East San Marco showing signs of life

Developers once again optimistic that project will move forward

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

After six years of dormancy, the East San Marco development project at the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard is once again showing signs of life.
While key players emphasized that details still have a very long way to go before anything is worked out or released to the public, focused conversations are once again taking place and all involved remain committed to the project.

“I’m certainly more optimistic now than I was even a year ago that we will be able to move forward with the project in some form,” said Tom Fleming, vice president of investments for Regency Centers, who, along with St. Joe Company, is developing the site under the name East San Marco LLC. “We are working actively with various potential team members to try to get things moving. Is anything concrete? The answer is, ‘no.’ But we are engaged again, which is something that hasn’t really happened in the past few years. It’s a good sign.”
A large reason for that re-engagement is rooted in the current marketplace.
“In the past few years there just hasn’t been a market opportunity for that project. But the residential market seems to be recovering, with a number of multi-family, single-family and mixed-use projects getting off the ground,” said Chris Kuhn, St. Joe’s Director of Development. “We are excited that the overall market has provided us with the opportunity to revisit this plan.”

After Wachovia Bank was built on the 5.3-acre site in 2006 construction came to a standstill in the face of the recession. Original plans called for a mixed-use development with at least 147 townhomes/condominiums, a 390-space parking garage and about 50,000 square feet of retail space anchored by a 30,000-square-foot Publix grocery. There was also a development agreement that would give East San Marco LLC seven to nine years to complete the project.
Fleming said the project would remain mixed-use, in that there may still be residential above retail, but there’s less likelihood that condominiums will be part of that mix. He also emphasized that the appearance of the building itself will remain as unchanged as the market allows.

“We have worked on this project for a long time so we have a lot of good data and will consider everything we’ve looked at in the past. But the original PUD [Planned Unit Development] approved some penthouse, luxury condominiums that we can no longer include. Scope is the question moving forward – what are you really going to build and what can sustain in that area?” Fleming said. “We will apply for necessary modifications to the PUD or development, once we have a plan.”
Publix is still part of that plan. “We remain committed and look forward to serving the San Marco community more intimately,” said Publix spokesperson Dwaine Stevens.
Also still on board is the San Marco Preservation Society.

“East San Marco has recently become one of the most highly anticipated developments in North Florida. The combined experience, know-how and financial strength of the joint venture between Regency Centers and St. Joe ensure that this will be a unique, first class retail/multi-family development,” said SMPS Public Relations Chairman Bob Warren.
St. Joe’s Kuhn looks forward to building such a project specifically in San Marco.
“This is a unique site and we are excited to have the opportunity to bring a fully integrated, mixed-use development to one of Jacksonville’s premier historic neighborhoods,” he said.
While Fleming said that putting a time frame on the project would “just be teasing people” until there was something viable to announce, he nonetheless emphasized Regency’s future commitment to the project.

“We don’t want to overpromise or overhype before we have a concrete plan. But Regency is a long-term owner/operator. Our goal is not to build and sell, but to own and maintain with success a well run, high quality development. I look forward to when that happens and I think it will be a great thing for San Marco.”

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