Opposition shown at second community meeting for proposed self-storage facility in Murray Hill

Opposition shown at second community meeting for proposed self-storage facility in Murray Hill
Artist’s rendering suggesting a concept for the three-story self-storage facility planned for the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Plymouth Street in Murray Hill.

Residents, business owners, some supporters and a number of sign-carrying detractors gathered June 3 at Fishweir Brewing Company to hear from the developers of a self-storage facility proposed for the Jones College property in Murray Hill.

            Although the event was standing-room-only, the venue was not as packed as was during the previous meeting on May 13, when the proposal was first introduced to the community. The meeting was also again livestreamed on Facebook and shown on the screen at the Murray Hill Theatre.

            The Jones College property is currently zoned CCG-1 (Commercial/Community General) and, as such, is zoned for a self-storage facility. The need for an administrative deviation to reduce off-street parking and loading zone requirements, setbacks and minimum acreage requirements stems from outdated zoning codes which focus on sprawling, one-story drive-up storage facilities. The current municipal code does not address multi-story facilities with smaller footprints, which have become popular within the last decade.

            Representatives for the proposed three-story self-storage unit at the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Plymouth Street spoke briefly about the project before opening the floor to questions. Leed Silverfield, president of Silverfield Group, introduced Rick Morales, president of the Morales Group, a local construction company, Fitch King, president of Morgar Realty, and Mike Kleinschmidt, a project manager with DCOOP (Design Cooperative), which has been engaged to design a standalone 4,800-square-foot building for future retail or restaurant tenants. The developer’s attorney, Steve Diebenow, of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, was also present to answer questions.

Although Silverfield stressed the designs presented for the storage facility and the proposed retail building were conceptual and could change significantly before permitting began, many of the concerns expressed by attendees focused on the features of the proposed storage facility, including design, signage, lighting, parking and security, and the presentation of the project from the perspective east of Edgewood.

Artist’s rendering suggesting a concept for retail or restaurant planned for the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Plymouth Street in Murray Hill.
Artist’s rendering suggesting a concept for retail or restaurant planned for the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Plymouth Street in Murray Hill.

Plans for the retail building evoked many questions, primarily requests for a commitment in writing from the developer to guarantee that the northeast corner entrance to Murray Hill would not languish as a vacant lot after the storage facility was completed.

            Morales said after the college was razed, the corner lot would serve as staging for construction and, after the storage facility was completed, the standalone retail building would be constructed based on tenant requirements. Marketing for tenants will begin immediately upon development approval, according to Silverfield.

            Some residents from nearby Avondale said the current 38-foot Jones College is clearly visible to property owners on Challen and Hollywood Avenues across Roosevelt Boulevard to the east and were concerned that signage for the self-storage company, of approximately the same height, would be obtrusive.

            Silverfield Group has not yet selected the self-storage company which would lease the facility, but noted it would likely be a nationally recognized company.

            Property owners on Plymouth, Nelson and Mayflower Streets expressed concerns about property values, increased traffic and light pollution. Diebnow addressed the issue about lighting, stating that according to code the development cannot exceed certain levels and that shielding would direct light down rather than out.

            One or two attendees asked if the developer had conducted a traffic study or a property values study to which Morales responded that while neither study had been done, research indicated small self-storage facilities traditionally did not have a lot of traffic at any given time, such as evening hours for a restaurant. Silverfield Group did commission a parking study to determine what was needed for the storage facility and the standalone retail building, as well as conducted research regarding the need for self-storage in the Murray Hill area.

            Currently the closest self-storage facilities to the eastern edge of Murray Hill include a U-Haul less than 2 miles west on Normandy Boulevard, as well as two CubeSmart facilities, one on Park Street (almost 3 miles away) and one on Edison Avenue (also about 3 miles).

            As of June 4, a petition on change.org to stop the project has resulted in 4,545 signatures opposing the project and some residents are calling for legal representation. Some attendees at the meeting, however, did voice approval of the project, including the conceptual designs presented.

            Erin Abney, a planner for the City of Jacksonville’s Planning Department, said the application for the administration deviation sought by Silverfield Group would be heard Friday, June 21, at 10 a.m. in the Ed Ball Building. Community members are welcome to share their opinions at that meeting as well as at the Friday, June 7 Administrative Deviation Public Hearing although this application will not be reviewed at that time.

By Kate A. Hallock

Resident Community News

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