San Marco residents preview Jackson Square plans

San Marco residents preview Jackson Square plans
A rendering of Phase 1 of the new Jackson Square development proposed by Chance Partners Judd Bobilin and Jeff Rosen, which was displayed during a San Marco town meeting May 22 at Preservation Hall.

Parking, security, and the density of the as-yet unplanned second phase of a new Jackson Square development were a few of the concerns posed by San Marco residents during a town hall meeting May 22 at Preservation Hall.

Chance Partners Judd Bobilin of Orlando and Jeff Rosen of San Jose were on hand to answer questions and present the plans for their new $42 million multi-use development at 2600 Philips Highway, a track of 17.3 acres which lies on the other side of the railroad tracks from many San Marco residents.

Also attending was Buck Pittman, a landscape architect, and two representatives from the engineering firm Kinley-Horne. Hum-phreys & Partners will be the architectural firm and Universal Engineering will serve the geotechnical aspects of the project. Pegasus Residential will be the property manager. Because the Planned Unit Development (PUD) was approved by City Council in 2008, local attorney T.R. Hainline, Jr. will help shepherd the project through the Jacksonville Planning Commission, which has the last word on minor changes to the project.

The developers, who also own and are repurposing St. Johns Village and the Commander Apartments near the Shoppes of Avondale, said they intend to close on the Jackson Square property the third week of May. They are seeking a minor modification to the PUD from the Jacksonville Planning Commission, Thursday, June 8, at 1 p.m.

“We are purchasing this property this week. We are not coming in and just putting in a piece of paper to see if we can get it approved. We are putting our own money down to purchase this property,” said Bobilin. “We believe in it. As Chance Partners, we’ve been in business since 2009, and we have a 95-percent success rate in taking projects from concept to completion.”

At the start of the meeting, the developers, who specialize in infill properties, outlined their plans for the blighted property that was once a Jerry Hamm Chevrolet dealership.

The existing PUD allowed the original developers to build 750 multi-family units and 350,000 square feet of commercial space, but what Chance Partners has planned for the property is considerably less, Bobilin said.

In asking for the minor modification, Chance Partners hope to swap the location of Phase 1 and Phase 2 in the existing PUD so that Phase 1 would lie on nine acres north of the access road into the property. The remaining eight acres near River Oaks Road would comprise Phase 2 and remain undeveloped at this time, they said. They also plan to eliminate the ground-floor retail under the residential buildings, and “lower the density of the project completely,” Bobilin said.

“Our project vision is less density, less construction impacts to the neighborhood, and less intense vehicular traffic,” Bobilin said.

A standalone 10,000-square-foot commercial building will front Philips Highway. Three four-story buildings, comprising 286 units within a gated community, will lie north and behind the commercial structure. Two-thirds of the apartments will be one-bedroom, with the remaining as two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, Rosen said. The one-bedroom apartments are expected to rent for $1,000 a month and the two-bedrooms for $1,300, he said. The project will follow stipulations for the existing PUD with approximately 1.33 spaces of surface parking per unit. The gated main entrance for the residential community will border on Philips Highway with an additional residents-only entrance onto Mitchell Place.

“It will be a Class A apartment complex with granite countertops, a resort pool, and a bike-share program so residents can head into San Marco,” Rosen said. “We’ve spent a lot of time trying to find a property that from a design standpoint would fit overall into the neighborhood.”

Jackson Square’s economic impact on the San Marco community will be huge, said Bobilin. Currently the area comprising Phase 1 generates $35,000 in taxes, but once the property is developed and stabilized it should generate $620,000 in taxes, he said. “That’s a pretty significant impact – a 1,700-percent increase. The residents that we expect to live here should have a spending power that will exceed $4 million annually, and a lot of that should be spent in the San Marco community. The project from an operational standpoint will spend over $1 million as well.”

Addressing the concerns

During the meeting residents expressed several concerns, which the developers promised to spell out explicitly within the minor modification. The first was to state that all recreation per unit required by the city’s comprehensive plan for the PUD be satisfied onsite, and not by including FEC/Alexandria Oaks Park in San Marco as implied by the existing PUD.

The second concern, brought up by San Marco resident Robin Robinson and City Council President Lori Boyer, was that the balance of the 750 residential units and 340,000 square feet of retail not be built in Phase 2 when it is finally developed.

“To clarify, are you reducing density on the whole PUD or just not building it in Phase 1?” asked Boyer, a San Marco resident. “If there are 750 units altogether allowed, are you just putting 286 on this parcel and reserving the right to put the entire remainder on the other parcel closer to River Oaks Road? The way a PUD works, it’s not if you don’t use the 501 in Phase 1 that they go away. It’s simply 750 total,” she explained. “By reducing what you are doing on the north, you are intensifying the south.”

Hainline admitted legally that was a possibility, but said it was not the developers’ intention. “Yes, it could go like that, but that’s not what their intent is,” he said. And Bobilin also assured the group it is not Chance Partner’s intention to stuff the remainder into the second phase. He also said he was willing to put it in writing before the Planning Commission meeting.

“We’re not planning that. We haven’t even focused on planning Phase 2 yet. Our intent is to de-intensify the project. We think it was a very grand and ambitious project that was going to be done previously. We have no plans to do 350,000 square feet of commercial on this space or the additional units that would make up the 750,” he said.

Also of concern to Boyer was parking for the site. “Originally the reason this project had a significant reduction in parking requirements was that it was to have a mandatory mixed-use component and assumed some percentage of people would work onsite in retail or offices,” she said, noting if the developers complied with the existing PUD requirements for parking they would run about one space per unit based on mixed use and not 1.33 or more based on the zoning code requirements for multi-family development. She said she wanted the clarification spelled out in the minor modification.

Missie Sara LePrell, a realtor and San Marco resident, expressed concern about the development’s security. “There is constant foot traffic in San Marco with pedestrians breaking into cars,” she said, adding that a huge “comfort zone” is needed to draw renters to the Philips Highway environment.

“We understand the No. 1 concern of residents is security. If they don’t feel secure they won’t live here,” said Bobilin. “We will have gated and security systems in place and each unit will be pre-wired for a security system. If we have issues we will be throwing money at it to make sure. We are investing a lot of money in this project and the last thing we want is to see it degraded by elements outside the community that will cause problems for our residents.

“We realize we are pioneering, which is why we are purchasing the property,” said Bobilin. “We’re excited. We think this is a great opportunity to be in the San Marco area. Hopefully we will be a catalyst for some other areas on the eastern side and will help to modify and redevelop some things north of here on Philips as well.”


By Marcia Hodgson,
Resident Community News

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