Shortly after VyStar Credit Union purchased what’s now the VyStar Tower in downtown Jacksonville, it also acquired the tower’s next-door neighbor: the 57-year-old Life of the South building.
The Life of the South building at 100 W. Bay Street was constructed in 1963 as a replacement office structure for Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co., a locally-based development that played a part in developing the San Marco, San Jose, and Ponte Vedra neighborhoods among others. The building, designed by Saxelbye & Powell with Midcentury Modern flourishes, featured seven stories of space – six regular floors, along with a smaller seventh floor leading out onto the rooftop. It replaced a smaller, three-story structure that also housed SWD & Co.
The development group managed its sizable portfolio from the building for two decades before being acquired by Philips Petroleum Company and split up into assets for sale.
Without SWD & Co., the building at 100 W. Bay Street continued to be used sparingly for its office space, but it remained without an anchor tenant for over a decade. Liane Downtown Eye Associates opened within a ground-floor unit in the building shortly before SWD & Co. moved out – and it remained in that space for over three decades.
In 1995, Life of the South Insurance Company decided to relocate from Georgia into downtown Jacksonville, taking up residence in the former SWD & Co. space. Its signage was added to the building, which remained under the ownership of a commercial real estate firm.
Life of the South, unfortunately, would only stick around downtown for about a decade and a half. Shortly after rebranding itself as Fortegra Financial Corporation, the company bolted to Deerwood South in 2011.
Three years later, former NFL player Eugene Profit purchased the building for $3 million looking to use it as a launching point for his investment group, Profit Investments.
Under Profit’s ownership, the building gained one new tenant – Peterbrooke Chocolatier – in 2015, then lost Liane Downtown Eye Associates when it was purchased by Jax Vision Care and relocated to the Levy Building. He soon proposed a redevelopment project that would’ve seen the building converted into a Hotel Indigo boutique hotel with a rooftop restaurant and bar.
Profit went through most of the necessary steps to make Hotel Indigo a reality, but when VyStar moved in next door, those plans changed dramatically.
In 2019, VyStar bought the building from Profit for $5 million in a sale facilitated by Colliers International Northeast Florida, with the intent of pairing it with its newly-acquired VyStar Tower to create a cohesive downtown campus for its employers.
The company spent over $19 million on renovations, including adding new windows and redoing the building’s electrical systems.
Now, as renovation efforts wrap up, VyStar has put its signage up and is in the process of moving employees into the building. Peterbrooke Chocolatier is returning, and The Bread & Board is opening a restaurant and small grocery shop in the unit that was once home to Liane Downtown Eye Associates.
As part of VyStar’s new downtown campus, the building is likely to see many more decades to come.