Bellsouth Bails?

August 30, 2007 11 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Word on the street is that Bellsouth, the corporate giant whose decision to locate its headquarters in Downtown inaugurated the Godbold Era of Downtown revitalization is preparing to depart the long suffering district in favor of the southside.

According to employees who recently relocated to Jacksonville's urban core in order to be close to the 30 story tower, the workforce is being quietly told to prepare for the phased withdrawal of the company to the city's corporate friendly southside.

When Southern Bell built the building in the early 1980's, it marked the transition of the downtown economy from one built on shipping, industry and retail, to an administrative/governmental/corporate economy replacing ----in the nick of time---the scores of thousands of consumers who departed the core after Hemming Park renovations caused the collapse of over 4 million sq ft of retail with corporate employees.

The (post divestiture) BellSouth Building was sold a few years ago, leaving its eponymous inhabitants as mere renters. Apparently the company has decided that owning is better than leasing and will be removing 8 floors of occupants slowly to new headquarters located on the Southside.

A phone call to the leasing company for the landmark downtown property revealed that while the move is apparently in the works, the final details of the move have not been finalized with the landlords.

This development underscores the lack of foresight in a central developing scheme around a handful of large corporate individuals rather than a diversified approach that re-centers downtown to the needs of the entire city.

The recent decision of the JTA to forge its notorious BRT downtown routes in order to accommodate the transit of the Corporate Towers is thrown into even sharper view. After all, what use would the BRT downtown route serve if any more of them decide to relocate?

In any case, the departure of Bellsouth from the Downtown will create massive upheaval downtown.

At 18 dollars a sq ft, it is unlikely that a tenant will be easily found to replace the over 200,000 square feet occupied by the venerable company, especially not in a building that is already 3 floors vacant.

As usual, there is no evidence that anyone involved in the City's anemic downtown development community are even aware of the possibility, although that will certainly change shortly.