A Jacksonville couple is breathing new life into a long-forgotten bank building in downtown Jacksonville.
John and Rachel Rohn, owners of both the Fitness World Health Club & Sports Complex and K’s Creek Golf Club & Kitchen 63 have purchased the former Elliot State Bank building located at 73 East Central Park Plaza.
John Rohn says what will soon be known as “The Plaza” will bring a new indoor marketplace setting into all areas of the former bank.
“So our vision for the property is kind of a mixed-use development, really kind of playing off what others have been doing successfully downtown over the last decade or so. Which is taking new storefronts and breathing new life into them. Obviously, this is a big, big, BIG new storefront.
But we are looking to develop some retail space on the main floor, some office and professional space on the second floor of the building. All told there will be several suites available to rent in about 30,000 square feet of space, sometime over the next 60 to 90 days if construction timelines and city approvals go okay.”
Rohn says visitors to The Plaza will enter from the Central Park side and into a shopping area that looks like a walk down Main Street with shop facades that look like individual store buildings. He says it is he and Rachel’s hope that bringing new life to the long-shuttered building will help not just their tenants, but all of the businesses in the downtown area.
“We have so many great places down there whether it be to eat or to shop, so we want to bring in complementary storefronts into this place that can all help play off of each other. And like I said in my Facebook post, a phrase I use all the time is that the rising tide lifts all boats.
And we just want to be one more boat that goes up when the tide goes up, and hopefully, if we do good then everyone else around us has more good come to them because of it. That’s what really gives us the satisfaction behind wanting to take on another crazy project.”
A new coat of paint started going onto the exterior of the building this week. Rohn says overall the building is in great shape with several of the big problem projects already completed.
He says their number one goal when they first looked at the building though was to find out if there was any way possible to restore the exterior back to its former glory.
“That exostructure that was placed on the building back in the ’80s, unfortunately, destroyed the facade underneath. In fact, in some places, the old storefronts are just gone in general. So while we can’t remove that or do anything with that, that does provide a superstructure as far as the structural integrity of the building that is there now.
The other great thing is that when Mike Hayes saved it from being demolished two years ago, he went ahead and put a roof on the building. So with those two things intact and the bank abated the asbestos in the building, so there’s really no more big scary things left to tackle.
It’s a lot of cleanout, it’s a lot of carpet, walls, paint, ceilings and such. And then restoring some of the integrity of what was there from days gone by, if nothing else, on the interior.”
Rohn says once renovations are complete, he and Rachel will be opening the first business inside The Plaza as a way to break the seal and show other business owners there will be traffic coming through the area.
He says the space allows for one of Rachel’s longstanding ideas to become a reality, so along with their new manager Brian Davenport, The Plaza will be home to the V.R. Escape Room, and The Vault Ax Throwing Center.
He says it’s their hope that the new venture will be up and running in the next 60 to 90 days.