Thomas Gets Winning Bid on Downtown Open Lots; Looking to Add Parking and Other Amenities

By Benjamin Cox on September 13, 2023 at 9:31am

A photo of 203 East Morgan Street's open lot. The city tore down buildings at the location in 2019.

The City of Jacksonville agreed to the sale of a pair of lots around the downtown square on Monday night at the first meeting of the month of September.

Rabbi Rob Thomas was the winning bidder on the city’s surplus real estate located at 203-205 East Morgan Street and 42 North Central Park Plaza. Grand total for the two properties met the 80% threshold of appraisal required for the sale, right at $18,000 total for both parcels.

City Attorney Dan Beard said that Worrell Land Services appraised the two open lots for the city at no cost.

During workshop session, Beard read the intended plans of Thomas for the property at 203-205 East Morgan Street: “For the properties on the south side, at the southeast corner of the plaza, will be used for quality garage providing covered, weather-proof parking for the residents of 201 East Morgan and 59 East Central Park Plaza, where [Thomas] intends to build two upstairs apartments. The garage will be shielded from view from the square by foliage, large hedge, etc. The remainder of the lot will be paved and marked as a parking lot providing close parking for the customers of Pizza Records, [Thomas’] tenant at 59 East Central Park Plaza. Pizza Records plans to host music and comedy shows, bring entertainment and artists to the square year round. This will bring more people and more business to the square.”

Beard says similar plans with a few noted amenities to the downtown plaza were intended for the property at 42 North Central Park Plaza: “The second lot, for which he submitted the bid of $10,000 is the property just west of the old Sears building. His use for that – the rear third will be used for quality garage providing covered, weather-proof parking for the residents of the upper floors of 46 North Central Park Plaza. It will be shielded from view of the square by foliage, large hedge, etc. The middle third will be paved and used for uncovered parking for guests as well as customers of the restaurant, retail, entertainment space on the ground floor. The front third, closest to the square, will remain green space mainted by [Thomas’] staff. He will construct a set of restrooms on the front third so that the City of Jacksonville will have public restrooms for events held on the square. The details of the maintenance and management of that restroom facility remain to be discussed.”

Beard said the city could accept or reject the bids based upon the plans. Ward 2 Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel raised the only comment, saying she was glad that Thomas was keeping noted green space and foliage for the downtown area within the plans.

Both bids were accepted unanimously and the finalization of the sale is expected within the coming weeks.

In other city planning action, the council accepted a rezone request on emergency clause to rezone property at 786 West Walnut Avenue from residential to business district.

The City Planning Commission approved plans for a new Dollar Tree store to built at the property.