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Historic Downtown Jacksonville Building To Become 'Hub Of Innovation'

A Jacksonville developer has plans to turn the historic Barnett building in downtown Jacksonville into an innovation center which he believes will be a hub for the startup scene in the Southeastern United States.

The 18-story building will house the international headquarters for One Spark, an expanded Cowork Jacksonville and the business accelerator KYN, according to Steve Atkins, Managing Director of Southeast Development Group.

Credit Provided by Steve Atkins
An artist's rendering of the renovated Barnett Bank building.

The building will also have several floors of retail space, college classrooms and residential apartments.

“We think that it will really be a catalyst and a tremendous shot in the arm for downtown,” Atkins said.  

While plans for the Barnett building were largely kept under wraps, there had been rumors that there would be an educational component. Atkins said on-site distance learning labs will allow college students to take classes in the space.

“Innovation centers have popped up across the country—but to be able to partner with higher education-- the University of North Florida, it’s really something that’s going to be unique,” he said.

Southeast Development purchased the Barnett Bank building along with the bundle of nearby buildings known as the Laura Street Trio a little over a year ago with $3 million borrowed from Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s Stache Investments Corp.

The Barnett National Bank company built the structure in 1926 as their national headquarters. It has been abandoned since the late 1990’s when the bank moved out of the building.

Atkins said they restored power to the building last week and they plan to launch the new construction about a month after the One Spark festival. Visitors to the festival will be able to enter the building to see more details of the planned renovation.

The housing will be aimed at students and young professionals with apartments that average about 700 square feet and will lease for around $1,000 per month. On the 18th floor, Atkins said they’ll have a sky lounge and conference center that can be used by any of the building’s tenants.

He said they’re not asking for any government incentives for the $30 million project and are privately financing the renovation in partnership with Stache Investments. That financial backing, along with the momentum Atkins sees in downtown make him confident that the plans will come to fruition, with a planned opening in summer of 2015.

“This one is going to work,” he said. “I know there’s been different types of proposals and development plans for things downtown, and people hear those things and have a tough time believing them because so many things have failed in the past. But now is the right time.”

You can follow Karen Feagins on Twitter @karenfeagins.

Karen found her home in public broadcasting after working for several years as a commercial television reporter. She joinedWJCTin 2005 as the host of 89.9 FM’s Morning Edition and has held many different roles at the station in both radio and television. She has written and produced documentaries includingBeluthahatchee: The Legacy of Stetson Kennedy and Jacksonville Beach: Against the Tide and directed the oral history project, Voices of the First Coast.