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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

JACKSONVILLE, FL-GVA Advantis says it has sold a half-acre tract next to the site of the future Duval County Courthouse for $1.4 million, or $63.49 per sf. Local brokers say the price sets a new benchmark for land sales in the central business district.

Monte Merritt, senior director at GVA Advantis’ Jacksonville office, handled the sale on behalf of St. Petersburg-based Raabe Family Property LLC. The buyer is identified as Miami-based Manhattan Condominium Development Inc., which was represented by Nancy Link, an independent broker from Miami.

Instead of condos, the 22,050-sf parcel on the south side of West Adams Street, between Broad and Clay Streets, will likely be used as surface parking during courthouse construction. The $350-million county project was approved in April after many years of fits and starts.

“This location is pretty much in a depressed area in the city, but if you put a courthouse there it suddenly becomes the prettiest girl in the neighborhood,” Merritt tells GlobeSt.com. He notes that the sales price is unusually high for Downtown Jacksonville, given that land typically sells between $30 and $35 per sf while riverfront has only gone above $50 per sf.

Other local brokers express surprise that the half-acre lot, which had a small three-story building that was razed earlier this year, would sell for such a high price before the courthouse is even built. “Once the steel goes up, I think you will see prices heading in that direction,” observes Oliver Barakat, first vice president at CB Richard Ellis in Jacksonville.

The 800,000-sf county courthouse is planned across the street from Manhattan Condominium’s new site, with proceeds from the sale of Duval County’s current riverfront courthouse being used to fund the project. The new courthouse was originally approved in 2000 at a cost of $190 million, which rose to $263.5 million by the time it was canceled again because of rising costs and other problems.

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