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A tall order

Building heigh restriction forces developers to rethink plans for Jacksonville Beach

Laura Jane Pittman


Industry officials say the new height restriction amendment for Jacksonville Beach might cause future developers to try to maximize property value by cutting back on architectural design and expanding footprints of buildings.

About 76 percent of voters Nov. 2 approved the citizens-sponsored amendment that limits development throughout the city of Jacksonville Beach to a maximum height of 35 feet.

Voters turned down another measure sponsored by the city that would have made height exceptions for development on oceanfront property and the area between First and Second streets.

Representatives from both sides of the issue are now debating the short- and long-term effects that the new restriction, and the failed exceptions measure, will have on the beaches community.

The Beaches Watch group, an organization that sponsored the approved amendment, maintains that high-rise development adversely affects the quality of life and the charm of the Beaches community.

With 22 developments of 35 feet or higher already under construction or permitted for the beach community, officials with the group said the restriction will be greatly beneficial by banning additional high rises.

Members of Beaches Vision, a separate group formed to educate people about the effects of the legislation, say that this is a step backwards for both developers and residents. The amendment would shut the door on at least nine additional proposed high-rise projects, if it survives expected challenges.

Chris Hionides, a member of Beaches Vision and president of Surface Technologies Corp., does not think the legislation will deter development, as it was intended to do.

"This is only going to change the look and the character of the development," he said. "It won't reduce the amount of people or the density of the area. If someone had planned to build 10 units, he will still build 10 units."

Current city zoning laws specify that builders must add two feet of setback from the property line for every foot of height in a building. The new height restriction has Hionides and others concerned that new development will now be built right to the edge of property lines through special exceptions to maximize space, thus reducing the amount of open space between buildings.

"I recognize that this small community is worried about their infrastructure and I don't disagree with their right to maintain it," said Kate Clifford, first vice president and broker with Coldwell Banker Commercial Nicholson-Williams Realty. "I just don't think this is the best way to do it. It doesn't provide the open space that is desirable."

Alan Dickinson, president of Dickinson Commercial Real Estate Services LLC in Ponte Vedra Beach, is about to begin construction of the 22-unit oceanfront The Lorelei Condominiums. Dickinson, whose project received a building permit before the vote, said the amendment was passed in part because of hysteria and fear of residents.

"The city had a well-thought-out mandate already in place," he said. "There are only a few parcels of land that are available for this type of development. I think this decision was extremely short sighted."

It is too early to tell how the height restriction will affect commercial land values, and opinions on what will happen with land prices vary depending on who is talking.

Jacksonville Beach City Manager George Forbes said the restriction would ultimately bring property values up. "There is only so much beach, and it is considered very desirable to live here," Forbes said.

For existing property owners, however, Dickinson said that the value of their land decreased immediately when the amendment passed. "If you are building a condominium that can only be 35 feet high, you can't get as many people on the property," he said.

In the long run, however, he sees condominium values increasing since there will not be as many units built.

"Limiting future development not only increases competition for choice sites," said Ray Rodriguez of the Real Estate Strategy Center of North Florida, "it also increases property value for existing residential and commercial properties."

The financial effects of the restriction will likely extend beyond property values, according to industry professionals. They worry that the potential loss of high-rise luxury condo units will mean the loss of higher income residents, and in turn a loss of business for a segment of retailers.

"I'm very disappointed for the retailers," Dickinson said. "To say we don't have the infrastructure to support this development is wrong and to take away wealth and opportunity from the community is wrong."

There also is concern that the restriction may limit development trends and not leave as much room for architectural creativity, said Fitch King, president of Morgar Realty Inc., a real estate brokerage and property management company.

King also serves as local chapter president of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. "While developers are interested in maximizing value," King said, "they are aware of features that are not good for an area."

Since Jacksonville Beach does not have a large amount of commercial or industrial development, King said the biggest impact will be on residential properties.

With the new restriction in place and developers trying to maximize the number of units, developments will push as close to the property line as possible and will look very utilitarian.

The mixed-use building concept has grown more popular over the last several years, but there is speculation that this option will be limited for area developers.

"With a height limit, there will not be the opportunity to provide for retail or service spaces on the bottom floors with residential units above," King said.

"We have seen Jacksonville Beach attracting new development, getting a diversified group of residents," said Hionides, who also proposed condos on First Street North, "but now we can't seem to turn the corner.

"The issue is not 25-story hotels," Hionides said. "The buildings that are in question are beautiful condominiums with lots of green space, which are built to the latest hurricane safety standards."

Many in the industry are unsure at this point how to answer the question of whether or not commercial development will go elsewhere and, if so, where.

There is general agreement, however, that the short-term effect of the height restriction amendment will be lawsuits.

"I don't think it is over," Clifford said. "We haven't even begun to see the litigation that is going to happen as a result of this amendment."

Dickinson said those who have been affected financially by the restriction should be compensated. Forbes anticipates a spate of initial lawsuits involving those developers who were working to push projects through before Nov. 2, but thinks that legal activity will settle down relatively quickly.

"I definitely think this restriction will help protect the quality of life for those at the Beaches and will be beneficial in the long haul," he said.

[email protected] | 396-3502

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  • 2 weeks later...

The metropolitan is in the perfect place. I also went to jax Beach and discovered a perfect place for a high-rise downtown area for Jax Beach. Maybe from the Oceanside condo (the big brown one slightly south of Pablo Towers on the ocean) up until Aqulius II I believe. It would be a perfect area too extending from the beach to third street. Tell me what you think.

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  • 3 weeks later...

^That's the natural place for high-rise and commercial development to spring up on the beach. If you drive down 1st Street, from Atlantic Beach, to South Jax Beach, you'll easily notice the character of existing development is entirely different from the low rise single family home areas to the North and South.

With the height limit, I'd expect this Central area of Jax Beach (Between the Beach & 3rd Street, to densify into a similar, yet smaller version of Miami Beach and its low rise density. Miami Beach has its unique Art Deco style of architecture, it will be interesting to see what type of dominant architectural style takes over in this area.

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New, longer Jacksonville Beach pier 'sight to behold'


The Jacksonville Beach Pier's shelters offer places to sit and get out of the wind for a while.

By JOE JULAVITS, The Times-Union

The new Jacksonville Beach Pier, its wood unweathered and its bolts rust-free, opened to a warm welcome last Thursday. It was like an old friend had returned, minus the fish slime. More than 1,000 people, many undoubtedly harboring fond memories of the former pier, turned out for the opening.

"It was a sight to behold," said pier manager Don Streeter of Dania Pier Management. "This was the third new pier we've opened, and the attendance topped the others."

It didn't take long for the first fish to come flopping over the rail. One angler tallied 20 whiting. Actually, the pier's fishing baptism occurred while it was still under construction. A worker landed an oversized redfish and was subsequently cited. Extending a quarter-mile out into the Atlantic, the new pier gives anglers access to deeper water -- and the species available there -- than the old pier. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd left the old pier at Sixth Avenue South in shambles. Construction on the new pier at Fourth Avenue North began in 2003.

"We've been wanting this since the old pier was gone -- five years has been a long time," said Faye Cotner, an employee at the new pier who once worked on the old Miss Mayport headboat. "This [new pier] is outstanding."

"It's impressive, isn't it?" said Bennie Resnick, a JTA retiree who'll also be working behind the counter at the pier. "I used to love the old pier."

Measuring 1,300 feet long and 20 feet wide, the new pier is anchored by concrete pilings and features wooden railings and replaceable deck panels designed to break away in the event of extraordinary wave action. Overall, the impression is one of heavy-duty functionality.

"These guys took more care to make sure there wasn't any bevel to the boards," Streeter said. "I was impressed."

It there's a flaw in the pier design, it's the placement of the bait and tackle shop building on the south side, exposing the counter window to the full brunt of brisk nor'easters. Employees will have to bundle up during the winter months. The bait shop, with restrooms off to the side, sells bait and tackle, rents rods and reels and offers drinks and snacks, including hot dogs.

"You have to serve pier dogs," Streeter said.

Terminal tackle and popular pier lures such as Gotcha plugs and spoons will be available. For bait, the shop will carry shrimp, squid, mullet, sand fleas and anything else the customers demand, Streeter said.

"If enough people ask for something, we'll get it," he said. "I don't want to hear, 'I didn't catch any fish because they didn't have the right bait.'''

Four fish-cleaning stations and three shelters with benches are spaced along the pier's length. At the end is a T that can accommodate a number of fishermen. Three view finders (25 cents a view) will allow visitors to zero in on passing ships or maybe a distant right whale. Anglers on the pier are each limited to three rods. Coolers and carts are welcome, but pets aren't allowed. The pier's hours of operation, at least through April, are 6 a.m.-10 p.m. There's a possibility the pier could go to a round-the-clock schedule, Streeter said.

"I imagine we'll sit down with the city and see if we can stretch the hours out," he said. "Two of our piers [in South Florida] are open 24/7."

All that's missing at the new pier are photos of catches on the wall. Fishermen have been waiting five years to take care of that.


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  • 3 weeks later...

Harbortown a Boater's dream



One of Jacksonville's most enviable amenities is the sparkling sunsets over the Intracoastal Waterway. Imagine owning this view and the beautiful townhome that comes with it. Enjoy these magnificent views every evening from your new townhome at Watersedge at Harbortown. Whether you are enjoying an evening boat ride on your boat -- docked right outside your door -- or cocktails on your fourth-floor outdoor living area, your life at Watersedge at Harbortown will be the envy of all your friends.

As part of the master-planned marina community of Harbortown, located on the Intracoastal Waterway, Watersedge offers easy, direct access to the Atlantic Ocean -- a boater's dream. The distinct and exclusive Watersedge townhomes are just steps from the water's edge and offer boat slips right outside your door.

Only 20 homeowners will be able to experience life at Watersedge. This intimate community is perfect for boating enthusiasts who want their boat only a few feet away. Or, if you're a land lover, you'll enjoy the secluded courtyards, some of which are large enough for your own private swimming pool.

Pre-sales have begun, and only half of these exclusive homes remain. Pre-construction prices start in the $800,000s, and buyers' interests have yet to slow down.

"The sales and interest we have received for Watersedge has been phenomenal," said Margi Petitt, sales manager for Lifestyles Realtors, the exclusive realty company for Watersedge. "Our buyers and prospects are overwhelmed with the views, waterfront living and the incredible Mediterranean architecture of the townhomes. These four-story homes each have their own distinct design."

Julian LeCraw & Company, the developer of numerous successful projects in the Jacksonville and Atlanta markets, is developing Watersedge townhomes. LeCraw has been the master developer for several projects in the Jacksonville area, including Grand Reserve, The Villas at Marsh Landing, The Palms at Marsh Landing, and Belleza at Ponte Vedra Beach, which is being unveiled this month. They also are overseeing the renovation and development of the entire Harbortown master-planned community and marina construction.

"We are very excited to be a part of the Harbortown master-planned community," said Kristi Torgler, director of sales and marketing for LeCraw. "Our company is very committed to the Jacksonville market, and we are proud to be building this exclusive product for the buyers here. We saw a need in the marketplace for a product that defines its owners, and we've designed it at Watersedge."

Watersedge offers a variety of floorplans with variations of each plan also available. These homes are designed so that owners can add their own touches.

The homes include luxury features such as bedroom combination choices, owners' suites, in-home offices, two-car garages large enough for boat storage, private elevators and private courtyards.

Perhaps the highlight of these homes is the fourth-floor rooftop terrace. These covered, outdoor living areas overlook the Intracoastal and are perfect for a sunset dinner party after a day of boating. The rooftop terraces are like nothing else in the Jacksonville market.

The luxurious details of Watersedge's interiors will please any homeowner. From French doors, crown molding, cultured marble, granite countertops and ceramic tiles, the interior design elements will bring an air of elegance for these Mediterranean-inspired homes.

The exquisite detail of the exteriors will create a new standard for design excellence in Jacksonville with rich stucco exteriors, weathered wrought iron, sweeping arches and hand-carved tile.

The completed Harbortown community will include the new marina, Watersedge townhomes and several condominium sites. Residents will be able to stroll along the waterfront promenade to casual dining and shopping as part of their community.

"Watersedge is the epitome of what a relaxed waterfront lifestyle is all about," Petitt said. "Residents enjoy a casual yet elegant lifestyle in an intimate environment. This community is wonderful for anyone who wants a peaceful, natural setting. Boaters will find that Watersedge offers easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. In your boat, you can go from the Intracoastal to the ocean in just a few minutes."

Watersedge residents will enjoy the privilege of being part of a master-planned community with many amenities right outside their doors, but they also are close to the best of Jacksonville. The Beaches and some of the country's best golf courses, including the TPC, are just minutes away. In addition, fine dining, shopping, sports and entertainment are close by.

The marina at Harbortown is near completion. Watersedge townhomes will begin construction in March.

For more information, contact Margi Petitt at Lifestyles Realtors at (904) 571-9821, or visit www.watersedgejax.com.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Stellar begins condo project in Jax Beach

Workers will begin construction this spring on a condominium project on N. 1st Street in Jacksonville Beach called Serena Point. The first phase will be a seven-story, 54,200-square-foot condo tower for Serena Point LLC. The 17 units will range in price from $700,000 to $900,000.

Stellar Contracting will provide construction management services for the project, in conjunction with the architectural and engineering services of Rink Design Partnership and Connelly & Wicker Inc.

Stellar spokesman Mark Sherwood said the exact starting date for construction will depend on the permitting process.

The second phase will be a town home development adjacent to the first phase with prices ranging from $900,000 to $1.2 million. The two phases of the development will share amenities including beach access, an oceanfront pool and spa, and climate controlled storage.

Completion of the project is scheduled for the summer of 2006.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mayport carrier gets high support


The Times-Union

WASHINGTON -- An aircraft carrier should be moved to a nuclear-ready Mayport Naval Station to replace a mothballed USS John F. Kennedy, the Navy's top officer told lawmakers Wednesday.

Adm. Vernon Clark, chief of naval operations, signaled Navy support by saying he approved moving a carrier there and making the necessary nuclear upgrades. He also reiterated his support for two East Coast bases and going ahead with an environmental study at Mayport.

The Kennedy and USS Kitty Hawk are the Navy's only oil-fired carriers among its fleet of 12, and Mayport currently is not nuclear-capable.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., announced in news releases that Clark's intentions mean Mayport will host a nuclear carrier, though others including Clark said it's not a done deal.

"When the highest ranking person, the guy who's in charge of moving ships around, says that, it's got to be good," Crenshaw said.

President Bush's proposed budget includes decommissioning the Kennedy this year. Local leaders sought to protect the ship but increasingly built a stiffer effort to upgrade Mayport -- a goal for more than a decade.

Clark noted the dangers of over-concentrating carriers in one place after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a warning Crenshaw and others have made since shutting down the Kennedy became possible.

Speaking to a House subcommittee on the military inside the Capitol, Clark said the process to becoming nuclear-capable has taken 18 months to a decade. There's also several years of conceiving plans besides environmental issues, such as improving wharves.

"It all depends on how the parties are working together. It is my view we ought to start that study process as soon as we can," Clark told lawmakers.

Clark told the Times-Union he was uncertain whether a new study or updating a 1997 report would be done. However, he said the prior study could "speed the process" toward becoming nuclear-capable at Mayport. A couple of more years beyond the study would be needed to make the base ready.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is already working on a list of base closures due this year. Clark said the secretary is studying a lot of activities, and then will call for the study.

"And you need to emphasize it's a study. It's not a decision," Clark said, adding later that "my business is to make recommendations to the secretary, so please don't put me in a position of trying to create expectations for the people of Jacksonville."

But Crenshaw noted neither Clark nor Assistant Defense Secretary B.J. Penn objected to Crenshaw's question about adding money for nuclear upgrades in 2006. None is there now, and the total cost is expected to be more than $100 million.

"I think the Navy would support that," Penn said of additions.

Clark also said 2007 planning is under way, but changes to proposed spending happen routinely in Washington.

Crenshaw said later any available money could be found during the budgeting process Congress has started over the $420 billion defense budget. He offered no specific opportunities.

The nuclear option at Mayport has potentially powerful resistance, though. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who chairs the Armed Services Committee, came out against the study and moving or mothballing any carriers last week. The other East Coast base is in Norfolk, Va., which stands to lose carriers.

Warner believes any basing decision should happen as part of the base closure and long-term planning, spokesman John Ullyot said, adding that the decommissioning and planning processes have just begun. He has not addressed Mayport specifically.

david.decampjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4699

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._18178574.shtml.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm still trying to figure out.  I plan to take pics of the beach communities, for a massive Jax photo thread this weekend, so I'll check it out then.


Does anyone know the status of the Lorelei project in south Jax Bch? Construction seems to be at a standstill after breaking ground awhile ago.

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  • 1 month later...

Height fight

It's developers vs. Jacksonville Beach limits


Several businesses have sued Jacksonville Beach about height restrictions approved by voters last year. Construction dominates a recent view of new and old condos from the Pablo Towers roof.


This is what Jacksonville Beach Mayor Fland Sharp hopes to avoid with height restrictions -- a view dominated by high-rise condos like this image from Daytona Beach Shores.

By JORDAN RODACK, The Times-Union

More than six months after Jacksonville Beach voters overwhelmingly approved limits on the height of high-rise buildings in their city, several developers are challenging the restrictions, claiming it has lowered the value of their land.

The developers were in the process of obtaining building permits before the restrictions went into effect but were unable to get approved in time. They said the new law made it difficult to find buyers and to develop the land as they originally envisioned.

They are seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Four claims have been filed since November under a law that gives property owners the right to sue cities if a court deems their property to have been "inordinately burdened" or "restricted" by government regulations.

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