Cleanup Nearly Complete at Old Ambassador Hotel

Article excerpt

Last week, an old mattress tumbled two stories to the ground and into a big green trash bin behind the old Ambassador Hotel.

About 12 loads of trash from the inside of the closed hotel located at 420 Julia Street in downtown Jacksonville have been hauled away from the building over the past two months.

The building, more than 70 years old and considered a downtown landmark, is now being prepared for an undetermined use.

Just what that use will be is something Sam Easton, president of Easton, Sanderson & Co. of Jacksonville, is trying to figure out.

His firm owns the building, and so far he has spent $19,000 on the cleaning. And he has about had enough of doling out money on the building, at least for now.

Even though there was about two weeks of work that remained, he said last week that he is considering calling off the job and finishing the remaining work himself.

"It is costly," Easton said.

Meanwhile, Easton is pondering what the building could be used for.

Efforts to sell the building have floundered as have efforts to keep out transients who have broken into the abandoned building and made it their home.

Workers have found crack cocaine pipes, syringe needles and even evidence that someone was using the electricity in the building to watch television.

It once was one of Jacksonville's swankiest addresses, but as recently as 1998, before it closed, it was a place that offered cheap housing for low-income people and was a target of code inspections and drug raids.

During a recent conversation, Easton rattled off a short list of uses for the building, including it being converted into a loft apartment building, a hotel and an office building.

He says he would like to see it become a hotel, with his firm being the owner-operator in a joint venture.

Easton, who owns several other downtown buildings, says there could be city financial incentives for the renovation of the old hotel building. But he realizes he has to do his part.

"The city will help you tremendously, but you have to have a sound economic plan," he said.

Easton says that plan is what he is now spending his time developing.

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