Avant Construction Group Teams Up with Southern Shores Fence and Rail to Support North Riverside Community Garden

JACKSONVILLE, FLA., October 6, 2023 – Like many of Jacksonville’s urban core neighborhoods, North Riverside near McCoys Creek is a food desert. That is why Daily Manna Community Garden located at 426 Smith Street is so important, and why Groundwork Jacksonville, Avant Construction Group and Southern Shores Fence and Rail are donating their time, materials and resources to improve it.

Each quarter, Avant Construction Group selects a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization for its Community Give-Back program. Support may be a donation of time, funds, materials, or a combination thereof. Avant chose Groundwork Jacksonville as their quarter four recipient.

“When Gloria McNair, from Groundwork Jacksonville suggested helping the North Riverside Community through the community garden, we thought it was a great cause,” said Ellen Cottrill, communication and HR Manager for Avant Construction Group. ”We are proud to be part of a project that not only brings the community together but also helps to educate residents about gardening and provides much needed fresh produce to a food desert.”

The Community Garden is a program of Daily Manna Serving Center, a nonprofit that distributes food and mobilizes resources to fight poverty and end hunger. The garden provides an opportunity for residents to get their hands dirty and learn about urban farming, while also being a source for fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Through its work with the North Riverside CDC, Groundwork supports the garden by securing grant funding to help purchase materials and supplies as well as providing a stipend for the garden manager Jerby Hollomon. In addition, Groundwork’s CREST Stewards, (Community Restoration Environmental Stewardship Training) volunteer in the garden each month.

“We discussed several options for giving, but Daily Manna’s number one priority was a 200-linear-foot fence to wrap around the property,” said Cottrill. “We reached out to some of our vendors to see if they wanted to get involved and Matt Graziano was eager to help.”

“We are honored to partner with Avant Construction and get involved in this important project. As a new, local business, Southern Shores Fence & Rail appreciates the opportunity to help bring people together and make a difference in our community.”

Bishop Gerald Dinkins, the founder and CEO of Daily Manna Serving Center says that support like this means a great deal to the neighborhood, especially its seniors and children. “We are so thankful to Avant, Southern Shores and Groundwork for their support.” Said Bishop Dinkins. “This is more than a fence. It is one more step in making the community garden a place where the entire neighborhood can gather, work, learn and fellowship.” He added that the daycare centers down the street bring their kids to the garden. “We hope they will spend even more time at the garden now that the children can run around more freely without the worry of car traffic.”

What’s next for the community garden? Dinkins says they plan to add a few higher beds so that seniors can more easily garden, and a gazebo for neighbors to sit, relax and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their collective labor.

Meaningful Monday – Hardwick’s Bar

Our Meaningful Monday series highlights the character and integrity of the beautiful old buildings in Downtown Jacksonville. This week’s highlight is 100 East Adams Street. The building was built in 1926 as one of twenty-six corner lots that were purchased throughout the city by the United Cigar Store. According to Wayne Wood’s book, Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage-Landmarks for the Future, each building contained nine retail storefronts, with the corner spaces reserved for the cigar stores. This particular building, built in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style, is the best example of the old cigar shops. 

In recent history, the property has been home to several other establishments, including London Bridge and Burro Bar. Currently, owners Elias Hionides of and Tim Hoal are doing a total renovation to the property, which will soon become Hardwicks Bar, the first LGBTQIA+ bar to open in Jacksonville in 20 years. 

Avant was hired by Hionides, of Petra – a boutique real estate and development firm, to do the complete renovation.

Meaningful Mondays – Jones Brothers Furniture

Our Meaningful Mondays series honors the beauty and integrity of the beautiful old buildings in Downtown Jacksonville, and highlights projects we are, will be, or have been involved with.

The Jones Brothers Furniture building was built in 1926. According to @thejaxsonmag, the building was constructed out of reinforced concrete and features Mediterranean Revival detailing at its upper level, as well as originally having a suspended canopy over the main entrance. It also features prism glass above the street-level entrance, and a decorative wrought-iron staircase visible from inside the lobby.

In Its hay day, Jones Brother Furniture became one of the largest family-owned businesses and continued into the 80s. Sadly, it has sat empty and neglected for many many years.

Utilizing a combination of new construction and preservation of the existing structures, the project will transform the entire block into an urban mixed-use development consisting of residential and retail tenants. Current plans include 103 apartments, two retail storefronts, and a parking garage. In addition, the development will feature co-work office spaces, a fitness facility, tranquility rooms, and a terrace overlooking Downtown Jacksonville.

Corner Lot Development Group will soon be starting construction and renovation on the property. A new eight-story building will be constructed and an amenity deck connecting the new and historic buildings will be accessible for residents and the public through separate entrances. The two buildings will accommodate 103 apartments, two retail storefronts, and a parking garage. The development also has plans to feature co-work office spaces, a fitness facility, tranquility rooms, and a terrace overlooking Downtown Jacksonville, and will face the #EmeraldTrail, when completed.

The project will be a fantastic example of adaptive reuse and how to bring old and new together, in a unique and impactful design.

Avant Construction Group will be doing the renovation of the existing building.

Bold Line Design and Robbins Design Group are the architects.

We commend Corner Lot and the other developers who are committed to making Jacksonville a world-class city.

Meaningful Mondays – The Crosby & Greenleaf Building

This week’s Meaningful Monday highlights the Crosby and Greenleaf Building, located on the corner of Laura and Adams Street in Downtown Jacksonville. The building, with the iconic clock outside its entrance, was built in the late 1920s to be the new home for Greenleaf & Crosby Co., a jewelry store, originally established just after the Civil War. According to the May 11, 1926 edition of the Jacksonville Journal, the building was originally designed to be six stories, with the ability to go up to 12 stories. That plan never came to be, and, as it stands, the building is now 12 stories on the southern half of the building and only two stories on the northern side.

The building, designed by Marsh and Saxelbye, was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on March 15, 2005.

JWB Real Estate purchased the building in June of 2022 and hired Avant Construction Group to renovate seven stories of the building that they will be using for their offices.

As seen in the pictures:

-The front entrance and façade have ornate decorations of terra cotta panels and floral motifs, and, though much of the interior has been renovated through the years to accommodate offices, there are still several historical accents that remain, including the beautiful entrance. .

-The views from the top floors have fabulous views of Downtown.

A Jacksonville Funeral Home Becomes a Chic Short-Term Rental Complex in LaVilla

The old Lawton Pratt funeral home is a perfect example of adaptive reuse. The funeral home, which will be called LaVilla Place, as a nod to its location, will become a chic short-term rental complex with a tapas and wine bar and a swimming pool. Completed in 1916, the existing building may be one of the last surviving commercial structures designed and constructed by noted Black architect Joseph Haygood Blodgett, according to The Jaxson.

The building had living quarters upstairs and a funeral parlor downstairs, along with stables for horses and later, a garage for automobiles, which gave the customers a choice of a horse-drawn or motorized hearse. The building has several interesting details, which will be saved, where possible, and used in the new design.

Avant was hired to work with the owner, Eric Adler, owner of Silver Street Management, to complete the renovation. Avant has extensive experience in adaptive reuse, as well as working with the city on historic renovations.

According to CEO Alan Cottrill, “This project is the type of thing we love to do. Not only is it restoring an old building, but it’s breathing new life into an area that has been forgotten over the years.”

Our Meaningful Mondays series honors the history and integrity of the beautiful old buildings in Downtown Jacksonville. The series will highlight a project that we’ve been involved with, are currently involved with or will be involved with.

( Much of the historic information was taken from and inspired by Wayne Wood’s newly-released book, Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage-Landmarks for the Future, available at Jacksonville Historical Society )

Historic renovations in Granada Spain

Adaptive Reuse – Heritage as a catalyst for redevelopment

Our Meaningful Mondays series highlights historic renovations and adaptive reuse projects that @avantbuilds is involved with in Jacksonville. As Avant’s owners are in Spain, we wanted to show some examples of historic building renovations from a city that is many 100s of years older than Jacksonville. Renovation of older and historically significant buildings is seen throughout the world. Train stations become trendy shopping malls and restaurants, cathedrals become hotels, and ancient defense walls become public parks and bike paths. Being able to successfully adapt a structure to be more efficient and useful for a changing society not only preserves the history but is often a catalyst for economic development and environmental sustainability.
Pictured here: A 16th-century monument is renovated to be part of a university; an old mortuary becomes trendy office space; a 16th-century palace becomes a 4-star hote

Meaningful Mondays – The Seminole Club – Sweet Pete’s Candy

In today’s Meaningful Monday series, we are highlighting the Seminole Club, most recently known as the Sweet Pete’s Building. The building has a fascinating history and was Jacksonville’s oldest men’s social club. Built in 1903, it originally had a rooftop garden and was only two stories high. In 1907 the roof was removed and the third floor was added. Through the years there were other alterations, which can be seen in the picture. For over a century, it was a gathering place for civic and business leaders, including a presidential speech by Teddy Roosevelt (hence posting on President’s day).
The building was empty from 2004 until 2104 when it was purchased by Marcus Lemonis of the TV show, The Profit, who spent $2 million to bring it back to its former glory.

Our involvement in this historic renovation is two-fold. We were first hired by Marcus Lemonis to do the initial renovation after the building had been empty for a number of years. Two years ago, JWB Real Estate Companies purchased the building and we came back to do additional renovations and add a balcony to the third-floor event space.

The beautiful building, on the corner of North Hogan and Duval, sits next to the old Federal Reserve Building, which is also being renovated by JWB Real Estate Companies to create a fantastic live-work-play section of Downtown in a once unused and run-down area of Jacksonville.

Our Meaningful Mondays series honors the beauty and integrity of the beautiful old buildings in Downtown Jacksonville. The series will highlight a project that we’ve been involved with, are currently involved with or will be involved with.
( Much of the historic information was taken from and inspired by Wayne Wood’s newly-released book, Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage-Landmarks for the Future, available at
Jacksonville Historical Society )