On prime riverfront real estate in Jacksonville, Fla., the unclad 18-story concrete frame of an abandoned condominium casts a shadow over its downtown neighborhood. Eight years after the collapse of the development’s underdesigned six-level parking garage claimed the life of one construction worker and halted work on the complex, downtown residents are asking how much longer they must wait for the eyesore to be either completed or demolished. The GC, now its owner, has selected a developer, and a local official is optimistic, but resolution still is far from clear.
When the developer defaulted on a $12.4-million civil award for non-payment in May 2014, Choate Construction Co. acquired the unfinished hulk and began looking for a buyer or a developer to complete it (ENR 5/12/14 p. 11). “Initially, there was heavy interest from the apartment community,” says Michael Hampton, Choate COO. “I probably heard from at least two-dozen apartment developers.” Atlanta-based Cocke Finkelstein Inc. was selected, “and they’re still trying to make the pro forma work,” he says.
The city’s condo market is flat, with no turnaround in sight, so conversion to apartments appears to be the way to go. “Construction costs continue to increase at a greater rate than market rents are for the apartment there,” Hampton says.
“Everybody’s frustrated, and we want to see something happen sooner rather than later,” says Reginald Gaffney, a Jacksonville city councilman whose district includes Berkman Plaza. A constituent recently brought fresh attention to the issue by filing a blight complaint with the city’s Code Enforcement Dept. Negotiations are ongoing to develop the project or to share the land, Gaffney says, adding, “This time next year, we will have … some kind of final results.”