An architectural elevation of the once Prairie School-influenced Hogan Street facade. (City of Jacksonville Historic Preservation Office)
In the midst of an early 20th century Jacksonville growth spurt, Atlanta-based Akers & Cody hired architect E.R. Merry to design a 10-story fireproof hotel at the southwest corner of Adams and Hogans Streets. Estimated to cost $250,000 to construct, by May 1921 a decision was made to have the Griffin Construction Company to only erect the first two-floors with the structural strength to support an additional eight floors at a later date.
In 1934, Rosenblum’s opened its doors in the Akers-Cody Building. This retailer was one of the first men’s clothing stores in the city when founder Frank “Papa” Rosenblum started peddling pots, pans and linens from a horse-and-buggy on downtown’s streets in 1896. Unlike most clothing merchants of the era who settled in the area, the Rosenblum family migrated to town from Key West instead of New York. By the turn of the century, Rosenblum had opened his first store at Bay and Clay Streets. After the Great Fire of 1901, he relocated his business to Main Street before the eventual move to the Akers-Cody Building.
The Akers-Cody Building during downtown’s retail heyday. (State Archives of Florida)
For the next fifty years, the intersection of Adams and Hogans streets served as a major anchor of downtown’s luxury retail shopping district with Rosenblum’s Furchgott’s and Levi’s situated at this location. In 1981, Rosenblum’s became one of the first major retailers to leave downtown for greener pastures, closing the flagship Akers-Cody store to concentrate its survival efforts on its Lakewood store, which still remains open today.
“To keep the business in the family, we have decided to close the downtown store and concentrate our efforts on our fine Lakewood store on the Southside,” Sheldon Rosenblum expressed. “There we will offer the same quality lines of men’s and ladies’ apparel in as broad a selection as before.” According to Sheldon’s older brother, Herman Rosenblum, abandoning downtown Jacksonville was a painful decision: “It is difficult to pull up our roots and move from this area. But when a substantial offer came to buy our leasehold for this building it became a good time to make a decision we were going to have to make someday soon. We can’t work forever and we can’t stay in business here without watering down the quality of our service.”
Following Rosenblum’s departure, the building was used as a banking office until Wachovia’s 2004 relocation of 2,000 bank employees from downtown.
On December 20th, Jacksonville based Ash Properties acquired the building at 170 North Hogan Street for $900,000. With this acquisition, the commercial real estate developer now owns two full city blocks after purchasing the 18-story BB&T Tower, an adjacent 700-space parking garage and 218 W. Adams in 2018. Representing the seller, Coastal Commercial Real Estate described the building that could possibly be restored to its original grandeur. According to Coastal’s website, “This building can probably be restored close to its original look with brick facade with large storefront windows. It has great potential as a classic retail building.”
However, a recent Jacksonville Business Journal article suggests, Ash Properties may be seeking to raze the structure.
The two-story Hogan Building was constructed in 1921 and spans more than 18,000 square feet. “All options are there” for the building, Whitfield said. He estimated the company would have a clearer plan for the space in the next few months.
Whatever that plan becomes, the 99-year-old building may need to be demolished, Whitfield sad, though no plans have been finalized. Whether or not the building will be demolished depends on the type of use the company envisions for the space and the findings of a structural engineer.
Now that the company has multiple contiguous buildings, as well as a parking garage, Whitfield noted there is the potential for a more campus-like design strategy.
“Anytime you can make properties work together and be more synergistic, they all work better,” said Whitfield.
Source: Jacksonville Business Journal
Now that the company owns multiple contiguous buildings, Ash Properties will be spending the next few months exploring various options on what to do with the property, including razing the historic century old Akers-Cody Building to create a campus-like setting. While all options are said to be on the table, for those who value the importance of preservation, adaptive reuse, the unique sense of place and economic vitality that these things bring to downtown environments, now is the time to advocate these issues to the developer and the Downtown Investment Authority. If done right, the Akers-Cody Block could become a critical centralized economic anchor of life and activity in the heart of the Downtown Northbank.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Davis is a certified senior planner and graduate of Florida A&M University. He is the author of the award winning books “Reclaiming Jacksonville,” “Cohen Brothers: The Big Store” and “Images of Modern America: Jacksonville.” Davis has served with various organizations committed to improving urban communities, including the American Planning Association and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. A 2013 Next City Vanguard, Davis is the co-founder of ModernCities.com and TheJaxsonMag.com — two websites dedicated to promoting fiscally sustainable communities. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org