Downtown’s recently closed Greyhound station was razed in 2018.
Other demolitions like the Greyhound building indicate that preservation and adaptive reuse, especially of mid-century structures, are still not seen as a go-to method for economic revitalization in DT Jax. With each loss of these unique structures, a piece of our community identity and memory is lost as well. Though Jax is not alone in preservation struggles and there are current preservation success stories in DT Jax, these recent losses raise a larger question about why historic preservation continues to not be at the forefront of a downtown and urban core revitalization strategy like in other major US cities. Three key issues should be considered moving forward.
A former Greyhound bus station in Savannah that has since been retrofitted into a restaurant and bar.
One, Jacksonville is missing a critical advocacy component that other major cities have - a citywide historic preservation nonprofit organization.
Jacksonville is unique for a city of its size in that it does not have one centralized historic preservation nonprofit for the entire city. Instead, historic preservation advocacy is addressed by smaller nonprofits for specific neighborhoods like Springfield Preservation + Revitalization Council, Riverside Avondale Preservation, Old Arlington, Inc., or the San Marco Preservation Society. But other neighborhoods don’t have that preservation advocacy; notably absent in having a neighborhood preservation advocacy organization is downtown Jax. Other organizations like the Jacksonville Historical Society and the Museum of Science and History work on educating the community about our citywide history, but they do not have historic preservation as their mission.
It is not intended to discount the good work of the neighborhood organizations currently working in Jacksonville. There is room for those organizations and an organization with a broader focus geographically, but one with more specific mission on historic preservation alone. What could a citywide historic preservation organization do in Jacksonville?
Downtown Houston’s Main Street Market Square is a local commercial historic district in the heart of one of the country’s most rapidly growing cities.
We only have to look to other communities to find out and learn by example. People make assumptions about large sprawling cities, but they have active and organized preservation advocacy organizations. Houston has Preservation Houston, for example, who “advocate for preservation, public policy, and historic resources.” Since 1978, Preservation Houston has been a voice for the entire city to speak up for threatened historic sites, working behind the scenes with property owners and bringing architects, engineers, and developers to the table to identify proactive preservation solutions. Also founded in 1978, the Los Angeles Conservancy “works through education and advocacy to raise awareness of historic places, prevent their needless demolition, empower people to save the places they love, and foster strong preservation laws and incentives.” These organizations also work publicly through work with elected officials and media to highlight endangered properties. Nonprofits such as these also engage in technical assistance to homeowners, work on preservation easement programs, provide community education around historic resources, and sponsor tours and events highlighting their cities architectural heritage.
The Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles.