Bringing boutique hotels back to the core

November 5, 2006 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

At one time, downtown was loaded with unique hotels. With the boom in the suburbs, all of downtown's historic lodging establishments, such as the Goerge Washington Hotel above, have either closed and converted to other uses or been outright demolished. Today, Metro Jacksonville points out a few under utilized downtown sites that may be suitable for boutique hotel type uses.



LOCATOR MAP

1. OLD INDEPENDENT LIFE BUILDING (JEA)

2. AMBASSADOR HOTEL

3. HILDERBRANT BUILDING

4. LAURA TRIO

5. FLORIDA THEATER

1. OLD INDEPENDENT LIFE BUILDING

Originally built in 1955, the18 story former JEA central office tower has been vacant since 1987. After several failed proposals for restoration into lofts and officespace, JEA recently sold the 162,500 square foot building to Chris Hionides who represents Kore Properties, LLC for $4.1 million. No redevelopment plans have been announced by Mr. Hionides, who owns several properties in downtown, making the idea of boutique hotel use in downtown's largest vacant structure a consideration.

FOR MORE INFO: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/content/view/84/5/

2. AMBASSADOR HOTEL (310 WEST CHURCH STREET)

The Ambassador Hotel is the largest remaining vacant 1920s era structure in downtown. In 2004, owner Sam Easton announced plans to sell the building to Matott Development of Amelia Island who intended to convert the building into a52 unit loft project. Other plans for the block included the constructing a new 12 story office tower (323 Duval)and a parking garage to cater to businesses located next door to the planned county courthouse. However, the group only intended to renovate the Ambassador if the city would grant them incentives. To date, it appears that this project has been abandoned, leaving the six story Ambassador in a state of disrepair.

http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/011504/bus_14543958.shtml

3. HILDERBRANDT BUILDING

This building at300 WestAdams Street, will be vacated by Everbank once the EverBank Plaza Tower is completed on Riverside Avenue. While the actual building may be too small to make the numbers work for a boutique hotel, it comes with a large surface parking lot on the same block that could be converted into a parking garage and additional mixed uses. Of special interest, the now demolished George Washington Hotel (first picture), once located across the street, was constructed by Robert Kloeppel, W.J. Hilderbrandt's brother-in-law.

FOR MORE INFO: http://jacksonville.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/stories/2006/05/01/story2.html?i=38473


4. LAURA TRIO

Already under reconstruction, these three buildings (from left to right: Florida Life, Marble Bank & Bisbee Buildings) were originally planned to house a mix of uses, including a bank branch, lofts and office condominiums. Recently, the Police and Fire Pension Fund has agreed to sell the project to mega developer Cameron Kuhn. Kuhn has until 2007 to decide if he wants to go through with the deal, but it is expected that he plans to do something more intensive with the site, which includes a good sized portion of vacant land.

Metro Jacksonville has a possible use to consider; converting the two towers into a boutique hotel project and turning the Marble Bank building into a more urban friendly space, such as a restaurant or gallery. Combined, the towers could potentially house up to 100 rooms and additional land could be used for a mixed use tower that includes parking for both projects and the Barnett, across the street.

FOR MORE INFO: http://www.metjax.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2699



This photograph shows the interior of the Marble Bank during the 1920s. While it may be suitable for another bank branch, a use that adds and attracts people to downtown on a round the clock basis, may be more suitable.

5. FLORIDA THEATER

This one may be most intriguing of all. The theater building is currently owned by the city of Jacksonville, which plans to move the city's planning department out of the structure once the YMCA Building renovation on Hemming Plaza is completed next year. The Florida Theater includes multiple upper level floors currently housing city offices which could potentially become interesting space for a use such as a boutique hotel. After all, imagine the experience of staying in a one-of-kind establishment with a historic theater at street level.

INTERESTING EXAMPLES

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:

1. The Briggs warehouse complex was converted into a Courtyard By Marriott in downtown Omaha Nebraska. The project involved taking two blighted warehouses and connecting them with a new construction link, creating a unique hotel with 8,000 square feet of retail space.

2. The Humble Oil (predecessor to Exxon) Building in downtown Houston was converted into a mixture of uses, including a 191 room Courtyard by Marriott, 171 room Residence Inn by Marriott, and 82 luxury apartments.

3. In New Orleans, this once obsolete 1950's era office tower was converted into a 155 unit Hilton Garden Inn.

For more examples: http://www.hriproperties.com/site57.php