After years of proposals and decades of inactivity, work is expected to begin later this year on a marquee Laura Street Trio adaptive reuse project. It’s a project you’ve likely heard about before, but you may have missed out on some of the finer details.
The project entails redeveloping three key historic buildings – the Florida National Bank building at 51 W. Forsyth Street, the Bisbee building at 47 W. Forsyth Street, and the Florida Life Insurance building at 117 N. Laura Street – into a single, 145-room Marriott Autograph Hotel. The three interconnected buildings will be further connected by new construction that ties together the complex into a single hotel property.
The three buildings, long known as the Laura Trio, were originally developed between 1902 and 1912 and at one point were all occupied by a single company, Florida National Bank. All three have sat vacant for the past few decades and are currently in poor condition.
The hotel project would reimagine the Florida National Bank building – also known as the Marble Bank building – as an upscale restaurant to be operated by the hotel, featuring mezzanine and basement seating as well as a basement wine cellar. The Bisbee building will house 56 hotel rooms, a second-floor conference room, and a ground-floor retail bodega. The Florida Life Insurance building, the youngest of the three, will feature 35 hotel rooms, a second-floor fitness and media center, a ground-floor lobby, and a movie theater in the basement.
All three buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and will thus be remodeled in accordance with federal preservation standards. Former architectural elements of the original Florida Life building which were demolished in 1993 will be reconstructed as part of the project as well.
A newly-constructed addition will then add 54 more hotel rooms and expanded lobby space.
The project is led by locally-based SouthEast Development Group. The development company, led by Steve Atkins, was also behind the redevelopment of the nearby Barnett National Bank building. It has been seeking to redevelop the structures for the better part of a decade, having originally proposed it as a Courtyard Marriott hotel project years ago. Dasher Hurst, also locally-based, is the project architect.
To fund the project, which is estimated to cost $70.4 million, SouthEast Group is seeking just under $25 million in city funding, including tax credits and historic preservation grants – for which it has received approval from Downtown Investment Authority.
Once completed, the hotel will be managed by Winegardner & Hammons – a role it committed to as early as 2014.
The project was originally expected to include the construction of a parking garage on the opposite side of Forsyth Street. That garage will still be built, but it will be developed by VyStar Credit Union instead – and will also serve the adjacent downtown VyStar campus.
When finished, the project would become downtown Jax’s biggest adaptive reuse project to date and could act as a catalyst for the central business district, which enjoys relatively high occupancy rates but currently has little to offer outside of office towers.
A world-class hotel that makes use of three of the city’s nicest historic structures – and activates the ground floor of three long-vacant buildings along a key stretch of Laura Street – has transformative potential for downtown Jacksonville.