Exterior work underway at old JCPenney building in Palatka
The first day of fall brought with it the beginning of a face-lift for a landmark building in downtown Palatka.
Workers pressure-washed the exterior of the old JCPenney building Tuesday, getting it ready for a fresh coat of paint. The yellow building at the corner of Second Street and St. Johns Avenue will be painted a light-gray color with a darker trim, according to Ben Bates, a minor shareholder and managing partner of St. Johns Development LLC.
“We wanted to do something to improve it and clean it up on the outside,” Bates said. “We want to move forward on developing it and our goal is still to revitalize our community.”
St. Johns Development LLC purchased the building in 2019 for $425,000 with the aim of sparking downtown revitalization. In addition to Bates, members of the buying group included Benjie Bates III, Charlie Douglas, Danny Martinez, Robert Mills, Joe Pickens and Breck Sloan.
The downstairs is currently occupied by Bingo Palace.
After the COVID-19 pandemic delayed work on the building, Pickens said he was happy to see work get underway improving the building’s exterior.
“The pandemic put any plans we were considering for permanent development on hold, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to maintain the property and improve it to the extent we can,” said Pickens.
“We’re fortunate we have a good tenant. Our long-term goal is to develop the downstairs and upstairs to be a significant part of downtown development. In the short term, we’re doing what we can to improve how the building looks, the aesthetics as a cornerstone for downtown Palatka.”
The building is across from the brick building on the 100 block of Second Street that stretches from Reid Street to St. Johns Avenue. Douglas purchased that building earlier this month for $2.56 million.
Like Pickens, Mills said he was glad to see activity starting to resume downtown with exterior work on the JCPenney building.
“In an effort to piggyback on Charlie’s purchase, we wanted to keep the momentum going,” Mills said. “With COVID, everything downtown came to a grinding halt. It’s good to see some movement downtown as we’ve got to have it as an economic center.
“I’m glad to see it get cleaned up and painted.”
Douglas, who is chairman of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, plans to move his law firm into the building he purchased on Second Street. He said a contractor has started working on the building and he hopes to move into it in about six or seven months.
Douglas said momentum continues to build for downtown development with several projects underway.
“I think downtown Palatka is a catalyst to rebuild our economy in the post-COVID environment,” Douglas said. “I still believe in the vibrancy of downtown Palatka and a lot of others do as well.
“A lot of investors have decided Palatka is worth spending resources on and I see brighter days ahead. Overall, there is a lot of great momentum happening in downtown Palatka and it’s exciting to see.”