More than fifty years after it opened, Riverplace Tower remains a prominent figure in Jacksonville’s skyline.
The building’s story begins in the mid-1960s, when locally-based Gulf Life Insurance Company sought to expand beyond its existing office space along Hogan Street. The city was in the midst of a development boom that included the construction of a new library, city hall building, and courthouse, and companies were eager to get in on the boom while they could. Gulf Life set its sights on a piece of property along the Southbank, and construction began on its new 28-story office tower in 1966.
Designed by locally-based KBJ Architects in collaboration with L.A. architect Welton Becket, Gulf Life Tower debuted in 1967 as the tallest building in Jacksonville – and the world’s tallest precast concrete office building, a title it held until the early 2000s. Like many other urban core structures erected during the ‘60s, the building’s design was heavily influenced by the Midcentury Modern movement.
A year after the building opened, the University Club of Jacksonville was formed and took up residence on the 27th, and part of the 28th, floor. For many years, the club was among the premier locations for business meetings and was frequented by many local “movers and shakers.”
The tower would lose its status as Jacksonville’s tallest building in the mid-‘70s, ironically at the hands of another insurance company’s headquarters – namely, the new Independent Life building.
Gulf Life occupied the tower until it was acquired by American General Corporation – which later became insurance giant AIG – in 1991. Its new parent company absorbed its operations, and its building was listed for sale.
Gate Petroleum acquired the tower in 1993 and initiated major renovations that added a new restaurant space and upgraded the University Club, among other changes. The building was rebranded as Riverplace Tower.
Gate’s renovations sparked a renaissance for the office tower, rising to over 90% occupancy by the late ‘90s. SouthTrust Bank became its anchor tenant, with its signage replacing the long-standing “Gulf Life” lettering atop the structure. SouthTrust was acquired by Wachovia Bank in 2005, at which point Wachovia signage was added to the building.
Another round of renovations by Gate in the early 2000s added the GATE River Run Hall of Fame, which resided within the tower until 2017 when it moved to VyStar Veterans Arena.
After one more round of renovations in 2010, Gate sold the building in 2014 to a partnership formed by Virginia-based Lingerfelt CommonWealth Partners and New York-based Fortress Real Estate Opportunities Fund for $29 million. Two years later, LCP opted to acquire full ownership of the building, this time at a cost of $53.4 million.
2016 brought about big changes for Riverplace Tower. In addition to new ownership, the building got a new anchor tenant: Ameris Bank’s executive team. The company had acquired Bank of Jacksonville a few years earlier following the late-2000s banking crisis. Ameris’s signage was added to the building, which had been devoid of signage since Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo.
Later the same year, the University Club closed after nearly fifty years of operation.
Today, Riverplace Tower features an impressive array of business tenants including Ameris, FinXact, Macquarie Group, and St. John & Partners, as well as amenities like Village Bread Café and Harby Jewelers. It remains a key piece of office property thanks in large part to its location along the Southbank, not far from a Skyway station.
And despite having been built over fifty years ago, it stands out as one of the most modern-looking elements of the Jacksonville skyline today.