San Marco Station Project Takes Shape

November 14, 2011 71 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Anchored by Panera Bread, Ashco, Inc.'s San Marco Train Station may be Jacksonville's latest infill development that's positively impacted by the developer and community working together.

The former South Jacksonville waterworks and electric building.

Adjacent to the former South Jacksonville City Hall, which was constructed in 1915, the brick building was constructed in 1930 as the waterworks and electric building for the City of South Jacksonville. The architect was Harlan E. Wykoff and was constructed under the supervision of the city engineer, Marcel Mazeau. South Jacksonville ceased existence in 1932 and eventually Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) took over the property and used it as an electrical substation.

Inside the former waterworks and electric building.

Inside the former waterworks and electric building.

The property was purchased in March 2008 for $1,410,000 by Ash Properties through an auction from JEA. A Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning was approved for the construction of a 2,000-square-foot building at the southeast corner adjacent to the existing South Jacksonville City Hall and renovations/additions to the main building up to 12,000 square feet. The PUD site plan had parking spaces in front of the main building typical of an autocentric development in Jacksonville.

Original plans called for the historic building to be torn down and replaced with a new strip center.

In 2010, San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) was actively working on the San Marco by Design community planning project. This property was discussed many times for its potential historic renovation. The South Jacksonville City Hall was renovated in 2008 by SMPS through a state historic preservation grant. Members were keen to see any development at the San Marco Station property respect the historic character of this block.

When SMPS heard that the developer was considering the demolition of the existing main building to construct a new 11,000-square-foot building for Panera Bread, they scheduled a meeting with Mr. Ash. It was revealed that it was the original plan for Panera Bread to move into the large building upon renovation. However, the restaurant chain was only interested in moving into a new building and presented Mr. Ash with the plan for demolition of the entire site.

SMPS's concept of a plaza along Hendricks Avenue instead of surface parking.

Several SMPS members met with Mr. Ash many times and demonstrated that Panera Bread could have a new 4,000-square-foot building exclusively for their use and the existing historic building could be renovated. SMPS also showed how much more beneficial it would be for the businesses and patrons to keep the space between the buildings and Hendricks Avenue free of parking. Instead of surface parking, a pedestrian plaza would provide a much more pedestrian-friendly environment and maintain the urban character of this portion of San Marco.  This falls in line with a recent courtyard project that Ashco, Inc. added with the renovation of Jacksonville Beach's Beach Plaza.

Ashco, Inc.'s new courtyard at Jacksonville Beach's Beach Plaza.

Sketch of proposed development layout.

The current site plan, which will be presented to the City Council soon for PUD modification, will include a new 4,000-square-foot building for Panera, additions/renovations of the existing large building up to 12,719 square feet, and a new 1,000-square-foot pavilion-like building at the northeast corner of the site.

The revised plan for this development indicates that success can happen when developers and the community work together for the greater good of Jacksonville and its neighborhoods.

Article by Doug Skiles.