Bostwick Building: Bringing Back a Sense of Place

Bostwick Building: Bringing Back a Sense of Place

Jacksonville executive and business partners plan to purchase and renovate Downtown building

Cats have nine lives, or so the adage says. If true, the Jaguar painted on the river side of the Bostwick Building at 101 East Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville may lend new life to a group of investors planning to purchase the historic structure.

Bostwick2Dixie Egg Company CEO and Avondale resident Jacques Klempf, and two business partners, Chad Munsey and Fraser Burns, are under contract to purchase the historic Bostwick Building at the corner of Ocean and Bay streets. They plan to establish a restaurant there.

The first due diligence review period ended in mid-June, and the building is undergoing a second review to be completed this month. Meanwhile, an architect, a design group and an engineer have been hired, according to Klempf.

“I love the location of the Bostwick,” Klempf said. “You can go right or left on Bay Street, there’s plenty of parking. The Florida Theatre is behind the building.”
A restaurant would work in the area, Klempf said, because it could provide eating, drinking and possibly a shuttle service to other downtown venues. He envisions adding a rooftop lounge with views of the Main Street Bridge and the St. Johns River.

Klempf grew up on Jacksonville’s southside near The Bolles School. He remembers Sunday afternoons spent in a more vibrant Downtown with his big brother. As a 10 year-old, Klempf relied on his 13 year-old brother to read the schedules and get them on the correct bus. “We’d get out of Sunday School and ride the city bus downtown,” Klempf recalled. “There were movies and restaurants. My brother was an avid reader. He loved Jake’s Newsstand. There was a juice bar with fresh coconut milk.”

Klempf also remembers swimming in a pool on the roof of the Roosevelt Hotel now an apartment community called The Carling.

Bostwick3“As I got older, I went downtown less,” Klempf added. He ventured to the City’s urban core for specific events at the Arena or Metropolitan Park, but not to enjoy Downtown as a destination.

In 1880, the First National Bank was located where the Bostwick now stands. General Francis E. Spinner, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury under Presidents Lincoln, Johnson and Grant, served as one of its first directors, according to Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future by Wayne W. Wood.

Built in 1902, a year after Jacksonville’s fire, the Bostwick was doubled in size in 1919. Its sturdy architecture inspired feelings of safety and success in its patrons, according to Wood. In addition to housing banks, the Bostwick also provided space for downtown workers including architect, Henry John Klutho, who had offices there from 1944 until 1960.
Klempf sees two main obstacles to overcome before the building is operational. The first is structural. “The damage to the building occurred in the 1990s when a water main broke at Ocean and Main,” Klempf said. The resulting deterioration led owners of a neighboring building to take legal action. “The lawsuit is five or six years old,” Klempf said. “It needs to get resolved. We feel like it will. We are having conversations with their legal team.”

The second obstacle is lack of use, Klempf added. Since the building has been vacant for 30 years, it needs extensive interior renovation.
“We’re all trying to work through this,” Klempf said. “The time is right, especially for that location.”

By Nancy Lee Bethea
Resident Community News

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