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Vestcor projects provide workforce housing in Jacksonville

Filling a Void

Two proposed Vestcor projects will provide workforce housing downtown.

Over the past decade, federal housing officials have shifted resources away from homeless shelters and other temporary housing programs in favor of building more low-income, long-term housing.

In 2016, Community Connections of Jacksonville, a non-profit shelter for homeless women and children, became a casualty of the funding shift and closed. Now, efforts are under way to convert the old Community Connections building into new apartments for downtown workers.

Jacksonville-based Vestcor plans to develop a 140-unit apartment complex called the Lofts at Cathedral by renovating the vacant, three-story brick building and incorporating it into new construction on adjacent property. Vestcor Chairman John Rood says rents likely will be affordable for people earning between 140% and 60% of median income.

Vestcor also will soon begin building a 133-unit apartment complex for low- and middle-income residents in downtown’s Brooklyn neighborhood. The project, called the Lofts at Brooklyn, received $17.9 million in tax credits allocated by the Florida Housing Finance Corp. in March. Vestcor says 80 units will be for people who make up to 60% of median income ($30,900 for an individual), and 53 units will be for people at 140% of the median ($72,100).

In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed an appropriation of $8 million for workforce housing in downtown Jacksonville from the state budget. Rood says he had hoped to apply for the appropriated money to help finance the Lofts at Cathedral. Nevertheless, he says, he’s moving ahead with the project and will continue to look for both public and private funding.

“We’re providing housing primarily for the entry-level worker, people who are getting out of school and starting their first job in a variety of different industries,” he says. “They just need a place they can afford.”

EDUCATION

  • Adjunct faculty at Santa Fe College will be allowed to vote on whether to form a union. The Public Employees Relations Commission, a regulatory state agency, ruled that the school’s part-time employees, including adjunct faculty, had shown sufficient interest to hold a union election. Supporters of the faculty union drive are demanding better pay, input into curriculum planning and other benefits given to full-time employees.
  • Florida State College closed a cafe in downtown Jacksonville, a year after opening it to train culinary students. The college said the cafe was to be financially self-sufficient, but costs exceeded expectations. The school plans to sublease the space.
  • Edward Waters College, a private, historically black college in Jacksonville, received approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to begin offering online degrees.

GOVERNMENT

  • Former Jacksonville City Councilwoman Lori Boyer became CEO of the Downtown Investment Authority. She succeeds Aundra Wallace, who now leads the JaxUSA Partnership.
  • Howard Wanamaker, formerly chief strategy officer at Hanania Automotive Group in Jacksonville, is Clay County manager.

LOGISTICS

  • CSX executive Frank Lonegro left the company after nearly four years as CFO. CSX named vice president of corporate affairs Kevin Boone interim CFO. It did not give a reason for Lonegro’s departure.
  • Farrukh Bezar, formerly managing partner of transportation and logistics advisory firm Lynwood Partners, joined CSX as chief strategy officer, a new position.
  • Commercial rail customers filed testimony with federal regulators seeking to reduce surging railroad fees.
  • Flagler County became the ninth county to join Northeast Florida’s Foreign Trade Zone, giving Flagler businesses access to JaxPort seaport facilities.
  • Webb Southeast Construction will build a 477,946-sq.-ft. warehouse on speculation at Imeson International Industrial Park in north Jacksonville.
  • North Carolina-based Red Rock Development is building a 617,000-sq.-ft. warehouse on speculation near U.S. 27 and I-75 in Marion County. The project, to be completed by the end of this year, is at the Ocala/Marion County Commerce Park, where FedEx, Chewy and AutoZone have distribution centers.

RETAIL

  • Publix will open its first Green- Wise Market in Northeast Florida at Nocatee Town Center in St. Johns County.
  • Beard Equipment is building a construction equipment dealership near I-75 in Ocala. The 48,000-sq.-ft. dealership is to open in early 2020 and will include a training facility, demonstration area and service center.

ENTERTAINMENT

  • Jacksonville studio Pine Ridge Film and Television will develop and produce a new PBS miniseries, The Roots of Southern Rock.

REAL ESTATE

  • Jacksonville-based Haskell, an architectural, engineering, construction and consulting firm, acquired an equity interest in Alabama-based BLOX, which makes medical modules such as exam rooms and operating rooms.

Charter School Approval

In May, the Duval County School Board approved Vestcor Chairman John Rood’s plan to build a K-12 charter school near downtown. The school will be affiliated with Michigan’s Hillsdale College, which has helped open 25 academies across the U.S., including six in Florida. Rood describes the approach as traditional rather than technology-oriented. “It’s a very teacher-focused learning environment,” he says.

The school, called Jacksonville Classical Academy, is to open in August 2020 and eventually will have 1,100 students, he says.

 

 

Read more in Florida Trend's August issue.

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