Controversial Self-Storage Project Moves Forward in San Marco Neighborhood of Jacksonville, FL

April 26, 2024

8 Min Read
Controversial Self-Storage Project Finally Denied in San Marco Neighborhood of Jacksonville, FL

Update 4/26/24 – The Jacksonville, Florida, City Council narrowly approved the zoning request by The Simpson Organization for The Lofts at Southbank despite opposition from community members. The council voted on two measures. With an 11-8 vote, members agreed to rezone the property to planned unit development. In addition, the 16-3 vote for Ordinance 2024-0272 provided a $6 million interest-only loan to develop the affordable-housing part of the project, sources reported.

Seventy-five apartments will be reserved for residents who earn at or below 60% of the area’s median income. Five will be earmarked for those making at or below 120%. The remaining 20 will be priced at market rate.

Prior to the April 23 vote, residents again lodged their objections to the self-storage portion of the project, arguing that the service isn’t permitted under the city’s downtown overlay-zoning regulations. Some council members claimed they had received as many as 300 emails opposing the development since it was introduced in 2022.

The mixed-use project will need final approval from the downtown-development review board to proceed.

First Coast News, Despite Pushback by Neighbors, Controversial Southbank Mixed-Use Storage Facility Gets Final Approval
Jacksonville Daily Record, Jacksonville City Council Approves Lofts at Southbank Rezoning Despite Community Opposition


4/18/24 – With a 4-3 vote, members of the Jacksonville City Council’s land use and zoning committee narrowly endorsed the rezoning request proposed by The Simpson Organization. The approval came just days after the downtown-development review board requested additional design changes for the 10-story mixed-use building.

Design approval is a two-step process, with the review board first considering the conceptual design, then the final one. The downtown-development review board granted a deferral during its April 11 meeting to allow the developers to revise its plans based on input from board members, several of whom critiqued the building’s aesthetics.

4/12/24 – The controversial San Marco neighborhood self-storage project that has been hotly debated within its community for almost two years may be finally moving forward. This week, the local downtown-development review board approved recommending a rezoning for the mixed-use project in Jacksonville, Florida, which was proposed by The Simpson Organization, an affiliate of G.I.S. Holdings and A. Walter Hirshberg Family Trust.

The third version of the Lofts at Southbank includes 10 stories comprising retail, self-storage and residential units, according to a source. The ground floor will offer 8,500 square feet of commercial space, while the second floor will be reserved for parking. Floors three through six will comprise 130,000 square feet of self-storage, and the top four levels will be used for multi-family housing.

The developer is Jacksonville-based Vestcor through Lofts at Southbank Ltd. The architect is Group 4 Design Inc., and the contractor is Summit Contracting Group.

The rezoning request will next be considered by the Jacksonville City Council.

Update 2/4/24 – The Simpson Organization will once again attempt to gain zoning approval for its proposed self-storage development in Jacksonville, Florida. The company presented its new plan for the parcel on Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive during a Feb. 1 public hearing. The project will now include 40% self-storage, 40% multi-family units and 20% retail space, according to city councilmember Joe Carlucci, who said he hadn’t heard much public opposition to the updated plan prior to the hearing. “I think we’re all just kind of waiting to see the plans and the project and ask their questions. And then we’ll kind of just take the next step from there,” he added.

Update 6/30/23 – Despite a design change to The Simpson Organization’s self-storage proposal for Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive in Jacksonville, Florida, the city council deadlocked 9-9 on a rezoning request, which equated to a denial per council rules. In an effort to compromise with area residents and the property owner, Simpson Organization President Boyd Simpson and affiliate G.I.S. Holdings offered to include 19,127 square feet of ground-floor retail and 36,609 square feet of residential space in conjunction with 130,000 square feet of self-storage. The plan also included a rooftop bar. The rezoning request was to change the 1-acre lot to a planned urban development (PUD), according to a source.

Attorney Steve Diebenow, representing Simpson, argued in the rezoning application that self-storage as part of a mixed-use project was an allowable use in a downtown PUD. However, the city’s Downtown Development Authority and Urban Core Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, along with residents and neighborhood organizations, continued to oppose the plan, arguing self-storage and a PUD were inconsistent with Jacksonville’s 2045 Comprehensive Plan and its downtown overlay approved four years ago. Council members received more than 400 emails opposing the project, a source reported.

Last month, Lauren Carlucci, president of the San Marco Preservation Society, indicated Simpson wasn’t willing to meet the group’s request to change the development to include 50% residential space, according to a source.

Diebenow will recommend that Simpson appeal the decision, as he disagreed with the city attorney’s assessment that a tie vote was effectively a denial. One council member, Rory Diamond, was absent from the four-hour meeting due to a military-service obligation, a source reported.

7/22/22 – The Jacksonville City Council’s LUZ committee voted 6-0 on July 19 to withdraw ordinance 2021-0821 after Gaffney, who introduced the measure to allow self-storage as a permitted use in Jacksonville’s downtown overlay, pulled his support. The move comes weeks after residents and business owners mobilized their opposition, filing a petition and sending more than 120 emails to the city council.

“I am proud that the San Marco community and downtown residents came out in force to oppose blowing a hole through the downtown overlay to allow for self-storage units,” councilmember LeAnna Cumber told the source.

The full city council must still approve the withdrawal. Members are expected to vote on the issue on July 26.

If the ordinance is formally withdrawn, The Simpson Group could still apply for a land-use change to reclassify the project as a planned unit development (PUD), but that move would also likely face opposition. Councilmember Matt Carlucci indicated he would try to stop any related PUD application. “That would be a horrible waste of prime real estate in an area we’re trying to bring more people and more vibrancy for downtown,” he said.

6/16/22 – The Jacksonville City Council kicked back Ordinance 2021-0821 on Tuesday to the LUZ committee for a second review. Council members heard more than 20 public comments during the meeting and have received nearly 100 emails in opposition of adding self-storage as a permitted use in the downtown overlay. Following more than an hour of discussion, they voted 12-7 to table a decision.

Diamond recommended returning the proposal so the committee can look for a compromise that’ll appease both the developer and the community. It could discuss the bill at its June 22 meeting, a source reported.

The bill was introduced by council member Reggie Gaffney in November.

6/15/22 – Officials in Jacksonville, Florida, could lift a ban on self-storage development in the downtown area three years after it was enacted. The city council was scheduled to vote on zoning legislation on Tuesday after the land-use and zoning (LUZ) committee approved the change last week, according to sources.

The discussion came to the forefront after the Simpson Group, which operates self-storage facilities in the Southeast, presented a proposal to build a new location at the overlay of Hendricks Avenue and Prudential Drive in the Southbank neighborhood. The property currently houses a Basil Thai restaurant.

The Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) and Downtown Development Review Board oppose any changes to the overlay, as do city council member LeAnna Cumber and some residents and business owners.

“My constituents don’t want it,” said Cumber, who represents Southbank. “The businesses don’t want it, and if we really want to grow downtown, putting storage units throughout downtown is insane. There [are] zero cities in this country that [have] grown by putting storage units throughout downtown.”

Scenic Jacksonville Inc., a non-profit advocacy organization, urged council members in an email to reject the zoning request. Executive director Nancy Powell wrote a change in the overlay would hurt the “positive momentum of our downtown revitalization.”

City council member Rory Diamond is supporting the bill, noting that there’s a need for more storage facilities, as apartments are built in the area.

During its meeting last week, the LUZ committee discussed how to measure possible zoning restrictions. The DIA suggested limiting storage development within a 500-foot strip in an outer ring of the overlay's boundaries. Steve Diebenow, an attorney representing the Simpson Group, said the 500-foot distance should be from the outer boundary to the storage building closest to the downtown border, a source reported. This would mean storage could be built as long as a portion of it was in the designated zone.

Michael Boylan, a city council member who also serves on the LUZ commission, was the only member to vote against the zone change. He said it could have “unintended consequences” for other parts of downtown. Boylan suggested Simpson Group file for a planned unit development on the property instead, a source reported.

Jax Daily Record, In a Tie Vote, City Council Denies Rezoning for Southbank Self-Storage Facility
News 4 Jax, Controversial Storage Unit Proposal in San Marco Denied by Deadlocked Jacksonville City Council
Jax Daily Record, Council Committee Moves to Pull Downtown Self-Storage Bill, Company That Builds Self-Storage Units Wants Jacksonville to Lift Ban in Much of Downtown
First Coast News, Developers Want to Build Self-Storage Units Near San Marco; Residents Say Not Here
WJCT News, Should Downtown Jacksonville Allow Self-Storage Buildings?
Jax Daily Record, Council Defers Bill to Allow Self-Storage Buildings Downtown
Jacksonville Daily Record, Southbank Self-Storage Mixed-Use Project to Undergo Design Changes
Jax Today, Southbank Self Storage, Affordable Housing Plan Wins Over Zoning Committee

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