Quietly, one of downtown's most successful merchants has decided to move forward with a project that promises to add life to Laura Street and Hemming Plaza.
In 2008, Ron Chamblin, owner of the city's largest independent bookstore, opened Chamblin's Uptown at 215 North Laura Street. The two level, 12,000 square foot bookstore, offering a wide collection of new and used books, magazines, audiobooks, DVD rentals and sales, along with an espresso & coffee bar, provided an economic boost along North Laura Street and Hemming Plaza.
Now Chamblin is moving forward with his next endeavor, an urban mixed use project immediately adjacent to his popular bookstore. Last month, he acquired 225 North Laura Street with intentions to bring needed 24/7 living to the underutilized structure.
225 North Laura Street.
Completed in 1904, the 3-story 6,552-square-foot building was known as the Laura Apartments at Hemming. Its original tenants were Edward and Anna Blinn, Theodore Blinn and Edward and Estelle Hopkins. Edward Blinn was employed as a bookkeeper for Stringfellow & Doty Company. Theodore Blinn was a physician and surgeon who operated his business out of the building. Edward Hopkins was a contractor. Chamblin intends to return the building to its century old roots by renovating the upper floors into six apartment units to complement the structure's street level retail spaces. Gus & Company Shoe Repair, which has been in continuous operation in downtown since 1904 will remain as the building's ground level tenant.
According to Chamblin, they will definitely change the front "lower" floor facade. The current idea is to keep the old upper level brick facade and possibly add brick to the first floor to complement the upper levels. Additional plans include the possible restoration of the building's fire escape and alley into a private secluded courtyard space for future tenants. Interior demolition is currently under way and the project is expected to be completed in mid 2014.
In the meantime, Metro Jacksonville shares what will eventually become the "before" images of the interior of Chamblin's downtown residential project.