Renovation projects are bringing new life to historic buildings that have long been shuttered, including a high-end restaurant and a mixed-used development in the heart of downtown.
The Laura Street Trio
While the river grabs your attention immediately, transformational projects are also underway a few blocks inland in downtown Jacksonville.
The Laura Street Trio consists of three buildings all more than 100 years old that are being redeveloped along with a 91-year-old, 18-story building that once served as the headquarters for Barnett Bank.
Work has already begun on the Barnett Bank Building, which will be renovated for office space and apartments. The Trio buildings will be redeveloped into a hotel, restaurants and offices.
The $78 million project is a partnership between a local company, Southeast Development, and the Las Vegas-based Molasky Group.
Southeast Development principal Steve Atkins expects the redevelopment of the historic, but long-vacant, space will reinvigorate the neighborhood.
“This will create a 24-hour node of activity right in the heart of downtown,” he says.
With all of the large-scale projects on the horizon, the opening of a single downtown restaurant may not seem like a big deal. But the opening of the Cowford Chophouse in 2017 generated a lot of buzz.
Owner Jacques Klempf opened the restaurant in the historic Bostwick Building, a Jacksonville landmark opened in 1902 that was one of the first buildings constructed after the Great Fire of 1901 decimated the city.
The restaurant’s name pays homage to the city’s history, as Cowford was the original name of the village before it was renamed Jacksonville in 1822.
The Bostwick Building had fallen into disrepair before
Klempf bought it in 2014 and began restoring it to preserve its history, while also creating a new downtown dining spot.
With the help of agencies including the city’s Historic Preservation Trust Fund, restoration work of the building included historic arched windows, exterior bricks, metal cornice, and 300-year-old heart of pine lumber.
“He was willing to move forward and spend enormous amounts of money,” says Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership.