CEO overseeing dowtown Jax talks about Laura Street Trio project


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's Downtown Investment Authority's new CEO spent his first day on the job talking about a big project in the works in the city's core.

Audra Wallace comes from Detroit and was hired in June.

At a roundtable Monday morning, Wallace spoke about his goal to revitalize downtown, one of those plans being the Laura Street Trio project.

Wallace said it's one with a lot of potential, maybe $40 million worth, and he hopes this is one of many projects for Jacksonville that will bring more business and momentum to the River City.

IMAGES: Laura Street Trio to be preserved, developed

"It's going to be a great challenge that I'm up for," Wallace said. "It's got a lot of potential. I'm looking forward into delving into my work here in Jacksonville."

Wallace said there won't be any immediate, noticeable changes to the city.

"Real estate development takes time. It takes time to plan, takes time to line up the financing, takes time to build, takes time to lease up and sell, etc.," Wallace said.

As for the Laura Street Trio project, the three historic buildings that have sat vacant for years have been bought by developer Steve Adkins of SouthEast Group. Adkins plans to redevelop the buildings into a mixed-use complex featuring a Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, two restaurants, a commercial bank and a rooftop bar.

Two of the three buildings were the first skyscrapers ever built in the southeastern U.S. more than 100 years ago, so keeping the buildings means also keeping the unique history that comes with them.

Because Wallace hasn't met with Adkins yet, he is waiting to learn more details on the project, but said he believes the project is an opportunity to showcase the authority's quality customer service that will lead to more business in the future.

"I just think more people are going to want to do more business with us here in downtown Jacksonville, so I'm excited about that particular opportunity and to create that particular momentum, and I think that particular project has those particular characteristics that have just that," Wallace said.

Another group excited about the possibility of the buildings becoming active again is Downtown Vision.

"You have a lot of energy. You've got a lot of smaller scale investment," said Jennifer Hewett-Apperson, of Downtown Vision. "And for a very long time these have really been that missing piece of the puzzle, and it's going to take a really special project to bring them into what they need to be."

Wallace said he should be meeting with Adkins and having negotiations within the next few weeks and that will help him understand more on the project.