New Projects, Venues Make A King Street District.June 10, 2010 56 comments Print Article
Following a decades long process of slowly implemented improvements along King Street, the area has been undergoing a water change. Now a set of new establishments catering to Nightlife have created a niche cluster that has jumpstarted the onetime seedy little district's life signs and created a buzz and energy that promises to transform the area. Metro Jacksonville takes a walking photo tour of the new venues, including a sneak peek at one of the new venues which is still under construction.
The King Street District at Dusk:
King Street has been problematic for the better part of 40 years now. Despite the occasional amazing venues for the independent and alternative scene that have been located in this area, its been various degrees of seedy for decades.
While Post and King was the eponymous location of Post and King Liquors where some of the best punk band performers in the country performed, and the iconoclastic Art Bar owned by Christy Clark was just a few blocks away, not to mention the proximity of the 730 Club, there were definitely some rough patches.
From the 80s all the way through to the end of the Art Bar era, there were always dealers and male hustlers working Park and King, and Post and King, the only thing that changed was the gradual lightening of the skin colors of the professionals who worked there at night.
The area was notorious for it. (and predictably well patronized.)
And that was the truth up until about two years ago.
Now However, the area is seeing a significant transformation.
When Kickbacks transferred to new management, the clientele began to change noticeably. The simple fact that there were people walking back and forth from the restaurant to their cars ended up being a real crime deterrent in the neighborhood, as police were called when things happened, and the cops began to patrol through the area more frequently and with more purpose due to the number of people dining there past 2 in the morning.
Nothing is more beneficial to a developing district than a business of this sort: Responsible owners and managers who must provide a safe environment for their patrons if they want to stay open.
Without any public commendation or apparently notice, the management and customers of Kickback's managed to do what decades of community watch programs failed to do.
They made King Street safe to walk down. The sidewalk seating and table service outside saw to that.
Thanks and recognition should be given to the offbeat establishment.
But then a little over a year ago, the opening of Walkers introduced a whole new element into the equation.
A surprisingly young and hip Scott McAllister opened the joint. (you can see him in several of the photos below. In person he is memorably calm and deep voiced, surprisingly empathetic, attractively confident, and has the temperament of a chilled slab of marble.) He decided on a remarkably contemporary interior for a credible Wine Bar. It brought (reluctantly) a different kind of clientele to the area, and it provided (as in the case of Steve, from our board) a walkable place to go find a drinkable glass of wine, and encouraged the patronage of the more affluent residents in the surrounding neighborhood to do something in the district besides dart into Liz Grenamyer's for catering trays.
After an uncertain year of moderate sales however, McAllister decided to redevelop an equally hip, but cooler full liquor bar, with an inventive interior in the same district. He named it The Loft, after the raised seating area overlooking the entire exposed brick interior. The opening of the Loft has proven to be a tipping point.
The Loft is attracting a great cross section of the type of customers that make an urban neighborhood so cool. And the design of the district, perhaps by accident, manages to incorporate all of the elements that create a vibrant street scene. Greenspacing, public seating, line of site activity. Streets, sidewalks, and businesses that are in physical communication with each other. Niche concept clustering that creates a neighborhood identity.
Above all, there are finally people. Lots of people. In fact the crowds are vibrant and wonderful. Getting thick on the ground on weekend nights, and miraculously there is visibly walking traffic going back and forth between the friendly neighboring establishments.
The best part is that even more is coming. McAllister is in the process of building out and designing his third bar in the area: The Rogue. He allowed us to photograph the space in the rough, photos below.
We highly recommend giving the area a look. Go on the weekends. Eat at Kickbacks Gastropub. It has brilliant food for surprisingly reasonable prices. Have a glass of nice wine. Check out the laid back glbt bar, Park Place. Go look cool and get a bit tipsy at the Loft (grab the power seating upstairs). Hang out with the crowd of your choice in the sidewalk seating areas that line the streets.
Forget about how many solid principles of urban design are being used to create a seriously fun, entertaining little district, and watch this very cool area turn into something amazing.
Views of King Street primarily between Post and College Streets:
Landscaped Medians with Tree Plantings line King Street between Park and College:
Outdoor Seating is featured throughout the little district, lending itself to street interaction:
At The Loft:
At Kickback's GastroPub
The Exterior of Walker's, looking from the northeast corner of Post and King
The Interior of Walker's
The Exterior of Park Place:
The Interior of Park Place:
The Exterior of The Loft
The Interior of The Loft
Interior of The Loft: Upstairs
Kickback's Gastro Pub
Exterior of Kickback's
Interior of Kickback's
Text by Stephen Dare - Photos by Daniel Herbin