Novel Coworking’s building at 25 N. Market Street in downtown Jacksonville serves as one of few remaining relics of the area’s industrial history.
Constructed in 1925 at a cost of $150,000, the four-story vernacular industrial building – located adjacent to the J.H. Churchwell Co. building – was designed by local architecture firm Marsh & Saxelbye with an emphasis on symmetry and simplicity. It was commissioned by Groover-Stewart Drug Company, a major local and state wholesale drug manufacturer. The company was founded in downtown Jax in 1906, but its rapid expansion caused it to outgrow its location along Adams Street, prompting the relocation to Market and Forsyth.
In its new spot, it was surrounded by other industrial and warehouse structures during the heyday of Bay Street’s industrial district, including the Churchwell building, the El Modelo cigar factory, and the Maxwell House factory.
The company was later taken over by McKesson & Robbins, a precursor to the medical distribution company McKesson that distributed wholesale drugs and liquor. Between Groover-Stewart and its successors, the building was utilized for drug manufacturing and distribution through the 1970s.
An investment group, ACM Investors, took over the property when McKesson left. Under its direction, the building underwent a $1.7 million renovation in the mid-‘80s, but it struggled to attract tenants and, by the time the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, it was in a state of significant disrepair.
After a brief acquisition by software company Informatics, Inc., the building came under the possession of Grover Stewart, Inc., another investment group, in 1993. The new group initiated another $1.5 million in renovations in 1994 aimed at restoring the building’s features and creating usable office space, and it was soon able to lure the city’s public defender’s office as its main tenant in 1996.
The public defender’s office resided within the building until 2011 when it moved to the newly opened Jake M. Godbold City Hall Annex building, leaving the Groover-Stewart building without a major tenant.
In 2013, local investor Michael Upchurch purchased the property for $1.8 million and began marketing it for redevelopment. Three years later, a company related to Chicago, IL-based Iconic Investors bought the building from Upchurch for $2.05 million.
The new ownership group spent just under a million dollars to renovate the building to serve as co-working office space. In February 2016, Chicago-based co-working company Level Office began operations within the building.
Additional renovations in 2017 were made to add protection from flooding. And in 2018, the building’s signage was modified to reflect Level Office’s rebrand as Novel Coworking.
Today, the building continues to house Novel Coworking, providing a nice, historic environment for those in need of flexible office space. It serves as a reminder of a once-busy industrial center in downtown Jacksonville.