Custom home builder to try hand at first multi-home development

Custom home builder to try hand at first multi-home development

Adam Merrill has high hopes for his first property development project.

Although Merrill, the president of John Merrill Homes, builds on average six custom homes per year in residential infill, Green Hills in Riverside will be his first multi-home development.

The property, which is comprised of about 3.5 vacant acres west of James Street, will be the site of 17 new Craftsman-style homes in the Riverside Avondale Historic District, according to Merrill.

The area immediately to the east of the site is known as James Street Terrace which, as of late 2016, had 21 single-family, two multiple-family dwellings, and two vacant lots to the east and south of the site, according to documents in the City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department staff report.

To the west of the site are industrial, light manufacturing and warehouses, and CSX railroad tracks run along the northwest edge. The land use was designated as public building and facilities (PBF) and approved for Low Density Residential (LDR).

The City originally purchased 3.03 acres 80 years ago for $58,000 and used the property as a maintenance storage site, including trees and landscaping materials.

“From my recollection, in the 1960-70s it was undeveloped green space,” said John Cooksey, Chief Operating Office for McCall Services, located to the west of the site. “In the 1980s-90s, the city used it for landscape storage for trees, almost like a nursery or tree farm.”

For about 10 years or so the property was completely vacant, then in 2006 the City deeded the property to Riverside Avondale Development Organization (RADO) for the development of affordable housing units. A 2.5-acre portion of the lot was zoned in 2008 for a Planned Unit Development with a maximum of 10 lots. The development never occurred and the property reverted back to the City.

In April 2012, the property changed hands again when 6100 Holdings LLC bought it from the City for $26,000.

Five years later, Christian “Andy” Allen, president of Corner Lot Properties, bought the vacant property in April for $207,000 under Land Rover Properties LLC. An additional 0.44 acres, owned by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, was also purchased for the new development. After completing surface work – streets, curbs, power locations, etc. – Allen will sell the property to Merrill.

“Corner Lot is doing the horizontal work, which should be complete by mid-July,” said Merrill. “At that point we will take possession, purchasing the completed lots. We hope to get started in August with the model home.”

Merrill also said he was going to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness with the Jacksonville Historical Planning Commission in June

“The design will be RAP-approved, matched to Craftsman-style with brick front porches, lots of windows, Craftsman-style doors, raised front porch, detached garages,” Merrill said. He plans to offer one or two-car garages, as well as no garage with an option for a storage shed.

“They will fit the community,” said Merrill. “There are a lot of homes in the area we’ve modeled the architecture by, with larger overhangs and lower pitched roofs.”

The lot sizes vary from 35- to 45-feet wide, up to 145-feet deep. Six of the lots will be built without garages as there is not enough room to put a driveway through to the backyard, Merrill indicated.

Merrill said he was “still not there at price points,” noting they will start at the mid to upper $300s, cresting over $400,000. He said there are three floor plans currently under development, with 2000 to 2400 square feet of space planned.

Because the proposed development is less than 100 lots, it is not subject to a requirement to provide 150 feet of recreational/open space per dwelling unit.

The estimated completion date for the new community is uncertain, although Merrill hopes to break ground in August for the first model.

“We anticipate selling one house a month, so about 18 months of selling and then build out in a couple of years,” he said.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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