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TREE4309

Affordable Downtown Living

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I'm a Jacksonville resident and new to the forum, so I apologize if this has been discussed at length before, but is it just me, or is there a serious lack of affordable residential projects downtown? I'm ideally looking to buy a true loft (1000+ sf.) in the $150-225k range, although I would consider anything that is architecturally interesting in the same price range. Everything I have seen is either for rent (WA Knight Building, Liberty St. Lofts, Market St. Lofts, Lofts San Marco) or out of my price range (Home Street Lofts, Churchwell Lofts, 1661 Riverside) I know I may be asking for alot here, but are there any existing or new project slated that might fit my needs? Has anyone successfully renovated a small building themselves? The old fire station at Ocean and Adams is impressive, although much more grand than what I have in mind. I've spotted a few buildings of interest...618 E. Adams, 118? Main St. (next to Farah & Farah Law Offices between Bay and Forsyth), and a small building caddycorner to Hemming Plaza (currently has a shoe repair shop on the first floor), etc. With limited capital...I'd have no idea where to start. Any insight is appreciated...thanks!

-Todd

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How long do you have to wait? if you actually visit the other discussions that we have had in the Jacksonville forum, you will find this discussion. Let me look and I will update this soon. You could e-mail Lakelander too, he would know.

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I can wait as long as necessary, I own a home in the Ortega neighborhood that I'm completing a restoration on. I had actually initially posted this on Skyscrapercity and Lakelander suggested I post it here as well. I'll dig through the forum to see what has been discussed, but any info you can share is much appreciated. Thanks!

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Unfortunately, "Downtown" and "affordable housing" seldon go together in the same sentence, regardless of the city. It is often singles that have the lifestyle to live downtown (ie don't need a yard for the kids,etc), but the pricing requires two incomes in most cases.

The Waterside condominiums proposed for each side of the Aetna building would be an option if they decide to go with for-sale units. The developer has not decided which it will be, but with two buildings, it would seem a good likelyhood that at least one would be for-sale. The figures that have been mentioned for that project are $150k and 170k to start. They have not given a timetable for starting construction, so it may be awhile before they begin work.

You reference that you are restoring a house currently in Ortega. Perhaps we should communicate via email some. I have some financial means to get involved with a project, but need a partner with expertise in the construction side. Maybe we could put a project together between both of us.

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Check out www.sanmarcoplace.com. These are on the southbank of Downtown and start in the low $200's. That's hardly affordable for most folks, but it's the closest we're getting in the near future to buy. They won't be true lofts, however. From what I hear, they're almost sold out.

Regarding historic structures, have you looked into the Bay Street Town Center area? There are a lot of smaller, older buildings that are for sale. I'm sure it goes without saying when talking with this group, but first floor retail, residential up is preferred.

If you want to see what's over there, call Jim Bailey...356-2466.

And don't forget about Springfield. With $225 and a lot of sweat equity, you might be able to find something suitable.

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In my opinion, the city should put forth a better effort to attract affordable and true market rate housing (starting at $100K) to the downtown core. If the goal is to develop and grow into a true 24-7, vibrant & urban atmosphere, housing must be provided for a large diverse amount of incomes and social classes. I'd like to see affordable market rate housing targeted for the numerous amounts of surface parking lots between Main & Ocean Streets, as well as just north of Bay Street in the Cathedral District. Tax incentives should be geared to more 2-3 story Parks @ the Cathedral-like projects, instead of the Peninsula, Shipyards, and Berkman Plaza luxury projects.

Also, although this has little to do with the topic, its about time to address the large number of homeless people roaming the streets and sleeping in the parks in downtown.

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Totally agree with you regarding housing. That's exactly what Downtown Vision has been trying to get the mayor's office and JEDC to buy into-- incentivising market rate housing in the central business district. This will offer housing opportunities to the younger generations that are more inclined to be the Downtown pioneers. It will also put more people on the streets. Projects going up on the outskirts of the CBD are great and I'm happy they are there, but let's face it, people aren't going to walk from LaVilla to get a bite to eat at the Mudville Grill. And the projects on the Southbank are going to take off without city money, because the general public considers that area San Marco, although technically it is Downtown. This is a debate the TheUrbanCore and I have had several times, so I am sure we'll hear from him soon.

Regarding the homeless. We really don't have that many truly homeless people that live on our streets. What we do have is a Greyhound station in the middle of Downtown. With that come folks that are carrying their clothes in a trash bag waiting on their next bus and looking for something to do until it comes. Of course, there are the truly indigent, down and out, drug abusers and mentally ill. And as in all downtowns, this is where the social service agencies are, which we have far too many of and none of them communicate with each other. One of the Ambassadors told me that you can get free dinner 8 times every night in Downtown and you don't even have to walk fast to get to them.

I can't mention all of that without bringing up panhandlers, but that's an easy problem to solve. If they weren't profitable, they wouldn't be here. People have to stop giving them money.

I think that when we have more people on the streets that are not homeless or transients, then those folks will blend into the background and just become a part of the Downtown fabric.

Off my soapbox now.

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I agree with Lakelander and Downtowngal, but with a couple of wrinkles.

I would say that if LaVilla had been done right, there would be residential there now, with their OWN restaurants within walking distance. Maybe it's not too late to transform Lavilla into more than an office district.

Secondly, the 2-3 story Parks @ the Cathedral-type housing would be perfect for LaVilla and the remainder of the Cathedral district. The Main St/Ocean St. area would probably require mid or high rises to justify the cost of the land. Plus, that would build density. The city should incentivize the land purchase to someone who would build a large quantity of affordable units.

Speaking of the Parks at the Cathedral, one of the units just sold after just one day on the market! The asking price was $176,900. Haven't heard the selling price, but it was probably very close to that. It is the smallest floor plan in the development, and sets a record for units that size. It was on Church St and another Church St. unit sold recently as well. Not sure what that one sold for.

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You both make good points. LaVilla and the Cathedral District would actually be ideal places to put in affordable housing. Being away from the river makes land cheaper and the streets in those areas, other than State & Union, aren't heavily traveled. I do believe that true affordable housing is the last thing downtown needs before it evolves into a true 24-7 neighborhood.

BTW, I picked up a brochure advertising a 3bd/ 2ba unit at the Parks @ the Cathedral complex. The asking price is listed at $164,000. I wonder will phase two ever be built, since the first phase has been quite successful.

Does any think that the LaVilla Square project will eventually become reality? A residential project that size could really kick off development in La Villa.

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What's the La Villa Square project? I think the best thing for that area would be mix-use. And on a relatively large scale, encompassing at least a couple of blocks.

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La Villa Square was a proposal to build 32 townhomes on two blocks off Jefferson, between Union and Beaver Streets. The units at the $6 million development would have been priced a $180,000.

However, the city voted it down, because they believe the unit prices are too expensive and a couple of councilmen wanted more money for the city owned land. Last year, when this was first rejected, developers were asking the city for incentives. Six months later they applied again, this time they were not going to ask for incentives from the city, but they were still rejected.

Although there are some legit questions about placing residential uses along Union St. (imo, this can be solved by smart land planning and architectural design), I still feel this would be a huge project for La Villa. There's not much land, in LaVilla, available for a project so large, since most of it has already been sectioned off and sold to small suburban oriented office developments. I'm still holding the hope that developers will come back at a later point.

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The second phase of the Parks @ the Cathedral project has hit a snag. The developers are haggling with the city over some drainage issues on the site. Each thinks the other should pay. The last that I heard, the second phase was in limbo and could be canceled. I wil try to get an update on that.

I would prefer that the developers buy some adjacent land in that block (Duval,Market, Ashley, Newnan) and do a larger, 4-5 story developement with perhaps some office/retail included.

Two excellent examples of what I mean can be viewed at the websites for two projects underway here in Greenville. The first, 55 Riverplace is residential only itself, but is part of a larger mixed use development that includes hotel/retail/offices and park space on the River. The second, Poinsett Corners is itself a mixed use project with live/work, retail, and professional offices in addition to 79 condos, all wrapped around a core parking garage. Poinsett Corners is under construction now. To see the renderings, click visuals, then renderings.

These would also be excellent prototype developments for the Main St/Ocean St/Newnan corridor that Lakelander mentioned.

A significant number of potential buyers at the Parks project, did not buy because they are three levels. Many empty-nesters prefer a single level unit. All of the units in 55 Riverplace and most of the ones at Poinsett Corners are single level. The two level units at Poinsett Corners were also the last to sell.

I need to get to work now, but I will post later about how both of these projects were pre-sold at auction with great success.

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