Free Bird Live Downtown, Why not?

August 24, 2006 6 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Free Bird needs a new location and downtown advocates want more nightlife. Can a match be made?

The owners of Freebird Live, in Jacksonville Beach, are looking to relocate from  Jacksonville Beach to a strip center in Atlantic Beach. Rumor has it that a new  upscale club will be moving into Freebird’s current space, forcing them to seek  a new location. However, there is one major kink in Freebird’s plans to takeover  a vacant 6,600sf space, formerly occupied by Atlantic Theatres. The city of  Atlantic Beach does not want them because of the potential parking and sound  problems affecting nearby residential areas.

So lets sum up the situation. One of the country’s premier smaller live music  venues needs a new location and Atlantic Beach doesn’t want them. Can you hear  it? Here comes opportunity knocking at our door again. Lets think outside the  box. Why not relocate to downtown. It’s no secret that downtown is on its way  back to claim its spot as the city’s top entertainment destination. Night time  crowds have been increasing rapidly since a new crop of venues, such as Club  Paris, Mark’s, TSI, Deep Blue, and Twisted Martini to name a few have recently  hit the downtown scene. Offering the olive branch for Freebird Live to come  downtown is something that can greatly benefit all parties.
 Here are a few locations that could be ideal for Freebird’s operations.

Bay Street Town Center – Churchwell Building
 The Churchwell features a 10,000sf space at ground level that served as a club  during the Super Bowl. The building will soon be renovated with residential  lofts on the upper three floors. This location would be beneficial to both the  city and Freebird, because it sits on the same block as Mark’s, the Dive Bar,  and TSI, with GQ’s Wine Bar a short distance away. Combine these live music  venues and bars together and you have the makings of a nightlife district with  synergy, a first for Jacksonville.

 Haydon Burns Library
 With the JEDC and Main Branch putting together a deal for this large facility,  there would be plenty of room for an establishment like Freebird. The location  has central visibility on downtown’s main streets, is within walking distance of  most of the Northbank, and there is already night time synergy forming between  the Burrito Gallery, Moon Colony Razorblade, and London Bridge.

 Jacksonville Landing
 The Landing is the city’s premier attraction for out of town visitors. It has  struggled in the past, but is enjoying a huge turn around under the direction of  Toney Sleiman. Freebird would benefit from this location by getting more  exposure to visitors coming in and through town, while the Landing would benefit  from having on of the region’s most unique live music venues. Can you imagine  this place with the crowds Freebird, Twisted Martini, Hooters, Fuddruckers, Club  Paris, Deep Blue, and more could combine to pull together?
 Bay Street Town Center – Holmes Block
 This 16,664sf building was renovated for the Super Bowl two years ago. Other  than a small architectural office, the rest of this historic structure still  sits vacant. This location would provide Freebird with more than enough space  for its operations, along with high visibility from the Main Street Bridge, and  visitors coming and going to the sports district. For downtown, with Freebird at  this location, it would provide a strong destination anchor for the Bay Street  Town Center. This building also shares an alleyway with the Florida Theater.  Property owners in the area plan to convert the alley into an outdoor courtyard  with restaurants/bars possibly opening up into it.

Snyder Music Hall
 Probably the most intriguing of all, combining this one-of-a-kind space with a  unique Jacksonville musical institution, like Freebird, could be a match made in  heaven. Owned by the City, Snyder offers 13,800sf of space along with large  sidewalks and a location on Hemming Plaza, which could provide room for large  crowds and special music events. At this location, Freebird benefits by taking  over a vacant, available space designed for music events while the city benefits  by having another strong locally based anchor destination at Hemming Plaza.  Maybe even a themed restaurant or small attraction focusing on the  Jacksonville’s music scene and history (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ray Charles, etc.) could  be a part of this as well?
 Basically, getting Freebird and downtown together could become one of the best  things to happen to downtown, at least since the "Big Idea's" plan died. The  opportunity is here. Now it is time for all parties to take advantage of the  situation.