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vicupstate

City may buy Ed Ball building

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City may buy Ball building

The Edward Ball Building: up for sale?

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

The Edward Ball Building on Hogan Street is for sale and, according to top City sources, parties including the City may be lining up to buy it.

Declining further comment, they confirmed the City has looked at the downtown property and also has a pending contract that would seal the deal.

A portion of the funds needed to cover the over $20 million purchase from a Pennsylvania-real estate trust will likely come from a soon to be passed Autumn bond proposal.

What the City would want with the massive 11-story property remains unclear.

However, immediate past City Council president Lad Daniels said last year he wanted to consolidate City employees, including those working for the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission and the Public Works and Planning Departments, under one roof near the St. James Building on Duval Street. Currently, those offices are housed several blocks away in the City Hall Annex and the Florida Theatre.

Flanking the the U.S. Courthouse near Hemming Plaza, the Ed Ball Building would be the perfect fit for them, he said.

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^^

Interesting...

I like the idea of moving the remaining city offices closer to city hall and Hemming Plaza, but it raises some questions. First, I understand the need to empty the city hall annex, as it is prime for redevelopment. However, I don't see a great need to move the Florida Theatre offices. They are close to the city offices in the Yates building now.

Also, what does this mean for the city's plan to obtain and renovate the old YMCA building across Laura St. from city hall? If that does fall thru, that building would be a great location for some more lofts with ground floor retail. I think the owner wants a fortune for it though.

Come to think of it, the Florida theater would be a great location for lofts as well. Maybe that's what the city has in mind.....

Stay tuned, it could be interesting.

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I wonder how this will effect the city's plan to redevelop the old YMCA Building designed by Klutho? Whatever happens, I hope the new owner keeps the retail spaces fronting Hogan and Adams Streets.

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Yes, I like te retail that's available by Hemming Plaza. I would hope they keep it. Also, I wonder if the city would paint a new mural on the building, since the Jags mural was removed.

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If the city pulls it's employees out of the Annex, it wouldn't be able to fit in the old Haverty's building on Laura St. (which was included in the '05 budget). However, it would fit in the Ed Ball Building.

I hadn't thought of it before, but that would be a great move for the city. To have all of these offices nearby would be great for the city.

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Taking this further, the city could...

1) Buy the Ed Ball building (or the Greenleaf building as an alternative) and fill it with city offices from the city hall annex and Florida Theater.

2) Proceed with plans to buy the old Klutho designed YMCA. Leave the ground floor for retail and the public-oriented areas of the Voter registration office. Put the remainder of the voter registration offices, and any overflow from the Ed Ball building on the second floor. Sell the other floors (I think it is a 5 story building) to a developer to put apartments or condos in them.

3) Sell the Florida Theater building to a developer with the stipulation that it be used for housing. Of course, the city would keep the theater itself and it's support areas.

4) Sell the city hall annex to a residential developer. Keep some of the green space in front, and add retail to the first floor. Also, extend the first floor to the sidewalk for at least half of the block. If feasible, put a floor or two of residences on top of the extended first floor. This would fill the gap in the Bay Street Town Center between the 100 and 300 blocks of Bay Street.

5) Sell the current voter registration offices for a mid-to-high rise with residential and ground floor retail. The city may have to agree to use eminient domain to obtain the other half of that block (Monroe/Newnan/Duval/Ocean).

This would add four major residential properties to downtown, all of which would be in the core of the Northbank. Coupled with the nearby 11E, Carlington, Knight Lofts, Lerner lofts, and the proposed Churchwell lofts, downtown would be much closer to the needed critical mass of residents.

P.S. The Adam's Mark has right of first refusal on the city hall annex, but given their current situation, they would probably not pursue the property.

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That's an awesome plan you have there, Vic! If anything, I would like to see some non-civic stuff around Hemming Plaza. More residential and retail in that area would help give it more nightlife. Lofts would be awesome there, and I would love to look out my 4th floor window and see the Hemming tree-tops and fountain, with a Skyway car cruising by in the distance, and the Federal Courthouse gleaming in the sunlight!

:thumbsup:

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Thanks Legend!

Another positive thing about the plan would be that the city would probably come out with positive cash flow in total. Selling the city hall annex, voter registration office, Florida theater, part of the Klutho YMCA building would likely cover the cost of buying the Ed Ball and the YMCA buildings.

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Interesting idea you have...

The only thing I don't know about is the City Hall Annex thing. How about this:

Since the thing is on Bay St., and the Adam's Mark is right next to it, why not demolish the thing (Trust me, after working there for a few years, it needs some work, and the asbestos is just the begining). Build a massive parking garage, anchored by a large Movie theater on the ground floor (I saw a large AMC Theater just off Michigan Ave in Chicago done really well). Remember, you need a lot of parking for a movie theater, and the downtown population (walk-up people) alone is not going to keep this thing afloat. Not to mention, by building a huge garage, you end any parking issues along Bay St. and you get tell the people in the suburbs not to worry about parking. Finally, with the skyway running along there on its way to the Sports Complex, you now have park & ride to the stadium. You build this section as high as the Adam's mark itself (that should give you about 10-15 parking levels, since the theater will take up a few), and you build it so residential could be added above that (maybe now, maybe later)

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^I had heard that there was a developer interested in the courthouse site. But to make that BLOCK a success, the Annex has to go as well. Really, I won't be sad to see it go, lol.

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I am NOT longing to preserve the city hall annex. If the economics of demolishing it and replacing it with a larger new building works, I would prefer that. However, the building could be gutted and rehabbed to look and function much differently than it does now. I have long advocated demolishing the Haydon Burns library (3 floors and a basement) in large part because it is too small for such a large and valuable site. At 14 floors, the city hall annex lot is not as underutilized. Additionally, there is room in front for an additon.

Ideally, both the city hall annex and the courthouse would be demolished and a large project would go up on that combined site.

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