In July 2021, 525 Beaver, LLC. acquired the former Lawton Pratt Funeral Home located at 525 West Beaver Street in LaVilla.
The second licensed Black mortician in Florida, Lawton Pratt opened his original funeral home business in 1900. Completed in 1916, the existing building may be one of the last surviving commercial structures designed and constructed by noted Black architect Joseph Haygood Blodgett.
Born in 1858 in Augusta, Blodgett moved to Jacksonville during the 1890s with one paper dollar and one thin dime. Initially working for the railroad for a dollar a day, Blodgett went on to start a drayage business, a woodyard, a farm and restaurant before becoming a building contractor around 1898. Following the Great Fire of 1901, Blodgett built 258 houses, keeping 199 to rent, eventually becoming the first black millionaire in Jacksonville. His own residence, Blodgett Villa, was said to be one of the finest owned by an African American anywhere. Famed guests at Blodgett Villa included Booker T. Washington.
Affiliated with Jacksonville-based Silver Street Capital, 525 Beaver, LLC. development team intends to convert the former funeral home into thirteen apartments and a retail space that could potentially become a restaurant, coffee shop or wine bar. The developer also plans to add a courtyard, swimming pool and parking lot just west of the building.
DDRB Application 2022-012 seeks Conceptual Review for a primarily residential project that includes redeveloping the historic Lawton-Pratt funeral home into 13 apartments and one (1) commercial unit. The proposed development also consists of a courtyard feature, on-site parking lot, and identification of a pad for future development.
The subject site is located in the northeast quadrant of the intersection of North Broad Street and West Beaver Street. The site is comprised of multiple parcels, from the structure at 525 West Beaver Street to the corner parcel at North Broad Street and West Beaver Street. The site fronts the north side of West Beaver Street, with secondary frontage on North Broad Street. Properties that abut the subject site to the north and east are under separate, private ownership.
As designed, the on-site parking lot is entered into from Broad Street, and the main pedestrian entrance for the residential units is on the west elevation of the structure, abutting the parking lot. The former primary entrance – located on the front façade of the structure facing Beaver Street – will appear as-is but be closed and not operational. The second doorway on the front façade, a recessed feature, will remain and be used as a means of secondary egress. A former vehicle bay is located on the east side of the structure. This feature will be converted to a commercial use, accessed via a recessed entry along Beaver Street and located at-grade.
Because the structure is designated as a local landmark, any proposed alterations or improvements will require a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) through review by the City’s Historic Preservation Section or the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission. A COA, or its functional equivalent, should be approved prior to the final DDRB review to ensure that there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the Downtown Overlay Zone and Downtown District Use and Form Regulations and the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. An approved COA will be forwarded to the DDRB at final approval with the recommendation by DDRB staff.
Source: DDRB September 8, 2022 Meeting Agenda Packet