employ about 34 workers, but he expects to hire 15 to 20 with the opening of the Margaret location. He also plans to be there awhile -- Demetree signed a 30-year lease on the location.

"We'lI be there a long time," he said. "I think Riverside deserves a store just like our San Marco store."

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Locals plan to restore former Five Points theater

Project would include converting site into lofts, office and retail space and a restaurant.

By M.C. MOEWE

The Times-Union

A Jacksonville businessman plans to restore the former Five Points Theatre building on Park Street, one of the first built for films with sound in Florida in 1927.

"This is a building that has been under-used and in bad shape," said Jack Shad who is working on the project with his brother, Bill Shad, and father, Mike Shad, a retired automobile dealer whose name is still on several local dealerships.

"Everyone we've talked to about this project has been very excited about it," said Mike Shad.

"It's the final piece of the renovation of the Five Points area, which began with new apartments on Riverside Avenue and the Publix shopping center and continues with the 1661 Riverside project, and especially the new sidewalks and landscaping installed by the city," he said.

They plan to strip away the 1970s-era stucco and restore the original tan brick facade. Architect Ken Smith, a specialist in historic preservation, and E.C. Kenyon Construction Co. will work on the project.

The building was designed by architect Roy Benjamin, who also designed the Florida Theatre downtown, Shad said.

Plans include converting the top two floors into loft apartments, the second floor to leased office space and the ground floor will include retail space, according to the developers. They hope to convert the old theater section, now occupied by a nightclub, into a restaurant.

The future of Club 5, a nightclub located in the building, is undetermined. Mike Shad said the tenant has filed a lawsuit seeking to remain in the building. No court date has been assigned. Calls to the establishment last night were not answered.

The project will take about a year to finish and is estimated to cost $4.5 million, Mike Shad said. The price includes the property and renovation costs.

The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission will consider the building for landmark status this month. If approved, the group plans to apply for federal historic preservation tax credits, local property tax abatement and possibly city incentives.

Bonnie Grissett, of Riverside Avondale Preservation Inc., said plans to renovate the Five Points area began in 1987 but the construction didn't start until this year. "This will just be the crowning event," she said.

There's a picture that goes with this, but I can't seem to copy and paste it. Any suggestions?

This is great news in many ways, but I do regret that it seems 5 Pts is getting gentrified. The neat thing about 5 pts is the bohemian, eclectic, Gen X atmosphere. I hope it can somehow remain that way.

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39729_400.jpg

I agree, since its been discovered, it will be hard to keep it from becoming gentrified. I have a feeling either Park & King or Brooklyn will eventually become what Five Points is today.

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Keep in mind, all the new artists can't afford the increasing prices of Riverside/Avondale. They've been moving to Springfield, which might take the "Gen X" off of 5 Points. I like this project, and I'm glad they'll be removing the 70's crap. It mentioned that a restaurant would move into the theatre section. Just how big is that theatre?! How high is the celing? That would make a really novel dining attraction: dinner at the movie theatre. Can anyone find pics of the interior, especially before the 70's?

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In agree with Urban Legend. Springfield is starting to become a Gen X hangout. With the Park & King streetscaping that is going on, the Gen Xers may just go to Springfield. Of course, Springfield is getting pricey too. Maybe in a few years they will move to Murray Hill.

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THE DAILY SCOOP: The Jacksonville Planning and Development Department is reviewing plans for a parking garage for Fidelity National Financial at 631 Peninsular Place. The five-story, 1,716-space garage will sit on 2.87 acres bordered by Riverside Avenue, Rosselle Street, May Street and Peninsular Place. It is a 589,330-square-foot garage. Skiles Engineering is the engineer and The Haskell Co. is the architect.

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Where exactly is that? Is it the parking lot across the street from Fidelity? I hope it has a nice design, and doesn't look to bland. And the article didn't mention anything about ground floor retail, which would also be nice.

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Local B&B earns national recognition

The Inn at Oak Street is featured in the September cover story of Coastal Living Magazine as one of its "20 Favorite Inns."

The magazine described the inn's d

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