Farmer’s market, architecture school proposed for old armory | Jax daily record | Jacksonville Daily Record

The former Florida National Guard’s downtown armory could become a mixed-use farmers market, greenhouse, and event space – or an architecture school.

B&H Fine Foods co-owner Barry Adkin said he is proposing to convert the property into a farmers market, greenhouse / urban farm, incubator kitchens for local businesses and a space for performances or events.

B&H Fine Foods is based in Boca Raton and operates a grocery store there.

Rafael Caldera of Arkest LLC based in Jacksonville

Jacksonville-based Arkest LLC bidder Rafael Caldera proposes to open an architecture school on the property. The school would occupy the armory building, with the neighboring buildings being demolished and new ones built for the school.

Caldera, a building contractor, said two South Florida colleges are interested in bringing an architecture school to the armory, but he declined to name them.

Caldera estimates 1,000 students would attend school. Living on campus isn’t part of the plan, but he said the school would help bring more residents to the city center.

These were two of three groups who received offers for the purchase of the vacant historic armory building in neo-Gothic style in the city of 851 at N. Market St.

The building, which is more than 100 years old, was offered for sale by the city together with an optionally adjacent property with three warehouses at 928 N. Liberty St.

Bid amounts opened on Thursday were not read and can remain secret for up to 30 days or when a bid is selected.

The third company bidding for the property, REVA Development Corp., was not available for comment. REVA Development, based in Fort Lauderdale, works with residential, commercial and retail real estate.

On its website, REVA announced that it and MFK Development LLC have developed 1,440 residential units to include new construction, extensive refurbishment and historic reuse.

REVA says it is “incorporating a comprehensive approach to housing and economic development into neighborhood revitalization programs” in support of artists, families and small businesses.

The three-story, 80,826-square-foot Armory Building once contained a swimming pool, gym, bowling alley, reception rooms, a shooting range, billiards room, and library, according to the city’s website.

It also served as the city’s main facility for entertainment or social events, including a 1936 presentation by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and a 1960s performance by entertainer Ray Charles.

Adkin said his company had bid on both the armory building and the adjoining property. He suggests restoring the historic structure and using the adjacent property for a greenhouse, FDA-approved incubator kitchens and food production “from the farm to the shelf”.

The incubator kitchens would accommodate local businesses that produce food but need a certified space for production and distribution.

Three companies are bidding on the city’s former Florida National Guard Armory Downtown at 851 N. Market St. and an adjacent property with three warehouses at 928 N. Liberty St.

At the beginning, the farmers’ market should be open once a month. Adkin’s ultimate goal is to run a full-service, 10,000-square-foot farmer’s market. He also sees the property being used for food events, music performances, festivals, or seasonal purposes like a pumpkin patch.

Adkin said he was looking for space on the east coast for the concept when he saw the Armory Building’s availability and checked with the city. He said he wanted to be part of the community and help provide the retail presence necessary for the residential population growth in the downtown area.

“Jacksonville is a thriving city for businesses and people moving here,” said Adkin. “This could be a signature property for Jacksonville.”

Proper use of space could create a “ripple” effect in development in the surrounding areas, said Kelly Rich, executive director of the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council.

“While more housing is always a necessity in a growing and thriving downtown area, there has obviously been some interest in our community in a new and unique source of food that has been listed as one of the potential uses,” said Rich. “Getting fresh produce and meat anywhere with local specialties would be huge not only for Springfield and its ever-growing population, but also for the communities that border the Armory, such as the Eastside, the Cathedral District and downtown itself.”

James Croft, deputy director of public affairs for the city, said the bids were being assessed by the economic development bureau but he did not have a timeline for the selection.

Once an offer is selected, it is submitted to the Sealed Proposal Evaluation Committee, which reviews and votes the recommendation. The CSPEC will negotiate a sale, a rental, or possibly both with the selected bidder. The city council would then approve the deal. It then goes to Mayor Lenny Curry for final approval.

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