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Old Barnett Bank building closes

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The old Barnett Bank building closed was closed by its owners Wednesday, forcing the five remaining tenants to move.

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

Catching its neighbors and even a potential buyer by surprise, the old Barnett Bank building closed Wednesday.

Located on the corner of West Adams and Laura streets, owners of the 18-story building said it was

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At least there's some people that seem to care about the shape of downtown. In my opinion this would be a perfect place to put in a little incentive or low-rate loan to the either the owner or the guy buying it just to keep the building in decent shape.

The faster the turnaround the better for the city.

Maybe the city would prefer to let it sit for 10 years then have the owner claim it's beyond repair and tear the whole thing down.

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Just yesterday the Daily Record mentioned in "City Notes" that the negotiations around incentives for this building were in a holding pattern, while the city dealt with the courthouse fiasco and the negotiations over the Landing incentives.

On the Transit thread, several forumers, including myself, felt that PERHAPS downtown momentum is being lost under the new mayor, John Peyton. This is an example of where that feeling is coming from.

Peyton has stated that he wants to cut back the JEDC (the economic development arm of the city) staff by 20%. Perhaps they are overstaffed, but the fact that they apparently dont have enough people to do their current work and simultaneously undertake the Barnett negotiations indicates they might be UNDERSTAFFED.

It seems to me that cutting back on economic development could possibly cut back on the development itself, and the additional taxes that brings (particularly in areas that already have costly infrastructure in place). This might not be the wisest place to cut back. It could be penny wise and dollar foolish.

By delaying negotiations on the Barnett building, the city is hurting itself in several ways. 1) It will take longer for the increase in taxes, resulting from the improvements, to hit the city treasury. 2) The city is keeping an eyesore in place longer, which in itself discourages other redevelopment. 3) Tenants of the Barnett would be customers of the Landing and other downtown establishments. 4) It will leave a large, visible eyesore for the Super Bowl visitors. 5) The cost of renovations will rise over time because of additional deterioration and inflation in general. This in turn will lead to greater need/demand for taxpayer incentives.

Despite Al Battle's comments, it is a well known fact that vacancy leads to greater deterioration.

The city needs to get to the table with Langton now and come to a mutual agreement. Hopefully, at least construction work can start before the Super Bowl. With this building and the Laura Place trio in their current state, it will put a black mark on downtown when the Super Bowl arrives.

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^ good points. I believe revitalizing this area of the Adams Street corridor should be a higher priority, than fixing up the Landing. For a couple of reasons.

1. Its the actual heart of the downtown core, historically and architecturally. Having a true vibrant 24-7 urban atmosphere in a condensed 5 to 6 block area in the heart of downtown, will do much more for the city's image than the restored Landind ever will.

2. The Landing is basically a shopping mall that pulls people off the streets of downtown.

3. Its pretty clear these buildings aren't in good shape. Even now its going to take a lot of money to restore them. The longer the city delays, the worse off they will be. The Florida Life and Brisbee Buildings, as bad as they already are, might decay to a point where they are beyond repair.

4. With Hemming Plaza, The Carlington, W.A. Knight, JMOMA, the library, and the Lerner Shops projects finished or under construction, all efforts should be focused on quickly energizing the center and letting development spread from it. Its better to create one world class urban environment first, instead of spreading yourself thin, early.

5. IMO, the main thing the Landing needs right now is a parking garage (to attract new retailers) and a good bath. I like the idea of opening the courtyard up to Laura St., but instead of wasting millions to put up a tacky facade, maybe they would be better off opening retail space to front Water Street and the courtyard and just kill off the interior mall section. In the end, while Sleiman's plans are impressive, he's asking for too much city money.

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It's time to get started. I think a little initiative by the developers will get the proposed projects off the ground. Good luck for the Barnet bank building.

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The unfortunate thing is that Laura Place and Barnett are smack-dab in the middle of downtown. I have a feeling every single Super Bowl visitor will pass by these buildings at one point. It's pitiful looking. I will be extremely pissed if one of these buildings becomes "unfixable". Time is of the essence, yet our leaders don't seem to notice that. It's funny how last year, we thought so many projects would be finished by February. I sure got my hopes up...

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Lakelander, you make some excellent points, which I agree with completely. However, I see no reason why a city as big as Jax must pursue an either/or choice between the Landing and the Barnett building. Even if it can't incentivize both at the same time, it could at least start the negotiotions with Barnett while continuing them with Tony Sleiman (Landing owner). Then at least the city could weigh one option against the other.

I also feel that at some point the Landing will compliment the downtown core rather than just compete with it.

An excellent example of this is in San Diego, where the Seaport Village center is similiar to the Landing, and the Gas Lamp district is a completed version of what Bay Street Town Center is envisioned to be. They each are successful and get plenty of pedestrian traffic. Each has it's own ambience and visitor's routinely take both in.

The Landing could (and I think eventually will) serve as an "anchor" for Laura Street with the Hemming Plaza area serving as the opposite "anchor", with lots of restaurants, clubs, and specialty shops between the two. Adams Street would form an East/West axis with the same mix.

It is also very important that the Landing deal not drag on too long either. If they get one or two more significant vacancies (like Ruby Tuesday's) without filling them, the marketability of the center would drop sharply I think. It's a lot easier to find tenants for a 70% occupied center than a 35% occupied center. Time is not on Sleiman or the city's side in my opinion. I realize that I haven't been to the Landing in a few months, and the live music is supposedly bring people in, but are they spending? With Ruby Tuesday leaving, you have to wonder.

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While the music is bringing in people, it does appear that they aren't dining or spending money there. In the last two months. I eaten at Southend Brewery, Benny's, Ruby Tuesday & the American Cafe on evenings when bands were playing in the courtyards and all of the restaurants appeared to be about 40 - 50% full. My wife even asked how some of these places were staying in business considering how full the restaurants around Tinseltown get a night. Furthermore, the funny thing is, other than Hooters, Ruby Tuesday seemed to be the most crowed restuarant there.

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Time is of the essence on the Barnett and the Marble Trio (should have been started at least a year ago). We will lose all of these buildings if they are not addressed quickly. I hope we do the right thing here. I have to think they will be saved.

The Landing, no matter what the occupancy is, has tremendous potential. Look at its place on the river. If the developer gets too frustrated, I believe they could sell it at a profit.

These projects are probably exceptions but development of downtown IS possible without city incentives. Precedent should be given to saving historic buildings, IMO.

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