First Baptist Church of Jacksonville plans to sell-off the bulk of its Downtown properties, as WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported. That may bode well for future development.
First Baptist owns 10 city blocks, and church leaders have said they need to consolidate in order to stay afloat, as membership declines.
Local real estate attorney Thomas Ingram is encouraged by what’s on the parcels that may be sold. “There are garages there that were built in, according to the property appraiser, in the late ‘80s.”
Ingram said those parking structures could be a valuable inducement for developers.
“Often what you will see in the incentives packages the city has worked on is assistance to developers to provide for structured parking to offset the additional cost of urban development. So this property already has some of that critical infrastructure in place.”
Plus, Ingram said, the properties are served by a network of urban roads and they’re a key part of the transition between downtown and the Springfield community to the north.
The church currently owns 1.5 million square feet of space Downtown. It plans to consolidate its ministry from 10 city blocks to one. The church plans to take out a $30 million for the consolidation, which will be bounded by Church, Hogan, Laura and Ashley streets. The loan is expected to be paid off by the proceeds from selling the church's existing land.
That consolidated block that the church will keep includes Hobson Auditorium, which was built in 1904. It will be upgraded and once again serve as the First Baptist Church worship facility.
Christian Oldenburg, a commercial real estate executive with Colliers International Northeast Florida, said Wednesday he would expect to see a mix of residential, retail and office space.
“Having the transit station that close to these parcels is a huge benefit and something that, when combined with the FSCJ campus just to the north I think could make this a real vibrant hub for downtown Jacksonville. I mean you can hop right on the Skyway from there and be on the Southbank in less than 10-minutes without driving your car,” said Oldenberg, referring to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority Rosa Parks Transit Hub that is near the church property.
JTA has previously pitched the Rosa Park Transit Station area as a "transit-orgiented development" opportunity. The Rosa Parks hub will be scaled back to a regular Skyway and bus stop once the under-construction Jacksonville Regional Transit Center opens in March 2020.
- WJCT's Bill Bortzfield contributed to this report