After looking at the latest renderings approved by the Downtown Design Review Committee, one must ask if the people on the committee fully comprehend the Downtown Master Plan. The rendering above is the design for the the duPont Testamentary Trust building, which will be on Forest St between the Riverwalk and EverBank. Frankly, it looks like something that should be on Gate Parkway.
Did anyone read that section in the master plan and the zoning overlay about setbacks? How can these guys get away with having a front yard? I don't remember the section about front yards in the master plan.
Does this look urban to anyone? If so, what about it makes it urban. Is it the trees that stand between the road and the sidewalk, like those in a gated, master planned community? Or, is it the fence that separates the sidewalk from their garden? This structure will now be adjacent to the riverwalk and Forest St, which by the way will be the new gateway to downtown when the I-10/95 interchange is completed - not exactly a signature building to serve as the entry to our downtown.
In other DRC happenings, they also approved the renovations to the Winn-Dixie on North Market St. Not exactly an earth shattering improvement. The parking lot is still the focal point of the site, and the building turns its back to the sidewalk on the north, east, and south. With that said, I guess it is a bit of an improvement over the current site.
It is also interesting to note that the loading dock side (the east elevation) was not included in the presentation that was made to the DRC (at least it was not part of the presentation that was given to Metro Jacksonville). Interesting that the loading dock side was strangely missing from the presentation, despite the fact that all building elevations are to be in the presentation, according to the city:
This building is proposed for the corner of W Adams and N Jefferson, where the old garage that housed Jaguar Ugly is. While it will add activity during the business day to a fairly prominent corner in our downtown, we're doing a hell of a job putting up a ton of one story office buildings in what was once a great neighborhood, LaVilla.
Finally the DRC approved the design for the new headquarters for the Dalton Agency at 140 W Monroe St, at the former home of the Boomtown Supperclub. While the design is not exactly awe-inspiring, of the three office projects mentioned, it's the only one that actually has ground level retail (Subway will remain). However, don't expect Subway to extend their hours from their 5 days a week, closed at 6pm schedule that they operate now.
This time last year, JCCI was in the process of studying whether or not we need higher design standards for downtown. After reviewing these projects, the answer seems to be no - we don't need higher design standards for downtown; we just need to enforce the ones that we have on the books now.
The DuPont design violates a number of them, particulary with regards to building setbacks. What good would creating new standards do - give the appointed members of the DRC more rules to throw away?