The Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission follows a set of seven criteria to determine whether buildings that are older than 50 years should be landmarked as historic. The criteria cover everything from architectural style to significance in local or national history. A building must meet at least two of the criteria, as judged by the Commission, and must meet four to be guaranteed landmarking designation if the current property owner objects. Landmark designation affords buildings some protection from demolition or alteration, as well recognition as a locally important site. The criteria are:
- It has value as a significant reminder of the cultural, historical, architectural, or archaeological heritage of the city, state or nation;
- Its location is the site of a significant local, state or national event;
- It is identified with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the development of the city, state or nation;
- It is identified as the work of a master builder, designer, or architect whose individual work has influenced the development of the city, state or nation;
- Its value as a building is recognized for the quality of architecture, and it retains sufficient elements showing its architectural significance;
- It has distinguishing characteristics of an architectural style valuable for the study of a period, method of construction, or use of indigenous materials;
- Its suitability for preservation or restoration.
The list is useful not only to those trying to preserve historic buildings, but to those who wish to determine which newer buildings will have the significance to save in the future. The Jacksonville Landing, which opened in 1987, is such an example. The distinctive building is a product of an important period in American architectural history when cities sought new ways to revitalize their flagging downtowns. Its creator, James Rouse, was a figure of major national importance in the history of urban development. If the Jacksonville Landing were to last 18 more years, it would pass every one of the Historic Preservation Commission’s criteria with flying colors. Here’s a look at how the Landing stacks up as a historically and architecturally important structure.
1. It has value as a significant reminder of the cultural, historical, architectural, or archaeological heritage of the city, state or nation;
A floor plan of the Landing’s festival marketplace concept during opening week in 1987.
The Landing is a festival marketplace, a concept invented by pioneering developer and urban planner James Rouse, founder of the Rouse Company. The goal of the festival marketplace was to help revive declining downtowns by creating new spaces concentrating retail and dining, reminiscent of European markets. Following the early success of Faneuil Hall in Boston and Baltimore’s Harborplace in the 1970s and early 80s, Rouse took the concept to a variety of other cities, including Jacksonville. Subsequently, other developers jumped on the trend to build festival marketplaces of their own. Though most later marketplaces - including the Landing - failed to live up to expectations, they remain as examples of an important national trend in the urban revitalization efforts that have continued from the 1970s until today.
2. Its location is the site of a significant local, state or national event;
Then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stumped at the Landing on October 24, 2015. Courtesy of WJCT.
The Landing quickly emerged as the city’s main public square and gathering place, taking over from Hemming Park, and as such has been the site of many significant events. In 1988, Jacksonville’s last tollbooth was brought to the Landing and smashed apart in a ceremony celebrating the end of tolls (for a period). A number of Presidential hopefuls have held campaign rallies there, including President George H.W. Bush in 1992, George W. Bush in 2000, and Donald Trump in 2015.
The Landing has also been the main location for all manner of celebrations, events and traditions. It was here on November 30, 1993 that Touchdown Jacksonville and a massive crowd of fans partied all night to celebrate the NFL awarding the city its beloved Jaguars. The Landing has been the chief celebration spot for the Florida-Georgia game, perhaps Jacksonville’s biggest and most storied annual event, and other traditions like the annual Christmas tree lighting and Earth Day. In 2005, it was the center of the Super Bowl XXXIX celebrations, one of the biggest events ever hosted in Jacksonville.
Thousands of fans celebrate the announcement that Jacksonville had been awarded an NFL franchise in 1993.
3. It is identified with a person or persons who significantly contributed to the development of the city, state or nation;
4. It is identified as the work of a master builder, designer, or architect whose individual work has influenced the development of the city, state or nation;
Today, many Jaxsons recognize the buildings of Henry John Klutho as architectural treasures. This is well deserved, as Klutho was the most important Jacksonville architect of the early 20th century. But while Klutho had substantial regional importance, the Landing’s creator was influential nationwide.
For decades, James Rouse helped shape American urban planning and development. In the 1950s he served on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s National Housing Task Force, where he popularized the term “urban renewal.” He then became one of the first developers of shopping malls, which he envisioned as providing downtown-like centers for the sprawling suburbs. In the 1970s, he set his sites back on the nation’s urban cores, becoming a crusader for urban design reform and affordable housing. The festival marketplace was one of his proposals for bringing new, pedestrian-oriented development back into declining cities. For his years of influence and activism, Rouse was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom. On his death in 1996, President Bill Clinton said, “Rouse proved we could reclaim and recreate our urban frontiers.”
Additionally, the Landing’s project manager, Hans Strauch, is an internationally renowned architect in his own right, having designed projects like Miami’s Bayside, Dublin’s Custom House Docks mixed-use development, and St. Paul, Minnesota’s Ordway Music Theater.