Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Seeking Funds From City To Update Building

By Benjamin Cox on August 25, 2022 at 12:04pm

(Photo By Jeremy Coumbes)

The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce is asking for help from the City of Jacksonville to renovate their office building.

The city owns the building that houses the Chamber of Commerce located at 155 West Morton Avenue inside of Community Park.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Musch says the exterior of the building is in severe disrepair: “The exterior definitely needs some assistance. The paint is peeling. Our soffit, sidewalks, all of that needs repair. We’d really like to firm up that exterior to something a little more long-lasting, as far as material goes and then, make it look more appealing, a bit more commercial, harden up the exterior for security reasons, and really make sure that we have great ADA accessibility into the building, as well. We just really want to work to make that building look great. We are at the corner of Main & Morton. We feel it’s important to the city and for the chamber for us to look presentable, appealing, and modern. That’s kind of what we are going for.”

Musch presented the city council on Monday night with a rendering of what they would like the building to look like with a renovation. An informal price tag on the project puts the renovation costs at roughly $300,000. With the city being the landlord to the building, the chamber is asking the city to kick in half of the renovation costs.

Musch told the council that the chamber has put approximately $98,000 into the building since they first moved in back in 1983. Musch says that the chamber also has money saved up specifically for this renovation that’s been in the planning phase for the last 4 years: “We have been saving some monies. We’ll take a look at what the final plan ends up being. The $300,000 figure is an estimate right now, so depending upon how the City Council wants to proceed and what our board wants to do is how we’ll get this done, but we’ve got some skin in the game for sure.”

Musch told the City Council that she’d like to get the renovations underway as soon as possible because several community groups use the building: “We have a number of community organizations using our building on a monthly basis for meetings, retreats, special events. Sometimes when new businesses come into Jacksonville, they use it for their on-boarding or interviewing purposes. A lot of local organizations utilize it for various purposes. The chamber is utilizing it for our meetings and our seminars, but the building is being well-utilized by the community, too. We’re happy to be able to do that.”

Part of the reasons for the high costs of the renovation is that the city is mandated by law to pay prevailing wages for the work to be done. Mayor Andy Ezard suggested to the council to split the city’s portion of the costs between American Rescue Plan Act funding and the city’s building and projects fund. The portion to be utilized by the Building & Projects Fund will also have to be approved by the City’s Municipal Buildings Committee and be recommended to the City Council.

The final determination by the Jacksonville City Council on how much funding will be kicked in to the project and where the funding will come from will be at the first Jacksonville City Council meeting in the month of September.