Dozens of Murray Hill residents and business owners packed a public hearing Friday at City Hall to oppose a plan to turn demolish the former Jones College building and build a self-storage facility.
The proposed three-story facility in Murray Hill by Jacksonville developer the Silverfield Group has residents worried about, among other things, parallel parking shortage and decrease in property values.
“It does not fit. It’s not part of our neighborhood. It would never be,” said Len Burroughs, who’s served on the Murray Hill Preservation Association since 1990. “It’s a big block structure.”
He added that there are already eight storage facilities within three miles and none of them are full. That’s as Jacksonville has seen a boom in self-storage, largely driven by an explosion in apartment construction.
The 97,200-square-foot facility would be constructed on Edgewood Avenue at the intersection of Plymouth Street, where Jones College closed in 2017. It’s essentially the gateway to the neighborhood and can be seen by the heavily trafficked Roosevelt Boulevard overpass. Silverfield Group would also acquire a nearby vacant theater for future development.
Edgewood Avenue has recently attracted a lot of locally owned businesses like Murray’s Taco Bodega, Fishweir Brewing Company, and Town Beer Company.
Leslie Dawson said she’s concerned about the neighborhood’s losing the vibrancy that attracted her to Murray Hill.
“I see it as becoming something. There are people walking. I hear music from my house. I can walk to up to Moon River Pizza,” she said. “I mean, it is fantastic and yet I believe that this is not going to add to this neighborhood.”
But a city staff report found no evidence that the proposed facility would reduce the property value or character of Murray Hill.
After meetings with the Murray Hill Preservation Association, Silverfield Group has made several concessions, agreeing to add 32 off-street parking spaces, five of which would be dedicated to the self-storage center; limit the height of the facility to 40 feet; put a fence along the property within a year; and only operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Silverfield Group attorney Steve Diebenow also said the owner would landscape along the property.
“Our judgement based on the feedback in our meetings was that landscaping along Plymouth was more important than additional parallel parking spaces,” he said.
But many said they still won’t get behind the idea.
“I think it’d be an eyesore,” said Nathalie Thomas, a 72-year-old resident, whose family has owned property in the area for nearly a century. “It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. In the end it’s still a pig.”
The city’s zoning committee will make a final decision on the storage facility proposal in three weeks.