5. Adaptive reuse fuels Northbank revitalization
Located at 424 North Hogan Street, the old Federal Reserve Bank building, designed by the city’s first female architect Henrietta Cuttino Dozier, is in the process of being renovated into apartments and commercial space by Ellen and Jim Wiss.
During the last decade, downtown’s revitalization dreams have been pinned on the hopes of seeing heavily subsidized mega developments such as The District, the Shipyards or Lot J come to fruition. Despite years of fanfare and promises, all of these master developer-style mega projects have failed to materialize into vertical reality. Even if they eventually do, their location on the outskirts of downtown makes it highly debatable that they’ll truly benefit the historic downtown core.
Meanwhile a new crop of developers willing to take a chance on the adaptive reuse of existing Northbank building stock has emerged. In the heart of the core of the city, several redevelopment projects are already ongoing and many more could be on the way. Major adaptive reuse developments within a three block walk radius of Hemming Park include VyStar’s conversion of the former SunTrust Tower and Life of the South Building into its headquarters, the Laura Street Trio, Jones Brothers Furniture Company, the Ambassador Hotel, the Old Independent Life Building and the Old Federal Reserve Bank. With these adaptive reuse projects materializing, expect additional proposals for long vacant and underused structures - if we can resist Jacksonville’s traditional urge of demolishing them first.
4. The Landing property will remain post apocalyptic through 2020
Today, it’s hard to decipher the downtown riverfront from a scene set for the filming of the next 28 Days Later, Divergent or Zombieland movie.
The amount of Tennessee and Indiana fans walking around downtown with nothing to do during the Gator Bowl and holiday season has been quite embarrassing, if absolutely predictable. Out-of-town tourist visiting the Hyatt having to walk up to a 7-11 at State & Union in search of food is a horrible way to experience downtown and something that could have been easily avoided.
In 2019, The Jaxson was one of the most vocal opponents of Mayor Lenny Curry’s plan to demolish the Jacksonville Landing. Arguing that revitalization requires adding to rather than subtracting from what we already have, we warned that exactly this kind of dead scene would come as a result of Curry’s plan. With the Landing finally razed, we enter a period of postapocalyptic non-activity at the Landing property as a result of the mayor’s $20 million+ plan to acquire the center, evict 31 existing businesses that were open at nights, holidays and on weekends, and demolish it with no replacement in place.
Current plans anticipate the demolition process being completed by May 28, 2020. An additional $2.25 million over the next three years will go for a market study for the property and for the design and engineering of what a future, presently unfunded, public space could become. Despite recent media coverage of talk of moving quick to reactivate the site, here’s another prediction regarding this property: Come December 31, 2020, there still won’t be a park, retail or any thing else on it. While zombie movie conditions will continue to exist for the foreseeable future, we should at least prepare to give 2021 Gator Bowl visitors a better experience of downtown Jacksonville and the surrounding neighborhoods where 24-7 life and activity can be immediately experienced.