Council grants Jefferson Tower $1.5 million for economic development

Jim Lake Cos. expects to spend about $8 million to renovate Jefferson Tower and retail spaces in the 300 block of Jefferson Boulevard. The project is part of a plan to transform Jefferson. City Council voted Wednesday to grant the project $1.5 million in economic development funds. The developer is eligible for the grant once $6 million has been spent on renovations.

The tower is 90 percent leased, says Jim Lake Jr., a majority property owner in the Bishop Arts District. Not bad for an 85-year-old office building last renovated in 2002. The 100,000-square-foot building’s largest tenant is AIDS Arms Inc., which moved there in 2011. Lake is moving swiftly even though the transaction hasn’t been completed yet. He expects to close on the building in January, and work could begin as early as April.

“Most of our efforts will be on activating the storefronts and what’s happening there on the sidewalk,” Lake says.

The retail spaces will be marketed to small, local businesses. Lake says he wants to “upgrade the quality” of retail spaces on Jefferson and make it more like the Bishop Arts District, but with its own identity.

“We want to embrace and cater to the Hispanic demographic that exists there,” he says.

City Councilwoman Delia Jasso is working with the City Design Studio on two other major projects on Jefferson. One plan is for an open-air market in a widened median between Zang and Bishop, inspired by Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Projected cost for that is $1.4 million. They are also working on a safe, pedestrian-friendly connection between Jefferson and Davis on Bishop. That is expected to cost about $1 million. The money would come from the bond package voters approved in the November election.

Lake and Jasso also will push for zoning changes in the area of the project, and the city has authorized a public hearing on the matter.

“It’s not going to happen all at once,” Lake says. “It took Bishop Arts quite sometime. It’s going to happen organically.”


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