San Marco Preservation pressing Toll Brothers for answers

With change and what is often referred to as ‘progress’, difficult conversations about growth, design, aesthetics, size and scale of local infill projects are sure to ensue. In the heart of San Marco, just outside the San Marco Square, there is dirt turning, blocks upon blocks of concrete stacking up and foundations being poured on multiple projects. Change is coming swiftly, some would argue – once things are built there’s no turning back – it light of this sentiment there is one issue taking center stage.

The most recent bone of contention lies in transparency and inclusion on design, aesthetics, and other aspects that align with the nature of San Marco. When talks between the local preservation group and a national homebuilder stalled; calls, emails and other communication lines went out in droves to try and rectify the dialogue. The cancellation of a coordinated meeting by representatives on a weekend, just prior to a Monday meeting, were reason enough for SMPS to act. In late October, the San Marco Preservation Society was concerned that pushing a meeting out a month and getting Toll Brothers back to the table that late was not a viable option.

Toll Brothers has been moving swiftly to prepare for its vertical ascent on its project, which has some concerned about what’s coming. As of late, there has been very little shared with citizens and groups that represent the interests of their community.

“The good news is, we’ve opened up the conversation,” shared Desiree Bailey, current SMPS Board President, who spoke to The Resident just prior to press time. A meeting has been called and booked, it will be between SMPS Board members and Toll Brothers representatives. Bailey is hopeful that things can be resolved. As an invested member in her community outside of her current role as President, her family has been running San Marco Books and More, since 1999, in San Marco Square. There is a strong sense of pride in protecting and preserving certain aspects of the area and she is certainly not alone in this sentiment.

The project in the spotlight is a 1.03-acre sliver of the Regency Centers-owned property adjacent to the long-awaited PUBLIX, as well as retail shops on the corner of Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Blvd. A sale was brokered in August of 2021 between a Regency and a division of Toll Brothers. Early plans show five structures, four with six units each and one with three, totaling 27-units. The development is encircled by Arcadia Place, Alford Place and Minerva Avenue. Alford Place looks out upon the green in Fletcher Park, which is home to many activities and community-centric functions, from weddings and engagements to the SMPS annual meeting and the Concert in the Park series, to name a few.

Despite a newly-announced meeting on the books, SMPS would like to address several aspects of the project and stands by its current statement:

On Monday, October 18, the San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) Board of Directors met for its monthly meeting. The Toll Brothers, developers of the residential portion of the East San Marco parcel, also known as Terraces at San Marco, had been invited and agreed to attend this meeting to present their renderings, elevations, and plans for the upcoming East San Marco townhomes project, which is located between the new Publix, Wells Fargo, and Fletcher Park. Over the weekend, Toll Brothers sent an email stating that their representative would be unable to attend.  A reason for this cancellation was not provided.

The SMPS has been involved in the East San Marco planning process for almost 20 years, especially the last three years as progress on this development accelerated. In the last seven months, representatives from SMPS met with Toll Brothers once (March 2021), reviewed architectural styles prescribed by the PUD, supplied historical relevance of the site, requested further information as well as architectural renderings, provided preliminary feedback, and twice requested a presentation to the full SMPS Board of Directors. To date, these requests have been unfulfilled.

The SMPS has received clear feedback from the San Marco community regarding the architecture of the Terraces at San Marco. The SMPS acknowledges these concerns and stands in opposition to the current architecture and façade planned for the Terraces at San Marco.

As we explore our options for future action, the SMPS is open to — and encourages — further discussion and communication.  We would like to work together with Toll Brothers and the City to make this new development one that is befitting of San Marco. We invite the community to join us as we seek solutions that benefit our entire neighborhood. Please direct all correspondence to [email protected]

Following the release, Resident News requested comments from Toll Brothers, which has yet to respond as of press time.

Other concerned citizens have reached out to Toll Brothers, including At-Large Group 4 Councilman Matt Carlucci, who has asked that, in good faith, they speak to Bailey. Local District 5 City Council Member, LeAnna Cumber, released the following statement, Oct. 24, which reads: I think public participation is always very valuable. Which is why I worked with SMPS in October of 2019 to hold a town hall on the East San Marco PUD which encompassed the residences that are being built by Toll Brothers. That town hall was in fact the most widely attended that we’ve had. And I was please at that time that SMPS sent a letter supporting the PUD. I think it’s fantastic that Toll Brothers is developing this property here in the neighborhood. They have an incredible reputation for high-quality products not only in Jacksonville but throughout the nation. And I’m happy that they are presenting their designs to the community.

The Resident will continue to follow any developing stories about the project and any other matters of public interest related.

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