City officials celebrated a construction milestone, officially “topping off” the soon-to-be steakhouse Friday.
Building developers raised an American flag beside an evergreen tree placed at the highest point of the building.
Danis Construction Vice President Tony Suttles said it’s a tradition various cultures attach meanings to.
“If you’re of Native American descent you most likely believe it’s symbolic that no man-made structure should ever be taller than a tree,” he said.
But Chophouse owner Jacques Klempf said he likes to think the evergreen is breathing life into the building.
“I mean this building, unfortunately, it was dead for many, many years,” Klempf said.
The building at the corner of Bay and Ocean streets went up in the late 1800’s, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1901 and rebuilt soon after, Klempf said.
Klempf said he has spent more than $6 million dollars in restoring the old building and the city has helped to the tune of $750,000 — $500,000 in historic preservation grants and a $250,000 loan.
Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace considers it a good investment.
“We’re doing a lot of work with preserving our past,” Wallace said. “It’s very important, and this is going to catapult other projects as well.”
Wallace said he sees Jacksonville becoming a food and brewery destination. He pointed to the recent opening of the Intuition brewery a few blocks down from the Chophouse.
Klempf's other Jacksonville restaurants, which are part of the Forking Amazing Restaurant group, include Ovinte, Il Desco and Bistro Aix.
He said he hopes to open the Chophouse as early as April. It will feature a two-story dining room, as well as a rooftop terrace bar and lounge.
Reporter Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at@lindskilbride.