Developer plans to turn blighted Riverside corner into eateries

Developer plans to turn blighted Riverside corner into eateries
Conceptual north elevation for Oak Street Eats (Rendering by Thomas Duke Architect, PA)

Ten years after first proposing a plan for a mixed-use structure at the corner of Oak and Stockton Streets, Mark Rubin was optimistic that his latest endeavor to remove blight from Riverside would be approved.

“We have high hopes for it,” he said, referring to the restaurant and drive-thru coffee shop he is proposing for two buildings. “This corner is grossly underserving the community and has been blighted a long time. No one wants to see a blighted corner stay blighted.”

Just prior to the economic recession in 2007, Rubin had proposed a three-story retail and 16-unit residential building on the corner but said there were so many different voices in the community it became impossible to address all of them. “Trying to put those puzzle pieces together we finally came up with some great plans, but missed the window because the economy was shot,” he said.

Now, nearly 10 years later, Rubin has taken a different approach to getting a 70-seat neighborhood restaurant and a 25-seat coffee shop approved.

In December 2015 he submitted plans to the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission for a Certificate of App-ropriateness. The COA, which expires Dec. 18, 2016, had two conditions: site fencing shall be limited to eight feet in height, and all amended plans shall be reviewed and approved by Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission (JHPC) prior to proceeding with permitting.

Once armed with JHPC approval, Rubin submitted applications for a zoning exception, a variance and an administrative deviation to the city’s Planning and Development Department in late June.

“Let’s try to get what we’re entitled to under the zoning codes without any significant changes,” he said, referring to potential objections.

The zoning exception sought retail sale of beer or wine for on-premises consumption and for outside service and sales at the restaurant, located at 2510 Oak St., and permission to create a drive-thru for the coffee shop at 2502 Oak St.

Considering the drive-thru, Rubin noted it’s allowed by permission (exception).

“There are already more than 15 drive-thrus in Riverside with multiple windows and higher densities,” said Rubin. “I have done a study of the other coffee stores and learned that the impact will be extremely low. It’s more of a convenience for the community, serving the hospital, traffic on Oak Street in the morning and the residents in Villa Riva.”

Although he will not reveal the name of the company he plans to put in the coffee shop, Rubin indicated it’s a “local” company with half a dozen stores in another city. “I love the product they offer,” said Rubin. “Every store they have is different and meets and matches the requirements of the particular site. I very much like the idea of use what you have and make the most of it and make it unique.”

The administrative deviation seeks to reduce the minimum number of required parking spaces from 44.25 to 35, to serve both the restaurant and coffee shop. The site plan notes 16 spaces on-site and 19 on-street.

The application notes the property was developed prior to the current standards for off-street parking, and the request is based exclusively upon the impossibility of developing the property to include sufficient parking to meet the strict letter of the City of Jacksonville Zoning Code.

Also regarding parking, the variance requests a change from the strict requirement that one shade tree be planted for every three 90-degree head-in on-street parking spaces. The application notes adhering to the strict requirement would reduce the number of on-street parking spaces required to support the development.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, Oct. 6 or Thursday, Oct. 20 for the zoning exception, variance and administrative deviation. Meeting agendas can be found at

Rubin has entertained proposals for the restaurant from two well-known and well-liked companies with two very different offerings, but will not reveal who they are until the approvals are granted.

“We spend a lot of money on our projects, not only on the interiors but on the re-skinning of the exteriors. Look at Blind Rabbit,” he said, referring to his King Street property. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. Our projects are not designed to make the most money we can possibly make. At this point in my career we’re focused on improving the quality of life.”

Conceptual east elevation for Oak Street Eats (Rendering by Thomas Duke Architect, PA)

Conceptual east elevation for Oak Street Eats
(Rendering by Thomas Duke Architect, PA)

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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