Laura Street Trio redevelopment project is set to start with $25 million from City of Jacksonville

By Lucia Viti

Jacksonville — The historic Florida National Bank, the Bisbee and the Florida Life Insurance buildings will finally become something more than vacant.

Last evening, the City of Jacksonville awarded SouthEast Development Group almost $25 million to renovate the three buildings that stand perpendicular on the corners of Forsythe, Adams and Laura streets.

Steve Atkins, the principal and managing director of SouthEast says that for years, he’s worked closely with the downtown investment authority, the Jacksonville City Council and the administration to restore these historic buildings into a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel - 145 rooms - plus retail stores and bar venues.

“This,” he says, “is the last check in the box to move forward in new construction and rehabilitation of the buildings.”

The trio that presently stand as gutted shells have had an unusual history in their attempts at redevelopment.

According to Atkins, they were owned by the City of Jacksonville and transferred to a police and fireman pension fund. When their attempts to redo the site failed, they were sold to a developer who later defaulted into foreclosure.

SouthEast Development Group purchased the properties from a bank portfolio and wasted no time in their efforts to preserve, restore and revitalize. Atkins says that he’s determined to maintain the building’s “original historic content and character.”

“These properties are among the most significant historic buildings in North Florida,” he said. “They stand in the epicenter of the business district. To preserve and utilize them will be important to the economic and historical context and fabric of downtown.”

Dr. Wayne Wood, historian at large for the Jacksonville Historical Society, described the “once richly-ornamented buildings that became eyesores as they sat in foul shape, empty and abandoned for years,” as too valuable - historically and architecturally - to tear down.

“They’re economically difficult to work on because of their old fashioned foot print,” he said. “That’s why the City of Jacksonville needed to put money in the pot to push this project over the top. Atkins came up with the greatest idea. They seem well on their way to success.”

Atkins and his team will conduct structural mediations before final construction begins. Construction is schedule to be completed within the next two years.

The project team for the Laura Street Trio includes Dasher Hurst Architects, Danis Construction, Pyramid Hotel Group and Piper Sandler & Co.

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