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Townhouses to go up on former church grounds

If Jim Rudnick had wanted to keep the 2,300-square foot church
building that served for nearly 50 years the local congregation of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as part of the 2.4-acre land deal he
closed on in September, he would have had to agree to conditions he hadn’t
encountered in 30 years of working as a developer.

Indulging in alcohol and tobacco use, or using abusive language,
all such practices that Mormons prohibit anywhere, but most especially on hallowed
ground, the church asked the buyer, 800 Mexico Beach LLC, agree to disallow in
perpetuity. Special care would have to be taken with the concrete, tiled baptismal font.

LaDonna Ingram, an agent with Robinson Real Estate Company, had
seen a couple deals fall through, Rudnick said, for whatever reason.

This one took a while, but the closing took place Sept. 28,
for the asking price of $270,000, and now the veteran Tallahassee-based developer
is at work securing the necessary city approvals for the R-2 property to raze
the building and raise up about two-dozen townhouses.

“It’s the first time I bought a church, it took a lot. There
were a lot of legalities, they wanted more like church restrictions,” said
Rudnick. “It was a good process.”

He was advised by Eastpoint attorney Kristy Branch Banks on
the contract; Old Republic Title, based in DeFuniak Springs, handled the

“Both the attorney and the title company were very helpful,”
Rudnick said.

It will be 12 to 18 months at the earliest, before the
properties will spring up on the land at 270 Prado, on the westernmost edge of
Apalachicola, not far from where it turns into Brownsville Road.

“We want to do it fairly quick, the demolishing,” he said. “The
engineers are working on a site plan, within 90 days.”

Rudnick is estimating 24 to 26 townhouses, and as he prepares
to nail down specifics of his plan, he knows what the need is, as a frequent
visitor to St. George Island dating back to 1975.

He had moved to Tallahassee
from South Florida, graduated in 1978 from Florida State and built Rudnick
Development in the ‘80s and ‘90s, first with commercial ventures throughout the
Southeast and beyond, and more recently in apartment housing developments,
land-mitigation credit sales and acquisitions, renovations from apartments to
luxury condominiums, and the development of call centers across the country,
according to the company’s website.

“We do not know what we’re going to be doing yet, we’re looking
at what to do with it. We know there’s a real demand for housing workers. I’ve
heard from a lot of county commissioners and from school board members,” he
said. “It’s impossible to get houses at a reasonable price.

“Everybody’s told me you need an ungodly amount of rentals
for employees,” Rudnick said. “These are not going to be high-rental units. This
is going to be low-cost housing, totally private in nature.

“It could be a full rent product; it could be a for sale
product. We want to do something efficient that works for everybody and that we’ll
be able to build it,” he said. 

“I’ve told them to go as soon as we can.”

Once the permitting is complete to move ahead with
demolition, Rudnick will have the added challenge of disposing of the debris, much
of it asbestos, which raises environmental concerns as to how it is handled.

Whatever expectations Rudnick has for the project, they’ll be
grounded in a veteran developer’s grasp of the whole picture, the longer view.

“We’re seeing the top four real estate values we’ve seen
prior to 2008,” he said. “It’s not going to hold.”

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