Steve Williams wears many hats. He is the CEO of Harbinger Sign, established by his grandfather in 1962, and has been a major benefactor to the local arts scene as the founder of Florida Mining gallery. More recently, he has tried his hand as a developer in Riverside’s booming Five Points district. His first project restored the much loved but deteriorating former Peterson’s Five and Dime Building into the popular Hoptinger Bier Garden and rooftop bar, while his second turned a former deli into Bread & Board.
Throughout it all, he has been a vocal advocate for preserving Jacksonville’s architecture, including buildings others might dismiss or overlook. Williams has argued on behalf of several buildings that have met the wrecking ball, or will soon, including the City Hall annex, the old courthouse, the Jacksonville Landing, and the former Florida Times-Union headquarters. His frustration over the loss of these buildings inspired him to plan a course of action. “Old City Hall and the old courthouse made me come unhinged,” said Williams. “The rumors of the Landing going away, and then confirmation of the Landing going away, and the rumors of the Times-Union going next… it just felt like time to use my voice.”
On August 20, Williams released a short teaser video about a new project called Mapping Jax. In it, Williams lamented the situation in which some buildings have been demolished for replacement plans that never pan out, leaving citizens unsure of where things stand. “It couldn’t be more confusing,” said Williams in the video. “The scariest part of a building being torn down - any building being torn down - is the opportunity that was missed for a creative solution.”
Williams called for a new way for interested citizens to come together to create a master plan or “map” that lays out a vision and set of ground rules to guide the shape of development in Jacksonville. He stated that there are great projects coming online, like the Emerald Necklace plan spearheaded by Groundwork Jax, but believes that a lack of a coordinated vision holds Jacksonville back from reaching its full potential. “I believe in ‘build it and they will come.’ I believe if you build something great, people here will come out and support it. But without a plan, it doesn’t work. It falls apart.”
Williams sees the video as a way to get people thinking and gage support. He plans to gather feedback to determine next steps for Mapping Jax, and will include more details in another video to be released in a few weeks.
Watch the video below:
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.