Luxury condo tower coming to Riverside

Developers of 220 Riverside, Villa Riva plan 16-stories

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

Riverside’s real estate revitalization will soon take a surge skyward with the development of a 16-story luxury condominium tower overlooking the St. Johns River at 500 Bishopgate Lane.
Bryan Weber, a principal at Jacksonville-based Hallmark Partners – the group behind 220 Riverside – expects construction of the so-named Beacon Riverside to begin early 2014 with completion near the end of 2015. It will rise 14 floors above two parking levels with 55 units ranging from $600,000 to nearly $2 million. Units will be 2,200 to 4,500 square feet with the top floor crowned by a 7,500 square foot penthouse. Development costs are projected to total $40-45 million with a $55 million projected sell-out, Weber said.

Beacon Riverside is in many ways modeled after Villa Riva condominiums and townhouses, completed in 2005 for $45 million and located down the road from Bishopgate Lane on Riverside Avenue and Stockton Street. Weber developed Villa Riva as managing director of Flagship Communities and is overseeing Beacon.

“We envisioned Villa Riva for people who owned a home on the river and were looking to downsize slightly but still wanted a presence there while enjoying a maintenance free lifestyle,” Weber said, noting all 66 of its condo units and six townhouses were sold when it opened and that it has maintained stability in the market. “We see Beacon Riverside offering the same opportunity. The added draw now is that Riverside and Brooklyn have become even more vibrant neighborhoods and they are growing straight into Downtown, also boosting its revitalization.”

Weber pointed to the Cummer Museum and YMCA renovations, Riverside Arts Market, access to varied shopping, entertainment and restaurant possibilities, as well as Hallmark’s 220 Riverside – a 294-unit, seven-story apartment complex with retail and a community park (Unity Plaza) currently under construction on Riverside Avenue in Brooklyn scheduled to open August 2014 – as signs that Riverside/Brooklyn is experiencing a strong resurgence.

Allan DeVault – co-owner of Black Sheep restaurant, 5 Points merchants’ association president, and Riverside Avondale Preservation board member – feels Beacon residents will have the resources to play a continued role in the area’s growth.

“These are people who want to come into the urban core, and not, say, to the beaches. They want to be close to the vibrancy of Downtown and will emphasize the necessity of rebuilding the urban core. And they have the financial resources, connections and influence to encourage the city to be a partner in that rebuilding, or, at least to be more cognizant of the area’s needs,” DeVault said.

District 14 Councilman Jim Love pointed to the increased economic diversity that would be added by residents of Beacon.

“Some people may make accusations of ‘elitism,’ or say we don’t need another luxury condo in this economy, but one of the great things about our neighborhood is its diversity; not just social diversity, but also economic diversity,” Love explained. “We have modestly priced condos in the area as well as a wide range of affordable and luxury apartments and homes. Even Hallmark has 220 Riverside, which will be geared toward young professionals, just down the street from Beacon.”
Some view Beacon as a further sign of recovery of the area’s overall real estate market.

“A luxury development like this is a great indicator of the health of the recovery in the core neighborhoods and adds to the energy going into downtown,” said Jon Singleton, Northeast Florida Association of Realtors Historic Area Council chair and realtor for Watson Realty’s Avondale/Ortega office. “No one has been funding condos; that Hallmark could is an attribute to their track record. This is also good for city coffers.”

Paving way for Beacon’s relatively ambitious construction schedule is the fact that they have reworked an existing site plan that was approved for 80 units for a never-built high rise called Bishop Gate, which was entitled in 2006.

“We downsized from 80 to 55 units to make it more appealing,” Weber said. “We are in an urban transitional area and honoring all of the requirements that guided the original PUD [Planned Unit Development] agreement in terms of height restrictions, set back, and such. RAP was included in those initial PUD discussions. We respect Riverside and have a design that stays within its traditions yet is refined for the next generation.”

The 1.4-acre site has been home for The Robin Shepherd Group since 1997. The current structure was built in 1947 and renovated in 1960, according to city records. Weber said it is not a contributing historical structure and will be demolished. Shepherd will move to Riverplace Tower on the Southbank in mid-October, according to its website.

Beacon Riverside’s sales gallery is set to open after Labor Day and will be located at 806 Riverside Ave. Weber said a design rendering will be available within two weeks.

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