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The 11 East Forsyth building is one of downtown Jacksonville’s primary apartment complexes, but it didn’t always serve that purpose.

Originally constructed in 1926, the building began its life as the Lynch Building. It was named in honor of Stephen Andrew Lynch, an entrepreneur who’d previously played a key role in the early days of the motion picture industry.

Lynch spearheaded the project, which called for a 17-story commercial office building in the heart of downtown.

The building was designed by architectural firm Pringle and Smith. The firm designed similar buildings across the Southeast around this time, many of which have since found new uses.

Downtown Atlanta’s Hotel Indigo and Courtyard Marriott were both originally office buildings designed by Pringle and Smith.

The Lynch Building was the second-tallest in Jacksonville at the time, bested only by the Barnett Bank building which opened the same year and was 18 stories tall.

The bottom floor housed a retail store.

    The building would remain mostly unmodified until 1962, when American Heritage Life Insurance Company took control of it. The company invested in remodeling the building, and renamed it the American Heritage Life Building.

    Unfortunately, despite investing in renovations, the company didn’t stick around for very long. After just over two decades at the former Lynch Building, AHLIC packed its bags for a larger campus just off of San Pablo Rd. near Butler Blvd.

    Meanwhile, the building at 11 E. Forsyth St. joined the ever-growing list of historic buildings in downtown Jacksonville without any occupants.

    Finally, in the early 2000s, hope was renewed for the aging structure.

    Local real-estate development company Vestcor, with the help of huge loans from the city, purchased both the former Lynch Building and a former luxury hotel building just down the street known as The Carling.

    Vestcor received over $17 million in loans from the city to redevelop the building as an apartment complex, with the goal of bringing new living options to the downtown area. The project included both extensive renovations to the aging building and construction of a new six-story parking garage to accommodate its residents.

    The renovated building was renamed 11 East Forsyth, and opened in 2003 with over 120 apartment units and a ground-level Starbucks Coffee shop. Around this time it was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Unfortunately, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for either of Vestcor’s downtown housing solutions. Both 11 East Forsyth and sister property The Carling have struggled with finances and finding tenants. Starbucks closed after a few years – the spot is now held by Super Food and Brew.

    Nonetheless, with development ramping up once again in the downtown area, 11 East Forsyth will play a key role in providing affordable downtown living.

    And as the area around it evolves, we expect the building to continue to adapt and find new life.

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    The Coastal
    The Coastal is Jacksonville's newest magazine, founded in 2015 to provide news, reviews, and things to do for young people on the First Coast.