A city’s wellbeing can often be gauged by the health of its downtown. And its iconic old buildings are like pulse points of that health. Last year, LISC played a pivotal role in saving two historic Jacksonville landmarks and giving them a second life: the Barnett Tower, an 18-story, 1929 bank building on the National Historic Registry, vacant for nearly 15 years, and the Lerner Building, another 1920s landmark that had been gutted and abandoned a decade ago.
Both buildings were dilapidated and threatened with demolition. But as a result of a collaboration between visionary developers and the City, these landmarks are on their way to rehabilitation and reuse. Still, financing for each project was complex and fraught with obstacles. Last year, LISC came to the table providing a direct loan to complete the Lerner Building project, and allocated New Markets Tax Credits and bridge funding to the Barnett Tower project to close the gap between existing capital and funds from the City of Jacksonville that will not be provided until the project is completed.
Barnett Tower, which was once the headquarters of Florida’s largest bank, is being redeveloped into a mixed-use property that will house a flagship Chase Bank at street level, the new downtown YMCA, the University of North Florida Business School and a business incubator. The upper floors will encompass 100 apartment units, 20 percent of which will be reserved for affordable housing.
LISC provided $4 million of bridge financing on funds to be provided by the City of Jacksonville upon completion of construction. Our subsidiary, the New Markets Support Company, provided an $8 million NMTC allocation to complete the capital stack for the $40 million project. After seven years of predevelopment efforts, construction began in November.
The Lerner Building, meanwhile, is being redeveloped into a 60-bed housing project for the Florida State College of Jacksonville downtown campus, along with a 5,000 square foot café on the street level to be operated by the school’s culinary arts program. When the developer’s original lender would not provide the additional funding necessary to complete the project, LISC was able to provide $4,545,000 of the $7 million construction financing necessary to complete the project.
Wayne Wood, a Jacksonville historian, calls the Barnett Tower, and buildings like it, symbols of Jacksonville, and argues that the fate of downtown hinges on whether or not they are saved and repurposed. “Finding new uses for empty historically and architecturally significant buildings provides a double reward,” said Wood. “It enlivens the heart of the city and preserves the cultural symbols that celebrate our unique heritage.”
Because LISC was able to fill critical financing gaps, the Barnett Tower and the Lerner Building will once again function as beacons of a vibrant Jacksonville.
Image credit: Southeast Development Group
Private Sector Support
Public Sector Support
Executive Director: Janet Owens
100 North Laura Street, Suite 600
Jacksonville, FL 32202