On December 12, 2019, the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB) gave final approval for the design of JEA’s proposed downtown headquarters. Planned for the former George Washington Hotel block, bordered by Monroe, Adams, Julia and Pearl Streets, the 9-story, 200,000 square foot office building would include 4,900 square feet of open and pedestrian space and an 850-space parking structure with 7,170 square feet of ground floor retail.

Despite facing a courthouse green space, created as the result of community persuasion to keep the city from turning it into a road, the final plan appears to significantly active an important section of West Adams Street between the courthouse and the Ed Ball Building.

The main lobby and showroom for the 150-foot-tall building would be located at the intersection of West Adams and North Pearl Streets. The lobby would be accessible from Adams and Pearl Streets for pedestrians and include space for a deli/coffee shop overlooking Adams Street. A separate entrance, featuring a security checkpoint, within the lobby would provide access to JEA’s ground floor multi-purpose area and upper level corporate offices.

Vehicular access to the 110-foot-tall parking deck decorated with a perforated metal paneling system, would be located mid-block on both Adams and Monroe Streets. In addition, the garage would include a full block of ground floor retail facing Julia Street and intersections at Adams and Monroe Streets. Aluminum canopies are included to protect pedestrians from the elements. Raised planters with trees and landscaping would separate the Adams Street pedestrian zone from vehicular traffic. A roof terrace for JEA employess is proposed for the building’s 8th and 9th floors overlooking the courthouse green.

Clustering Complementing Uses Within A Compact Setting

A before (Google Streetview) and after example of CCC in the form of a streetscape, placemaking and programming in Downtown Coral Gables, Florida.

The Jaxson has long supported what we call clustering complementing uses within a compact setting (CCC) as a key downtown redevelopment tool. CCC is a subliminal key to successful urban revitalization that works by locating people, activities (like special events or outdoor dining), and uses (like restaurant or bars) together in close pedestrian scale proximity, allowing them to feed off one another, which in turn stimulates more market rate growth, activity and economic opportunity.

Located in the historic downtown core, along with several proposed adaptive reuse developments, the project potentially serves as an important anchor for finally breathing life into the heart of the city through the CCC strategy.

Bringing more economic impact in a shorter time frame than the highly anticipated Lot J to the urban core, other major projects within a two block radius of Hemming Park include the restoration of the former Independent Life Building, Ambassador Hotel, Jones Brother Furniture, Florida Baptist Church Convention, Federal Reserve Bank, Laura Street Trio buildings and the relocation of VyStar Credit Union’s corporate headquarters to the 100 West Bay building.

When complete, these projects will generate additional foot traffic near long dormant retail spaces in a pedestrian friendly district already featuring a cluster of businesses including Bellwether, Da Real Ting Cafe, Kazu Sushi Burrito, Breezy Jazz Club, Desert Rider, Happy Grilled Cheese, Vagabond, Chamblins Uptown and The Volstead.

Furthermore, Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) CEO Lori Boyer is working on a plan to create or modify the authority’s Retail Enhancement Grant Program to provide financial assistance with attract additional restaurants and retailers into the immediate area. In an October 2019 Jax Daily Record interview, Boyer said she would like to see at least five storefronts filled by summer 2021.

Being developed by Minneapolis-based Ryan Companies US, construction of JEA’s downtown headquarters is anticipated to begin in early 2020. In the meantime, here is a look at the latest plans for this recently approved project.