Sleiman Enterprises acquires historic building in San Marco Square

Sleiman Enterprises acquires historic building in San Marco Square
The historic San Marco One building in the center of San Marco Square and two adjacent buildings that house Starbucks Coffee and Beau’s Outfitters were bought by Sleiman Enterprises in early August.

The first commercial building ever constructed in San Marco Square has been sold. 

Built in 1926, The San Marco Building at 1974 San Marco Blvd., affectionately known to residents as San Marco One, and two smaller adjacent buildings – 1980 San Marco Blvd. home of Starbucks Coffee and 1972 San Marco Blvd., home of Beau Outfitters – were acquired by Sleiman Enterprises from San Marco Limited Partnership on Aug. 12. 

“In acquiring these properties in San Marco Square, we intend to provide Jacksonville with an experience like no other. We’re confident that this acquisition will only further elevate San Marco Square,” said Toney Sleiman, CEO of Sleiman Enterprises.

The purchase of One San Marco is the second recent commercial property acquisition made by Sleiman Enterprises in the past three months. On May 6, 2019, the Jacksonville-based company acquired Lakewood Promenade from KRG Lakewood LLC, a limited liability company owned by Kite Realty Trust, a publicly traded business headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sleiman also owns Miramar Plaza Shopping Center and plans to upgrade the small retail center in the future.

The historic 94-year-old San Marco Building is a two-level, 8,200 square-foot building with the square footage equal on each level, said Michael McNaughton, chief operating officer for Sleiman Enterprises. The interior condition of the building “definitely shows the space has been empty for quite some time,” he said, adding that the other two parcels house Starbucks Coffee and Beau Outfitters, two tenants that have been “phenomenally successful” in their present locations.

“We’re thrilled to have them. They are great tenants. We have Starbucks as a tenant in many of our other locations. They bring a lot to (San Marco) center. Beau Outfitters is a fantastic local boutique. We couldn’t be happier to have them. We’re excited to build a relationship for years to come with Beau,” he said.

The Mediterranean-Revival-style San Marco Building was designed by Marsh & Saxelbye, according to Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage: Landmarks for the Future, by Wayne Wood. According to Wood’s book, Town Pump Drugs and Sundries was its first tenant, and was listed in the 1928 city directory. Later the Towne Pump restaurant and liquor store made its home in the space when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. It remained there until 1983. 

The building was later renovated as a restaurant and a new arcade was added to simulate the 1926 configuration, according to Wood. 

The building originally featured a Spanish tile roof and was twice as wide as it now appears, according to Wood. Arcaded one-story wings on either side of the present building have been enclosed behind modern storefronts. The upper two stories are all that remain of the original elaborate design. On the tower is a shield with the inscription “S/M” as a reminder of  San Marco in its heyday, according to Wood’s book.

Since the Towne Pump closed, the historic building has housed a variety of restaurants including St. Mark’s Restaurant, Café on the Square, Square One – Pom’s Thai Bistro, and Indochine, according to Robin Robinson of the San Marco Preservation Society. Most recently in the space was Melo’s Seafood and Steaks, which was evicted from the premises with its furniture pushed out onto the curb earlier this year.

At present Sleiman has no tenant lined up and no ideas of what to do with the main building, McNaughton said. “This district is unique and special, and when something like this comes to market, you have to take it seriously,” he said. “We have a lot of employees who live in the area and go there. Everybody loves the good retail and great restaurants and being part of something like that is rare. Quite frankly, the opportunity was presented to us as potential to acquire and we jumped at it. It’s something that, if you are in the real estate world and you have an opportunity to buy something this special and you pass, you may end up regretting it. We didn’t want to do that. We are committed to the city in its entirety. We love Jacksonville, and this was something close to home that was not to be missed, so we moved very quickly to make it happen.

“We fully expect to put a significant investment into the building to put it in the condition to find the best possible tenant that would be relevant and contextual to the area and be successful,” McNaughton continued. “We are not looking to lease it as is. We are fully prepared to do what’s necessary to bring in the highest quality use we can.”

McNaughton said no changes would be made to the exterior other than modifications to shore up the building or visually restore it to its former magnificence. “Our goal is not to change the building but to embrace the historicity of the structure and the neighborhood and to become a cohesive part of the whole,” he said.

Joe Carlucci, president of the San Marco Merchants Association (SMMA), said he has been in contact with both McNaughton and Paul Thomas, vice president of Asset Management for Sleiman Enterprises, who is serving as a point man on the San Marco Building project. “Paul said they are dedicated to San Marco and in keeping everything as it is. They want to be a partner in the community, which is our number one priority. That they are aligned with that mentality is awesome,” Carlucci said.

“Paul Thomas said this is a special project for them and that they are treating this differently. They want to use a local architect where normally they would just use their two architects from out of town. He said they are going to replace the roof and that they want to meet with Preservation (San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS)) to make sure any plans they have totally align with the fabric of San Marco. They are learning the channels of how San Marco operates, and it is a lot different than a lot of other areas of town. They want to go through the right channels,” he continued.

“Paul did mention that the entire Square One Building probably won’t be 100% restaurant. It’s like 7,000 square feet, and unless they are putting in a humongous restaurant, he said they probably won’t fill the entire building with a restaurant. He said he thinks they may have a restaurant component. He said it’s always been a restaurant, and the structures are in place for that but they want to hear from SMMA and SMPS so they can move forward with what they think is best for it.”

Linzee Ott, president of the San Marco Preservation Society, said she had not been contacted by Sleiman Enterprises as of Aug. 15, but that the society welcomes all property owners who care deeply about San Marco.

The building, “1974 San Marco Blvd., affectionately nicknamed ‘The San Marco Building,’ is a historic landmark as designated by the Jacksonville Historic Landmarks Commission in 1926. It is one of the crowning jewels of our square, and because the community values it so greatly, is preserved as part of San Marco’s identity,” Ott said. “As residents and business owners in San Marco, our collective focus is on community and our special sense of place, and the SMPS looks forward to working with Sleiman Enterprises to bring the most benefit to San Marco Square and its visitors.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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