More riverfront property primed for development

More riverfront property primed for development
Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.

More than one parcel on the waterfront is being eyed for residential development. Last month The Resident reported on a parcel along Lakeside Drive for sale adjacent to the Ortega Yacht Club condominiums. Now, less than half a mile away, another vacant property, adjacent to the Marina at Ortega landing, is under consideration for a senior living facility.

Recently, local developer Vestcor has expressed an interest in constructing a senior living facility that could include up to 140 apartments, according to a letter circulated by Rick Blasi, one of the eight condominium owners at The River Homes, nearby property owners.  

Blasi described the project as a “120 to 140-unit senior housing and assisted living facility with 40-50 employees and 4-5 restaurants on the site.”

The Resident reached out to Vestcor via email to get more information about the proposed development and received a response from Will Morgan, president of Vestcor Communities. 

“Our research had always indicated that this is an underserved area of Jacksonville for senior living. High occupancies in the market are further proof of this. We feel this location is not only ideally located on the Ortega River with views of the Ortega Landing Marina, but very convenient to Ortega residents and their families. 

“Our proposed concept is for a luxury senior living community that would include independent living with additional levels of care available to provide a continuum of care to our residents. An all-inclusive concept with an executive chef, multiple dining venues with waterfront views, social and wellness programming, a movie theater, and numerous community amenities will provide a maintenance free lifestyle. The goal is to create a senior living community with a small boutique hotel feel with a wide array of resident services and care.

 “We feel most of our residents will come from the immediate area. This is true with most senior living communities. Our proposed use is also very passive with regards to daily traffic, parking, noise and other key impacts important to the current residents in the neighborhood,” he said.   

Representatives of Vestcor recently met with Blasi and others from The River Homes to present an overview of the proposed plans for the senior living facility and offer them a chance to ask questions and voice concerns. 

Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.

“There was not a good response to our concerns. In fact, they indicated that it wouldn’t be possible to address some of the concerns raised by the residents of our building because it was not feasible to set up the property to put deliveries away from our building instead of next to our building, and it wasn’t possible, for some reason, to move the garbage dumpster from right next to our building to the other side of the property,” said Blasi. “But the overarching concern is that the density, the traffic, the style of the building simply is not consistent with what we all understood to be the permitted use of that property when we purchased our condominiums.”

Blasi isn’t the only neighbor who is concerned. Keith Waldrip, whose property would be across the street, is not in favor of the proposed plan. He is not anti-development but wants to see the appropriate type of development for the area. “From my standpoint, I don’t mind a PUD change as long as it’s reasonable. A PUD change going from 32 single living units to say 40 or 50, is more reasonable because it’s residential – a senior living facility is a commercial concern. 

“I just don’t want it to be railroaded in on this community. The way I look at this, there is a perfectly approved parcel that’s more suitable, up the street in a commercial area.  

Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.
Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.

I think we need to make them put on the brakes a little bit and be forthcoming and talk more to the community. Condos were supposed to be there; those are single living units and not a commercial concern. Now they are trying to change that. We want to make sure whatever is built here is a positive to the neighborhood and not just a commercial concern that could be placed anywhere else where it does not affect a residential neighborhood,” Waldrip said.  

Described on Chicago-based Bixby Bridge Capital LLC’s website as “a 192-slip marina with 8 condo units and 4 acres of land for future residential and commercial development,” the Marina at Ortega Landing is located at the bend where Herschel Street turns into Lakeside Drive. 

In 2004, a planned unit development (PUD) was approved by Jacksonville’s City Council to raze the property formerly known as Graham’s Boatyard and the Ortega River Boat Yard, to build “an upscale mixed-use development featuring residential, office, boatyard, marine-related services, and marina uses.” The PUD limited residential to 75 units in a 5-story building. In 2006, the project was reconfigured for three 5-story buildings and a total of 38 units. 

Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.
Conceptual rendering of potential multi-unit residential proposed for property on the Ortega River.

In 2007, the Planning Commission denied an application to increase the height of a planned residential building from five stories to six (54 feet to 65 feet). The first (and only) condominium building, completed prior to the economic recession, has a total of eight units on four floors, with underground parking. 

At the time Bixby Bridge Capital purchased the property from a bank in 2008, the marina occupancy was 37% and the condos did not have certificates of occupancy. By early 2013, under new management, the condos were sold and turned over to the homeowners’ association, and the marina was operating at an average of 80% occupancy, with slip rentals closer to 95% over the past two years when IGY Marinas took over property management.

By Kandace Lankford

Resident Community News

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