Approval granted to raze St. Johns Village, renovate Commander

Seven months to the day of the recording of the deed for Chance Partners’ purchase of the Commander Apartments and St. Johns Village, Jacksonville City Council unanimously approved the two bills which will permit the Atlanta-based developer to raze and renovate the property under a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

On Oct. 11, Council enacted ordinances 2016-560 and 2016-561, giving Judd Bobilin and Jeff Rosen authorization to change the cityscape along St. Johns Avenue at Fishweir Creek.

“We are very pleased to have received unanimous approval throughout the whole entitlement process with the city to develop St. Johns Village and renovate the Commander Apartments,” said Judd Bobilin, CEO and president of Chance Partners.

As amended, the plans call for a total of 228 units between the existing 16-story tower and the new apartments, which will consist of two carriage houses, two townhouses and two four-story buildings. The entire property will include 320 parking spaces, more than twice as many as the 100 spaces currently serving the Commander tenants.

One part of the application included an amendment to the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) to re-categorize land use of the property from Community/General Commercial (CGC) to High Density Residential (HDR), and Conservation (CSV). The re-categorization allows the St. Johns Village property to be redeveloped for residential and also protects a strip of land along the sea wall from potential development.

“Normally RAP is not a big fan of amendments to the FLUM. In this particular case, because of the interactions with the developers and their counsel, we’ve been able to negotiate a settlement that is exceptionally satisfactory to the developers, satisfactory to the neighborhood at large and we’re not in opposition to that specific change,” said Keith Holt, Riverside Avondale Preservation board chair. “We appreciate the way the developers have come to us, they have negotiated openly and transparently, they have asked for community input and have been responsive to it, and the neighborhood at large is very supportive.”

“This would not have happened without the extensive hard work and communication that RAP, Councilman Love and neighborhood groups put into the process alongside us,” said Bobilin. “We look forward to continuing the collaboration when we begin construction.”

The partners plan to tear down the 29-year-old retail/office center after tenants have completely vacated the premises by the end of November. Simultaneously, the developers will begin the renovation process of the 55-year-old apartment building, which has been going through a “de-leasing” process for the past three months, according to a spokesperson for the developer. The timeline for demolition for both the retail building and interior of the Commander building is estimated for mid-December.

While former retail tenant Espeto’s Brazilian Steakhouse had vacated St. Johns Village back in 2014 soon after the second PUD was approved, remaining tenants have recently found new locations. Crosby Designs and Hugo’s Interiors opened at 2237 Riverside Ave. in mid-October. Sivada’s Cupcakery is slated to move to 3645 St. Johns Ave., in the Shoppes of Avondale where Pulp Juice Bar was formerly located. As of press time, it was not known where The Loop will move.

By Kate A. Hallock

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