North Point Town Center to bring new look to Northwest Jacksonville. Hopes are that the project can be a catalyst for the area.
Florida Times-Union online.
Posted: November 17, 2010 - 5:32pm
By David Bauerlein
The $3.5 million building that will rise up from an abandoned piece of property at the junction of Moncrief Road and Myrtle Avenue won’t look anything like the surrounding northwest Jacksonville neighborhood. That’s by design, said Paul Tutwiler, executive director of the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp.
“It’s essential that we take a community built in the 1930s and 1940s into the 21st century, which is where we should be,” Tutwiler said Wednesday. Tutwiler was joined Wednesday by Mayor John Peyton, Sheriff John Rutherford and City Council member E. Denise Lee for a “retail revitalization” ceremony touting upcoming construction of the North Point Town Center. He said the two-story, 10,600-square-foot building should be finished by the end of next summer.
The community development corporation, a nonprofit group that focuses on neighborhood turnaround, is taking on its first commercial development project after building 67 new homes in an area in which residents suffer high levels of unemployment. Over the years, commercial and retail activity has exited the neighborhood. But with new rooftops in place, Tutwiler said it’s time to focus on bringing back retail. The city is giving financial assistance by using the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund. The city will loan $527,579 to the project and provide a $351,719 grant. Other funding sources for the project are the Florida Community Loan Fund, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, the nonprofit group LISC Jacksonville, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program for brownfield redevelopment, and Wachovia, a Wells Fargo company.
The city donated the land in 2008 but an environmental report found soil contamination from a long-ago service station, resulting in the brownfield designation for the property. The Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund was created by the Better Jacksonville Plan, which voters approved in 2000 with a half-cent sales tax. The $25 million economic development fund has had a rocky performance over the years. A Times-Union investigation in March found the fund has fallen short in creating jobs, in part because some costly projects remain unfinished.
In the case of North Point Town Center, the project met all the criteria for job creation, enhancing a commercial corridor, and bringing commercial activity back to a neighborhood, said Wight Greger, director of the city’s housing and neighborhood department.
She said the city also asked a credit underwriter to review the feasibility of the project and got a positive report. “We treated it as if it was a business decision,” she said.
The city is confident Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp. will be able to lease the building, she said. Signing tenants is still something that needs to be done. Tutwiler said his organization will lease a chunk of space for its activities, but the building still needs an anchor tenant and others to fill up the space. A pharmacy and a pharmaceutical company are among the businesses that have shown interest, he said.
Tutwiler said North Point Town Center can help the neighborhood on two fronts: adding jobs in the neighborhood will help lower the crime rate. “We’re going to build our way out of crime,” he said.