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The Premature Destruction of Downtown Jacksonville

In recent weeks, many have openly advocated the immediate demolition of the Duval County Courthouse and the former city hall buildings along East Bay Street. Today, Metro Jacksonville explains why this idea is just a repeat of the failed strategies that have torn Downtown Jacksonville apart over the last 60 years.

Published April 12, 2012 in Urban Issues      142 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

Why Demolition Is Being Advocated

Deciding what to do with these properties after the courthouse is relocated to LaVilla has been a hot topic for several years. For decades, the city's redevelopment strategy was to return these properties back to the tax rolls. In 1997, then-Councilman Warren Jones was quoted in the Florida Times-Union claiming "this property is some of the most valuable real estate in the county."  

A decade ago, the City of Jacksonville went as far as to issue Request for Proposals (RFPs) for the redevelopment of the site. Proposals submitted included a 44-story, 675-foot skyscraper by Atlanta-based Steinemann & Company, office and residential towers by Chicago-based VOA Associates, and 40,000 square feet of retail and 55 townhouses/condominiums by Atlanta-based The Harbor Companies.


With 544,928 square feet, the seven-story county courthouse building was completed in 1957 for $8 million. During its construction, an elevator plummetted 65 feet, killing seven workers and critically injuring 12. When the decision was made to purchase the property from Southern Railway in 1953, the Florida Times Union proclaimed "the erection of the courthouse on the river's banks will demonstrate what civic leaders with vision have been trying to get over to the citizens generally for decades: that the riverfront can be made an area of alluring beauty instead of an eyesore."



Artwork in the courthouse includes four historic brick carvings by artist Earl La Pan of Miami. The carvings include Spanish conquistadors landing in Duval in the 16th century, French Huguenot Jean Ribault at Mayport in 1562, Rene Laudoniere constructing Fort Caroline in 1564, and the massacre of the French at Fort Caroline by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565.

After the Super Bowl, the idea of using the site as the location of a new convention center heated up. Backed by the Hyatt's ownership, the Jacksonville Civic Council, and Mayor Alvin Brown's administration, there is strong belief that a convention center will sit on one or both of the building sites in the future. Despite there being no firm commitment, timeline, or money set aside for construction of a new convention center, there have been calls to demolish the buildings as soon as they are vacated to eliminate the chance of having ongoing expenses associated with keeping them. In the meantime, it has been suggested that the cleared property could be used as a park until a public-private partnership could be formed for development.



A Waterfront Park


Will a temporary park be maintained or used any better than the permanent one that exists on the site today?



Empty former JEA Southside generating station site.



Empty former Shipyards site.


The temporary use of this site as open green space sounds better than what reality may provide. Both the former JEA and Shipyards sites are temporary riverfront green spaces that act more as underutilized eyesores than anything else. In fact, the Courthouse Annex site includes a seldom used and maintained green space at the intersection of Bay and Market Streets right now. In a city that has let a crown jewel like the parks lining Hogans Creek deteriorate to their current state, what makes anyone truly believe that this site will be any different?

Furthermore, if one actually walks these sites, it's evident that one really won't have a clear view of the river without trucking in mounds of dirt to form a hill to overlook the blighted surface parking lot between the courthouse and the river. As for the Courthouse Annex site, there's not much one can do to overcome the hulking back side of the Hyatt Hotel.


Unless the plan includes building a hill, the river view will be blocked by the large concrete parking deck built over it.


The next block simply offers a view of the rear of the Hyatt Hotel.





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142 Comments

Anti redneck

April 12, 2012, 04:30:16 AM
I still can't believe that after decades of driving things into the ground, policies never changed. Why would they continue all of this? Why take things away that founded a city? What were they thinking? Seriously, why?

Noone

April 12, 2012, 07:12:32 AM
So who wants to kayak underneath this vast unique Downtown Urban Waterway Destination. As a bonus we can fish under the brand new no fishing signs.

I am Downtown and why you aren't. 

simms3

April 12, 2012, 07:22:56 AM
Great article.  While I believe a CC is the best use of that site, I also agree that if the city demolishes those 2 structures or even just the old courthouse and builds a park, a CC may actually not get built soon after and the "park" will fill with weeds and vagrants just like every other park in the city.

I believe there may be a chance of reuse for the City Hall Annex, but there is no way the courthouse will see another use.  It's all going to depend on what the building can be bought for.  I know a group that recently purchased an old office building and is converting it to a hotel because their basis was somewhere in the $20s or $30s psf, which made that possible.  Institutional buildings are probably the most difficult to work with because they were never designed well to begin with, or they were designed with a very limited scope of use in mind and designed for single government ownership forever.  Office buildings that happen to have GSA leases are different, in that they are private buildings which trade hands frequently and allow for each owner to improve or alter the building how they see fit.

ben says

April 12, 2012, 07:27:29 AM
I agree that these failed policies suck, and we shouldn't demo buildings in general. If we have a plan implemented with $$ set aside, then maybe, just maybe, a demo (RARELY) could work.

BUT, in the case of the courthouse, a building which I've spent many, many hours in, I can't envision COJ doing anything to it that would constitute adaptive reuse. I'm not even sure a private company could do it. I don't think the city, the banks, private industry (in this town at least) has the drive for another John Gorrie-esque rehab project.

I say this thing gets torn down within the next 5 years. Hopefully, just hopefully, we have a plan, and money in place to fix whats left.

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 07:35:38 AM
Yeah, I'm not chaining myself to either of the buildings but I can see a scenario in where you can re-purpose the City Hall Annex as something that economically contributes to the area and complements a convention center on the couple of blocks next door.  However, I also see an scenario where both are torn down and then we end up with another blighted spot in downtown.  We've got a bad track record with this type of stuff and when ever we talk downtown revitalization at a public level, we rarely consider things at the pedestrian scale level and how to truly generate foot traffic.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to the Mayor talk about his plans for downtown.  Once they get the DIA together, they talked about developing a list of priorities in implementing things.  I would hope that these structures are at least allowed to stand until a coordinated plan is actually put together, because they just may discover that the City Hall Annex can be integrated into it.

buckethead

April 12, 2012, 07:44:22 AM
Well done yet again, Ennis.

MetroJacksonville continues to provide our city's most accessible and unbiased voice of reason. (They even let me chime in...)

Any powers that be would do well to heed such obviously correct advice or risk losing power. Not that we despise you, just that we love our city.

WmNussbaum

April 12, 2012, 08:07:03 AM
I wonder if a waterfront convention center will attract more business than one not on the waterfront. Why would it? If you want to attract convention business provide something for the attendees to do besides looking across a parking lot at the St. Johns River.

Short term: Allow those food trucks that are so in vogue to use the parking lot - assuming there will be enough folks close by to patronize them after the courthouse workers move away.

JeffreyS

April 12, 2012, 08:11:54 AM
Great article hope your advice is taken.

tufsu1

April 12, 2012, 08:20:08 AM
well done once again Ennis...we'll need to all work hard on this issue over the coming months as the vultures are beginning to circle.

Marley Weinstein

April 12, 2012, 09:04:56 AM
Great article! 

bornnative

April 12, 2012, 09:05:36 AM
Might it help to go ahead and load the email boxes of the appropriate COJ personnel with inquiries about the space, indicating a possible demand for inexpensive re-use occupants?  I have a couple of ideas ready to go that are just looking for inexpensive downtown space.  Not enough to fill the building, but perhaps several thousand square feet...

jaxlore

April 12, 2012, 09:10:39 AM
Great article with some great advice. Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the old library? I worry that someone will come in with grand ideas buy the place and let is languish around for years.

jcjohnpaint

April 12, 2012, 09:11:04 AM
Wonderful article.  I have no problem with a convention center being put there, but without the proper thinking about convention center funding and Amtrak relocation etc- this is a waste.  I think the key is to walk around the site.  Go to street level and take a look.  It is funny how many decisions are made in this city without taking a commonsense street level look. 

ben says

April 12, 2012, 09:18:27 AM
Great article with some great advice. Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the old library? I worry that someone will come in with grand ideas buy the place and let is languish around for years.

Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 09:21:13 AM
Great article with some great advice. Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the old library? I worry that someone will come in with grand ideas buy the place and let is languish around for years.

That's already happened.  There's a group that purchased it a few years back for a mixed use project but financing and the economy have made it difficult to pull the concept off.

Wacca Pilatka

April 12, 2012, 09:43:31 AM
Whatever happens they had better save those brick carvings.  It's unconscionable that the Klutho-commissioned Jax history lunettes in the old City Hall were destroyed when that building was torn down.

Bativac

April 12, 2012, 09:59:34 AM
...Short term: Allow those food trucks that are so in vogue to use the parking lot - assuming there will be enough folks close by to patronize them after the courthouse workers move away.

Use an empty riverfront parking lot to generate interest and foot traffic? What are you, crazy? Next you'll suggest that they do repairs on that death-trap of a Southbank Riverwalk!

simms3

April 12, 2012, 10:05:08 AM
I wonder if a waterfront convention center will attract more business than one not on the waterfront. Why would it? If you want to attract convention business provide something for the attendees to do besides looking across a parking lot at the St. Johns River.

Short term: Allow those food trucks that are so in vogue to use the parking lot - assuming there will be enough folks close by to patronize them after the courthouse workers move away.

I believe the convention center would occupy both the parking lot and the old courthouse site.  There would still be room for food trucks on the streets around the CC.  That site also already provides attendees and conventioneers more to do than any other in the city.  It is near all the cultural venues, the Landing, the bars and the Riverwalk.  Putting the CC somewhere else would ensure that wandering conventioneers would venture through blighted, dead areas and would never experience the scenery and uniqueness that is Jacksonville, i.e. the River City.

Now, the big point of this article is whether the city or any private developer would actually do anything with the site if they tear the old courthouse down.  History says the city would allow the site and the area to become blighted - filled with weeds and vagrants.

Tacachale

April 12, 2012, 10:20:53 AM
Great article with some great advice. Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the old library? I worry that someone will come in with grand ideas buy the place and let is languish around for years.

Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....
Just before the recession hit it was picked up by an ownership group that includes Bill Cesery, who want to turn it into retail and offices. They actually got a lot of interest from small tenants but need a big anchor tenant to secure the financing for the final development. Since the recession they haven't been able to get an anchor tenant; I believe most recently they were trying to get a technology company in there but I don't think that panned out.

Kaiser Soze

April 12, 2012, 11:08:20 AM
Agree with bensays, having spent a good deal of time in the courthouse, I have a hard time seeing that thing being adapted into anything useful.  Like the idea of converting portions of the JEA Southside facility and the Shipyards to parks but only portions.  Those areas are pretty contaminated.  Personally, we have a great zoo.  Would love to see a convention center with a nearby naval museum and aquarium on the water.

vicupstate

April 12, 2012, 11:44:51 AM
I think part of the 'incentive' on the part of the powers that be to demolish these buildings, is that if they are allowed to remain, they might return to public use.  In other words a future administration might decide to move Voter Registration or some other office(s) to the building. 

From strictly a monetary sense, that has obvious appeal as minor upfit would be much cheaper than leasing or building new. 

At that point, however, any 'grand visions/political legacies' for the site would once again be on hold. 

Not saying I agree with that logic, but just saying it is part of the equation in this decision.

avonjax

April 12, 2012, 11:49:22 AM
I say leave the Annex period. Do a Goldtex to it. That's a great looking reuse. We desperately need something like that in Jax. And ONLY when every minute detail is finalized should the old Courthouse be razed. Anything less and we have another calamitous eyesore.
Railroad Row was a great area. I remember it well. When I think about what it could be now, it makes me sad. I believe it just may have become a vibrant neighborhood by now.
The whole west side of Main was very dense back in the 70,s and it's possible that downtown would be a different place had we not completely destroyed everything in sight. Just the old hotels going down make me sad. Imagine what could have been done with them.
I'm still upset about the Bell South building going down for......NOTHING.
That was a great little building and in my opinion a nice looking one.
I hope the right people see this and correct the horror of the last 40 years.

ChriswUfGator

April 12, 2012, 11:50:08 AM
Just give them away, putting a reverter clause in the deed that the parcels cannot be used for parking, and be done with it.

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 11:52:47 AM
I think part of the 'incentive' on the part of the powers that be to demolish these buildings, is that if they are allowed to remain, they might return to public use.  In other words a future administration might decide to move Voter Registration or some other office(s) to the building. 

From strictly a monetary sense, that has obvious appeal as minor upfit would be much cheaper than leasing or building new. 

At that point, however, any 'grand visions/political legacies' for the site would once again be on hold. 

Not saying I agree with that logic, but just saying it is part of the equation in this decision.

Using the City Hall Annex for additional public use (assuming we need the space) on the upper floors isn't a bad idea.  That's still something that brings hundreds of people to the site daily and the ground level could easily house retail/entertainment uses.  If and when a convention center comes, it's possible they could co-exist.

peestandingup

April 12, 2012, 11:57:48 AM
Does anyone remember the final episode of little house on the prairie when they blew up the town on purpose?

avonjax

April 12, 2012, 12:18:55 PM
Does anyone remember the final episode of little house on the prairie when they blew up the town on purpose?


That's where we get our ideas for Jax....LOL

fieldafm

April 12, 2012, 12:20:05 PM
Quote
Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....

He needs more people to want to lease from him, until then he can't get financing on the project.  That project has been stalled simply b/c of the economy.

I often imagine if Peterbrooke did get the building when they were originally awarded it though(they backed out due to larger than expected site remediation costs)...  still think that would have been a pretty cool use of the building.

ben says

April 12, 2012, 12:57:01 PM
Quote
Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....

He needs more people to want to lease from him, until then he can't get financing on the project.  That project has been stalled simply b/c of the economy.

I often imagine if Peterbrooke did get the building when they were originally awarded it though(they backed out due to larger than expected site remediation costs)...  still think that would have been a pretty cool use of the building.

+1

Steve_Lovett

April 12, 2012, 01:21:42 PM
There is confusing terminology going around.....  Plans, Visions, Ideas, etc....

Those are fine terms, but what Jacksonville has never had in my estimation is a clear set of Goals and Objectives.

If you have a clear set of Goals and Objectives, then you can create Plans and Visions to achieve them.  We've been working backwards, creating a bunch of plans and trying to implement them, which is probably why so many plans that have been started haven't been successful or fully realized.

With respect to these buildings - I think a healthy discussion and establishment of larger Goals and Objectives for the city and for the Waterfront should be the immediate top priority.  With those in place, then we can make better decisions about how the plan of action on these sites that reinforces the established goals.
 
In my opinon - the biggest question that should be answered is how on a project that had its genesis in 2002-3 are we just now making such important decisions, and how do we make sure that we have a more intelligent process in the future to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

 

peestandingup

April 12, 2012, 01:26:47 PM
Does anyone remember the final episode of little house on the prairie when they blew up the town on purpose?


That's where we get our ideas for Jax....LOL

No doubt some city leaders saw that episode & a light when off in their heads. "OMG, what a great idea! Just keep exploding the town, building over it, then do it over & over. Think of all the industry that'll create! Then build a super expensive monorail over the ruins, make it go nowhere so eventually we can tear that down too." *high fives & brandy wine all around*

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 01:27:16 PM
^Great post Steve!

simms3

April 12, 2012, 02:16:38 PM
^^Agreed.  Great post.

tufsu1

April 12, 2012, 02:21:05 PM
TransForm Jax has been looking at the convention center issue for several months.  Using the current courthouse site and adjacent parking lot would allow for about 200,000 square feet of contiguous (single-level) exhibit space.  This seems to be the magic number bantered about by folks in the industry for attracting medium-sized cnventions and shows.  There would also be room for ballrooms, meeting rooms, and retail space along Bay St and the riverwalk.  If need be, the center could later be expanded diagonally acrosss the street, with relocation of the Police Memorial Building and jail.

One of the regular posters here on MJ, Jason, has modeled what a potential center on that site could look like.  The image can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/convention-center-concept-taking-shape/

Noone

April 12, 2012, 02:21:32 PM
Quote
Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....

He needs more people to want to lease from him, until then he can't get financing on the project.  That project has been stalled simply b/c of the economy.

I often imagine if Peterbrooke did get the building when they were originally awarded it though(they backed out due to larger than expected site remediation costs)...  still think that would have been a pretty cool use of the building.

+1
+2

simms3

April 12, 2012, 02:32:20 PM
TransForm Jax has been looking at the convention center issue for several months.  Using the current courthouse site and adjacent parking lot would allow for about 200,000 square feet of contiguous (single-level) exhibit space.  This seems to be the magic number bantered about by folks in the industry for attracting medium-sized cnventions and shows.  There would also be room for ballrooms, meeting rooms, and retail space along Bay St and the riverwalk.  If need be, the center could later be expanded diagonally acrosss the street, with relocation of the Police Memorial Building and jail.

One of the regular posters here on MJ, Jason, has modeled what a potential center on that site could look like.  The image can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/convention-center-concept-taking-shape/

That's phenominal.  I could imagine conventioneers strolling the Riverwalk between that and the Landing, and perhaps across the Main St over to Friendship Park and a parked ship/naval museum.  I also imagine more yachts and tall ships and boats parking along the Riverwalk there.  Would be an incredible use of our resources and a good impression to the tens of thousands of visitors to our city (some visitors would include business leaders in a position to advocate for expansion or relocation).

Steve_Lovett

April 12, 2012, 02:35:08 PM
Quote
Word of mouth is Cesery bought the place with grand ideas, then was inundated with friends/family/ investors/COJ telling him to do XYZ. Now he has enough ideas, but no idea where to go from here....

He needs more people to want to lease from him, until then he can't get financing on the project.  That project has been stalled simply b/c of the economy.

I often imagine if Peterbrooke did get the building when they were originally awarded it though(they backed out due to larger than expected site remediation costs)...  still think that would have been a pretty cool use of the building.

+1
+2

I don't buy the economy argument.

If you travel, you see many projects moving ahead in almost every other large city in the country - both public and private.

Using the economy is an easier excuse than to accept the fact that Jacksonville hasn't adapted as well as pretty much every other city in the country.

Steve_Lovett

April 12, 2012, 02:42:51 PM
TransForm Jax has been looking at the convention center issue for several months.  Using the current courthouse site and adjacent parking lot would allow for about 200,000 square feet of contiguous (single-level) exhibit space.  This seems to be the magic number bantered about by folks in the industry for attracting medium-sized cnventions and shows.  There would also be room for ballrooms, meeting rooms, and retail space along Bay St and the riverwalk.  If need be, the center could later be expanded diagonally acrosss the street, with relocation of the Police Memorial Building and jail.

One of the regular posters here on MJ, Jason, has modeled what a potential center on that site could look like.  The image can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/convention-center-concept-taking-shape/

Remember that the Courthouse Parking Lot is suspended above the river on pilings.  Also remember that a the high-capacity live structural loads of a Convention Center are much higher than a parking lot - and if built over the river new/upgraded pilings will require forever ongoing maintenance.

I recall seeing a study that structural requirements to support something like this could cost $20-million alone.  This becomes a very expensive piece of land on the river.

Together with the Hyatt and Berkman it would create a huge barrier to the river from the Bay Street public edge.  The site is also not easily expandable/adaptable for long-term future growth.

I've seen more than one idea or recommendation for this site, but I'd like to see a more comprehensive vetting - incorporating greater context and many more factors.

fsujax

April 12, 2012, 02:43:24 PM
@Steve I wonder why that is? there seems to be so many of us here who share the same goals and visions for the City, but we just cant seem to get there.

Noone

April 12, 2012, 02:44:52 PM
Just got back from an epoch paddle and one of the best fishing days that I have ever experienced at a truly unique DOWNTOWN Urban Waterway Destination. By the park bench and under the baricade caught some nice over size reds.

Put in at Mayor Brown's kayak launch at the city marina and paddled against the tide. Wind was strong and made for a sporty paddle both ways. Like the CC idea. Lets just not rush to tear down.

I am Downtown and why your not.

mtraininjax

April 12, 2012, 02:46:22 PM
Head up the road a ways to Laura and Forsyth and feast your eyes on the Laura Trio, those things have been vacant since before Delaney's term, no one has resurrected them as a place to live, so why should anyone think that an asbestos filled building like the Annex will make a better spot for living or as a hotel? Use the Brown lingo of "Public/Private" investment and realize that space is destined for a CC.

Quote
Once they get the DIA together,

He's been in office almost a full year, I hope he realizes his term has an expiration on it, by the time he places people in the DIA, the term will be up and we'll all be complaining at how slow the city moves.

Has the old JEA building on Julia street been filled yet? I know it was gutted, and was empty for a while. How about the old Furchgott's on Adams? The old Arcade next to Farah's building on Adams? 11E and the Carling, are not full at 100%, and lest we forget the Church Street Townhomes or the Metropolitan, are they all full and taking people on a waiting list?

Fact of the matter is that when the State Attorney's office leaves and all other public officials for elsewhere, there will be 2 more empty buildings on the City Books to add to a boatload of existing properties. The difference with the Annex and Courthouse, these are on the river, in close proximity to the Hyatt, who will be the best "Public/Private" offering that the city will find. The LAST thing the City needs/wants is an empty building ON the river, something for the tourists to poke fun at, along with the Laura Trio and Barnett Bank Building with all the windows open, now going on 3 years.

The old Library is a joke, the owners could have opened up a self storage facility and done something with the space, instead of holding out for the big deal. Even a farmer's market every weekend would have been Something.

And to the person who wanted to know why tourists want to come down and stare at the river from a parking lot? Because we got rid of the paper mills in the 80s, worked to redevelop parts of downtown in the 90s, had a BJP in the 00s, and we're now in a state where we have no money for anything new, but we still have the crown jewel of our city, the river. You got to use your strengths and the river is our top strength right now, sell the river to the tourists, most don't have what we have, be thankful for what we have now. 

Jason

April 12, 2012, 03:06:09 PM
Steve_Lovett  -  Do you see it to be feasible to do away with the pilings all together and just fill it in?  More/Less expensive?

John P

April 12, 2012, 03:22:26 PM
In my opinon - the biggest question that should be answered is how on a project that had its genesis in 2002-3 are we just now making such important decisions, and how do we make sure that we have a more intelligent process in the future to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

How? Lack of competent people in charge of these things

crwjax

April 12, 2012, 04:04:59 PM
Great article again; especially, the example of four vacant spaces from earlier premature decisions.  With a degree in planning, I realize that a major frustration (not only in Jacksonville) of the public about government are the plans sitting on shelves.  No implementation, no action.  People feel like money is spent to fill someone's pocket, but nothing is done on the street with the exception of another travel lane!  Thanks Ennis, you are doing everything you can to help the city out and I am grateful.

simms3

April 12, 2012, 04:19:13 PM
Is the Hyatt on pilings?

Also, great discussion.  The river is the city's greatest asset, no question.  Make it public and useful for visitors/tourists, and let developers build up to give residents a view over the public space/parks/CC that could line the river.

fieldafm

April 12, 2012, 04:20:48 PM
Quote
Remember that the Courthouse Parking Lot is suspended above the river on pilings.  Also remember that a the high-capacity live structural loads of a Convention Center are much higher than a parking lot - and if built over the river new/upgraded pilings will require forever ongoing maintenance.

Good point.  Some of the pilings there now are insufficient.  The city has had to fix several pilings over the last 10 years that have faulted.  Imagine putting 5 stories of a building that has things like 18 wheelers hauling full loads up loading ramps... redeveloping the space where the parking lot is now won't be cheap by any stretch of the imagination. 

Quote
I don't buy the economy argument.

If you travel, you see many projects moving ahead in almost every other large city in the country - both public and private.

Using the economy is an easier excuse than to accept the fact that Jacksonville hasn't adapted as well as pretty much every other city in the country.

I would agree with the parts in bold. 

However it is absolutely true to say the project hasn't received financing due to a lack of tenant letter of intent.  It's not an all-cash deal, and until they have the tenant interest... he's not getting financing on it. 

Its an economic hurdle... not a city leadership, vision, zoning, or whatever problem.  Would it be more attractive from a financial standpoint with a different plan?  Maybe(just look at Halmark's property a mile away).  But that's neither here nor there when it comes to the reality of the current situation.   

fsujax

April 12, 2012, 04:21:28 PM
i do not believe the Hyatt is on pilings. I dont believe the actual courthouse is either, just the parking lot.

Tacachale

April 12, 2012, 04:30:22 PM
This is a great article with a strong argument against just destroying these buildings without anything resembling a plan. I don't care if either building is demolished to be replaced by something else; hell, if there were a potential buyer who balked at the expense of having to raze the structures themselves, I wouldn't even mind the city paying for the demo then. But just to destroy two buildings with no plans for the site is ridiculous.

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 04:34:31 PM
Head up the road a ways to Laura and Forsyth and feast your eyes on the Laura Trio, those things have been vacant since before Delaney's term, no one has resurrected them as a place to live, so why should anyone think that an asbestos filled building like the Annex will make a better spot for living or as a hotel? Use the Brown lingo of "Public/Private" investment and realize that space is destined for a CC.

What large scale older building in Jacksonville (or any other American city) didn't have asbestos before renovation?  During the real estate boom over the last decade, I can only think of two large scale Northbank residential projects that happened without public incentives.


Metropolitan Lofts




Residences at City Place

The Metropolitan Lofts and the nearby Residences at City Place.  Both were adaptive reuses of buildings constructed during the same era as the Courthouse Annex.  Also, come to think of it, the Laura Trio remained vacant during that time as well.  In short, the status of the Laura Trio have nothing to do with what can or can't be done at this particular site.

thelakelander

April 12, 2012, 04:41:22 PM
Quote
I don't buy the economy argument.

If you travel, you see many projects moving ahead in almost every other large city in the country - both public and private.

Using the economy is an easier excuse than to accept the fact that Jacksonville hasn't adapted as well as pretty much every other city in the country.

I would agree with the parts in bold. 

However it is absolutely true to say the project hasn't received financing due to a lack of tenant letter of intent.  It's not an all-cash deal, and until they have the tenant interest... he's not getting financing on it. 

Its an economic hurdle... not a city leadership, vision, zoning, or whatever problem.  Would it be more attractive from a financial standpoint with a different plan?  Maybe(just look at Halmark's property a mile away).  But that's neither here nor there when it comes to the reality of the current situation.

Speaking of the old library.  What's wrong with simply subdividing the interior and leasing it out "as is"?  While the library plans are great, I've always wondered if it would be more feasible to keep the same footprint and subdivide the raw space on the first floor just to get something going.

JaxNative68

April 12, 2012, 04:42:17 PM
Both the World Bank Headquarters Building (18th & G St, NW) and the National Research Council Building (5th & E Street, NW) in Washington, DC is a great example of how to reuse existing buildings on site while intergrating them into new construction.  All it takes is a little creativity from an architect and client.  No reason why it can't be done here.

ben says

April 12, 2012, 04:43:11 PM
Quote
I don't buy the economy argument.

If you travel, you see many projects moving ahead in almost every other large city in the country - both public and private.

Using the economy is an easier excuse than to accept the fact that Jacksonville hasn't adapted as well as pretty much every other city in the country.

I would agree with the parts in bold. 

However it is absolutely true to say the project hasn't received financing due to a lack of tenant letter of intent.  It's not an all-cash deal, and until they have the tenant interest... he's not getting financing on it. 

Its an economic hurdle... not a city leadership, vision, zoning, or whatever problem.  Would it be more attractive from a financial standpoint with a different plan?  Maybe(just look at Halmark's property a mile away).  But that's neither here nor there when it comes to the reality of the current situation.

Speaking of the old library.  What's wrong with simply subdividing the interior and leasing it out "as is"?  While the library plans are great, I've always wondered if it would be more feasible keep the same footprint and subdivide the raw space on the first floor just to get something going.

+1000

Again, this is what I heard Cesery WAS going to do until he got "bigger plans," i.e. ones that can't be financed in this economy...

mtraininjax

April 12, 2012, 05:26:45 PM
Quote
Both the World Bank Headquarters Building (18th & G St, NW) and the National Research Council Building (5th & E Street, NW) in Washington, DC is a great example of how to reuse existing buildings on site while intergrating them into new construction.  All it takes is a little creativity from an architect and client.  No reason why it can't be done here.

Still waiting for that creativity to come forward with the empty buildings that occupy downtown Jacksonville. I don't think there is any creativity left, I think it all went back to the mother ship.

Quote
In short, the status of the Laura Trio have nothing to do with what can or can't be done at this particular site.

You are correct, it does not have anything to do with could or could not be done, the issue that remains though, is that NOTHING has been done to date, other than gutting, which was done to the JEA building and the Library, and nothing new has crawled into or been done with the buildings. All signs would point to the economy as the major factor. I do not believe that 11E or the Carling would have been finished in this economic period. They were fortunate to be completed when there was money available for those projects.

Steve_Lovett

April 12, 2012, 05:35:17 PM
Is the Hyatt on pilings?

Also, great discussion.  The river is the city's greatest asset, no question.  Make it public and useful for visitors/tourists, and let developers build up to give residents a view over the public space/parks/CC that could line the river.

The Hyatt is on fill, but within the historic banks of the river. 

The river's shoreline was up against the Courthouse and City Hall (what is now the Courthouse Annex).

In the early 1960's parking was needed, and the city provided parking for City Hall by filling and constructing it behind a seawall.  The county provided it for its courthouse built on piers. 

Steve_Lovett

April 12, 2012, 05:41:05 PM
Steve_Lovett  -  Do you see it to be feasible to do away with the pilings all together and just fill it in?  More/Less expensive?

I understand the River is around 50-60' deep (or deeper) where you'd need to build a seawall.  It would be extremely costly, and still require a great deal of maintenance to capture this land.   

There are also stormwater and shoreline ecology considerations.  It might be a good idea if this whole thing is vetted against a much more comprehensive, intelligent set of criteria than a quick "we could do this, or we could do that..." response to one (of many) specific technical issues.

nomeus

April 12, 2012, 05:50:29 PM
So who wants to kayak underneath this vast unique Downtown Urban Waterway Destination. As a bonus we can fish under the brand new no fishing signs.

I am Downtown and why you aren't.

Noone

April 12, 2012, 06:10:20 PM
So who wants to kayak underneath this vast unique Downtown Urban Waterway Destination. As a bonus we can fish under the brand new no fishing signs.

I am Downtown and why you aren't.



I'd love to take you. Doors will open and close for everyone. The Plaza at Berkman townhomes are also on pilings. This is a Downtown Urban Waterway Destination Activity right now.

Timkin

April 12, 2012, 06:29:09 PM
  I haven't been in the Old Courthouse since I was a kid , but I guess I am failing to understand what makes its unusable?

Is it because of Asbestos content?  Its what... a 50 year old building?  So I cannot envision it being a structural issue.  Have no  emotional attachment  to the building at all.  I just do not quite grasp the hurry to demolish it, particularly with money we do not seem to have for saving anything that exists , first .

Some valid points are made on both sides of this.  If it stays, we are on the hook to maintain it. if it goes, we are on the hook to demo it and probably a lot of area around it.   Is there no way whatsoever that this building , or at least some part of it  (maybe reducing it in height and expanding it horizontally rather than vertically ) can be incorporated into a new Convention Center? possibly not in its context.  Id like to believe there is a happy medium between keeping it as it is ( which I do not necessarily support) or destroying it altogether (which also does not seem practical or necessary) to add to our growing acres of parking garages and weed and trash infested vacant lots in Downtown.  In a choice between the two, Id rather it just stay there.

sheclown

April 12, 2012, 06:52:49 PM
Quote
I don't buy the economy argument.

If you travel, you see many projects moving ahead in almost every other large city in the country - both public and private.

Using the economy is an easier excuse than to accept the fact that Jacksonville hasn't adapted as well as pretty much every other city in the country.

I would agree with the parts in bold. 

However it is absolutely true to say the project hasn't received financing due to a lack of tenant letter of intent.  It's not an all-cash deal, and until they have the tenant interest... he's not getting financing on it. 

Its an economic hurdle... not a city leadership, vision, zoning, or whatever problem.  Would it be more attractive from a financial standpoint with a different plan?  Maybe(just look at Halmark's property a mile away).  But that's neither here nor there when it comes to the reality of the current situation.

Speaking of the old library.  What's wrong with simply subdividing the interior and leasing it out "as is"?  While the library plans are great, I've always wondered if it would be more feasible to keep the same footprint and subdivide the raw space on the first floor just to get something going.

I love that library space.  Keep it Simple.  Keep it cheap.  Get it done. 

Use it or lose it.

nomeus

April 12, 2012, 07:13:50 PM
Quote
Demolition is a permanent solution to a temporary problem

qft (quoted for truth)

Timkin

April 12, 2012, 07:53:48 PM

Demolition ONLY benefits companies that do the process.  It serves no other purpose, especially if a building is not in need of dismantling.   Too many have been in the past for no good reason whatsoever.  Still more are in danger now.  and presently The City wants to spend money we are already desperately short on for many other USEFUL purposes , to make more vacant property.  Not smart at all.

Let the Courthouse sit for now .. spend that money a couple of blocks away saving a tiny historic building from around the time of the fire that destroyed much of downtown.   spend the money to make projects such as the old Library viable. Put it towards revitalization of the Laura Trio.  Do something with it besides tear another property down, that clearly is not in imminent danger of failing nor is it a danger to anything around it. 

Instead of bulldozing everything , use this money to do beneficial work to bring vibrancy back to our downtown.   Spend this waste of money on meaningful things , instead.  Do something right for once!   Even if it was destroyed , the Convention Center is certainly not going to be built in the next year..so leave it alone for now.

ben says

April 12, 2012, 09:01:29 PM

Demolition ONLY benefits companies that do the process.  It serves no other purpose, especially if a building is not in need of dismantling.   Too many have been in the past for no good reason whatsoever.  Still more are in danger now.  and presently The City wants to spend money we are already desperately short on for many other USEFUL purposes , to make more vacant property.  Not smart at all.

Let the Courthouse sit for now .. spend that money a couple of blocks away saving a tiny historic building from around the time of the fire that destroyed much of downtown.   spend the money to make projects such as the old Library viable. Put it towards revitalization of the Laura Trio.  Do something with it besides tear another property down, that clearly is not in imminent danger of failing nor is it a danger to anything around it. 

Instead of bulldozing everything , use this money to do beneficial work to bring vibrancy back to our downtown.   Spend this waste of money on meaningful things , instead.  Do something right for once!   Even if it was destroyed , the Convention Center is certainly not going to be built in the next year..so leave it alone for now.

amen

Ocklawaha

April 12, 2012, 10:01:23 PM
Is the Hyatt on pilings?

Also, great discussion.  The river is the city's greatest asset, no question.  Make it public and useful for visitors/tourists, and let developers build up to give residents a view over the public space/parks/CC that could line the river.

The Hyatt is on fill, but within the historic banks of the river. 

The river's shoreline was up against the Courthouse and City Hall (what is now the Courthouse Annex).

In the early 1960's parking was needed, and the city provided parking for City Hall by filling and constructing it behind a seawall.  The county provided it for its courthouse built on piers.

Here is your problem with both pilings and seawalls on the north side of that great bend in the St. Johns River. Constant pressure from the current will cause this every time. Just one more reason why during the boom, though I looked at Berkman, I wouldn't think of buying one of those townhouses. Anything done along the NORTHBANK waterfront is going to face this maintenance problem.




Been there, done that!

Anti redneck

April 12, 2012, 11:36:40 PM
Is the Hyatt on pilings?

Also, great discussion.  The river is the city's greatest asset, no question.  Make it public and useful for visitors/tourists, and let developers build up to give residents a view over the public space/parks/CC that could line the river.

What he said. There's been some talk about going against the city by kayaking and fishing in the river. I say start the rebellion.

BackinJax05

April 13, 2012, 12:01:01 AM
At 1st I was all for demolishing both buildings and putting a new convention center on both blocks. Now Im not so sure. Good article. Converting the old city hall is an excellent idea I never thought of. As for the Courthouse, a convention center on that site and the riverfront parking lot isnt a bad idea - if done properly. However we all know our city fathers are excellent at doing things on the cheap, and @&(#ing it all up.

TheProfessor

April 13, 2012, 12:24:51 AM
The tower could be re-purposed and the ground level could be retrofitted with retail storefront to compliment the bars/restaurants across the street.

tufsu1

April 13, 2012, 08:07:22 AM
There's been some talk about going against the city by kayaking

well that wouldn't be against them now, seeing as how the ramp at RCBC is an official kayak launch point...and since there will be kayak races downtown in a few weeks.

WmNussbaum

April 13, 2012, 08:18:23 AM
Quote
  spend that money a couple of blocks away saving a tiny historic building from around the time of the fire that destroyed much of downtown.   spend the money to make projects such as the old Library viable. Put it towards revitalization of the Laura Trio. 

Hang on a sec Timkin. All of these properties are privately owned. Should the City take them away from the owners in order to save them? Maybe yes in the cases of the Trio and Bostwick because they are or are rapidly becoming hazards. (BTW, there is a demo notice on the Trio building that faces Forsyth St.) In the case of the old library, there is no visible deterioration, and the owner is actively trying to find a use for it or to find a tenant that can.

How about spending that money to do a first class job on the Southbank Riverwalk. I said "first class" - something with which this burg is not really familiar.

strider

April 13, 2012, 08:55:48 AM
sheclown here:

Yes, WmNussbaum.  This is what the city could do.  Give the owners this option.  Mothball your properties, do the required maintenance logs, meet HPC requirements.  Revisit the options at the end of the three year mothball period. 

 If mothballing is not done,  the city can prove (impending) demolition by neglect and then the city can mothball with liens attached to the property and monitor with liens and at the end of the three year period, take the properties by foreclosing on the mothballing liens.

  If the owners step up and do the right thing, these buildings are protected during the mothball process, the owners then have proven their willingness to protect the city's historic buildings.  If not, the city and its citizens do not lose their heritage through demolition by neglect.

Timkin

April 13, 2012, 11:09:11 PM
Quote
  spend that money a couple of blocks away saving a tiny historic building from around the time of the fire that destroyed much of downtown.   spend the money to make projects such as the old Library viable. Put it towards revitalization of the Laura Trio. 

Hang on a sec Timkin. All of these properties are privately owned. Should the City take them away from the owners in order to save them? Maybe yes in the cases of the Trio and Bostwick because they are or are rapidly becoming hazards. (BTW, there is a demo notice on the Trio building that faces Forsyth St.) In the case of the old library, there is no visible deterioration, and the owner is actively trying to find a use for it or to find a tenant that can.

How about spending that money to do a first class job on the Southbank Riverwalk. I said "first class" - something with which this burg is not really familiar.

I am fine with your idea as well, WM.  My point is.. rather than expend money to demolish an intact, and in fact in use building right now.. not one that has sat and deteriorated.. let the thing sit.  for that matter , allow companies to utilize the space for next to nothing, just so the building is occupied and in use, instead of demoing it right now with money we really do not have to be doing it with, creating more blight, more vacancy , more void.. spend this money on beneficial projects .  Let the old Courthouse stay where it is .. Its far from being one of my favorite buildings, but at the same time, it certainly could be (I presume?)  leased out for Office space or whatever ,until such time as a definite plan is in place along with a confirmed timeline of a replacement to it.   There is no good reason to just demo it , to create a void.  There are blocks and blocks of this very scenario all over downtown, particularly in Brooklyn and  La Villa.

Timkin

April 13, 2012, 11:16:22 PM
At 1st I was all for demolishing both buildings and putting a new convention center on both blocks. Now Im not so sure. Good article. Converting the old city hall is an excellent idea I never thought of. As for the Courthouse, a convention center on that site and the riverfront parking lot isnt a bad idea - if done properly. However we all know our city fathers are excellent at doing things on the cheap, and @&(#ing it all up.

They sure did not do the new Courthouse on the cheap.  No one living today will see the tab on that paid off :(

BackinJax05

April 14, 2012, 12:08:09 AM
At 1st I was all for demolishing both buildings and putting a new convention center on both blocks. Now Im not so sure. Good article. Converting the old city hall is an excellent idea I never thought of. As for the Courthouse, a convention center on that site and the riverfront parking lot isnt a bad idea - if done properly. However we all know our city fathers are excellent at doing things on the cheap, and @&(#ing it all up.

They sure did not do the new Courthouse on the cheap.  No one living today will see the tab on that paid off :(

True, however they did @&(# it up. I wasnt living here when the Better Jacksonville Plan was passed, but as I recall the courthouse was budgeted for about half of what it ended up costing.

Speaking of Better Jax? What happened to all the overpasses at major intersections that were part of the plan? >:(

Timkin

April 14, 2012, 03:22:01 AM
At 1st I was all for demolishing both buildings and putting a new convention center on both blocks. Now Im not so sure. Good article. Converting the old city hall is an excellent idea I never thought of. As for the Courthouse, a convention center on that site and the riverfront parking lot isnt a bad idea - if done properly. However we all know our city fathers are excellent at doing things on the cheap, and @&(#ing it all up.

They sure did not do the new Courthouse on the cheap.  No one living today will see the tab on that paid off :(

True, however they did @&(# it up. I wasnt living here when the Better Jacksonville Plan was passed, but as I recall the courthouse was budgeted for about half of what it ended up costing.

Speaking of Better Jax? What happened to all the overpasses at major intersections that were part of the plan? >:(

Well, lets see.. they built one at Kernan and Atlantic Blvd, the Courthouse downtown, and apparently ran out of concrete ;)

Mike D

April 14, 2012, 03:41:46 PM
As a Jacksonville "ex-pat" who keeps up with what's going on at home thru Metro Jacksonville, it's distressing to read once again that the "tear it down" mentality is on the run again.  When will Jacksonville figure out that it has been systematically destroying for decades the very things that are the ingredients of its real potential?  Now it sounds like "here we go again." This is much more than just tearing down two buildings.  It's the cumulative effect of all of this so-called renewal that keeps holding the city back.  This is not an urban vs suburban debate.  There's nothing wrong with the suburbs.  But no U-S metro area can thrive without a healthy urban core.  To disregard downtown because you don't live there or go there is like arguing the city doesn't need a healthy airport because you don't choose to fly very often.  It is in the best interest of everyone in the Jacksonville metro to support and demand careful planning regarding downtown.  The blocks of empty land surrounding downtown create an eerie, almost threatening sense for anyone travelling through Jacksonville for the first time.  I can think of no other U-S city with the issue except for, of all places, Detroit.  And now there's talk of tearing down even more perfectly good buildings with no sure idea of what will replace them?  But this is part of what's  gotten the city into trouble in the first place.  Tear them down, and while your at it, rip out all of the trees from Hemming Park.  How can these be serious conversations?  Much has been written about the unprecedented assets Jacksonville has...the river, the ocean, beautiful neighborhoods, good weather, etc.  A healthy downtown must be part of this mix.  No single item on that list makes Jacksonville unique.  It's the whole picture, the combination of all the parts.  I love my home town, and am continually astounded as I travel to cities with so much less to offer managing to thrive by embracing their past along with their future.  It's so troubling to read again of Jacksonville's leaders contemplating the same destructive measures that have left the city a shadow of what it could and should be.

futurejax

April 14, 2012, 06:00:10 PM
Eye opening albeit disappointing to read this article.  It's almost
like this city has a determination to provide the longest lasting
defintion of insanity to the world or more succinctly, a death wish.
Who greenlights these backassward decisions?  Where is the Mayor
on this?  This is when you've gotta use your bully pulpit Alvin.  Get out
in front of the issue and make people understand what is going
on or before you know it there will be empty lots where two buildings once
stood.  There's almost this inferred sense that razing everything in sight
clears the way for something new and better to replace it.  When what it does in
reality is make people passing by wonder why in the hell the 40th largest
MSA in the country has so many empty acres of grass.  And probably makes
investors ponder the same.  It's lunacy that has to end before there's not much
left to save.

mtraininjax

April 15, 2012, 12:40:35 PM
Brown will not give the order to tear down the buildings without his favorite "Public/Private" partnership in place with someone on the properties. Who knows, maybe they will both stay, but there is almost NO or (ZERO for those who don't understand NO) chance the City will maintain ownership of them.

The maintenance on these buildings is an absolute joke. So keeping them open just to provide cheap office space, is not going to work. These sites would not even fetch the $$$/sq ft being sold for Industrial Space, in their present condition. There are warehouses in better condition that these buildings. So keeping them open, just to hope to land someone, is not realistic, after all the City has a new courthouse and Federal Courthouse they now have to maintain and support, so why stretch already tight resources to support the old, as well as the new?

Secure them with locks until we can find someone who Brown, Hand and City Council can find who want to take them over and then provide the public/private partnership. Nothing will or should be done until the expense to do anything is absorbed by new owners. So relax for a while, we also have thousands of square feet on the market for office space, so these things will sit for a while.

Timkin

April 15, 2012, 08:53:11 PM
Exactly.  let them sit.  I only proposed letting a company occupy them until a fate for them is decided. Public/Private or whatever.  having an occupant even if rent free would be good with the stipulation that THEY pay the maintenance of the building, not the City.

But like everything that sits vacant,   The moving vans wont be out of sight before the vandalism begins and that is the vicious cycle every vacant building endures.   So on one hand I kind of do understand the proposal to immediately do away with them.   Since that seems to be the proposal , who says it has to happen immediately , especially in a time where money to maintain City properties is so tight. 

What I do not get is where the seemingly never ending supply of money comes from to demolish.  We cannot fix anything. We cannot vacate a building and then adapt it to a new use. We can't establish new destinations in our dying urban core, but Lord help us, we sure can find endless means to remove stuff.

Maybe the answer is to just Secure (very well!!) the lower levels of the Courthouse and let it sit.  There is a tab on that.  I have no idea what the demo tab is but it has to be steep when you factor asbestos remediation in .    So until better times either sublet it to an occupant who will assume responsibility for maintaining it at least, or secure it and hope for the best.  Since the building is likely doomed to demolition anyway,  What is 5-7 years of sitting there going to hurt? .

Mike D

April 16, 2012, 09:19:14 PM
Following up on the last comment, if the buildings do sit vacant for 5-7 years, that will give the city 5-7 years to contemplate why Jacksonville hasn't been able to gain that critical mass that will bring investors back to downtown.  What incentives exist?  Or, rather, what incentives exist for investors not to come downtown?  Who (read: landowners with connections, insiders, etc) benefits when yet another development encompasses acres of land and contributes once again to needless sprawl while bypassing what was once a vibrant urban core.  We have destroyed dozens, really hundreds of unique, significant buildings of value that were part of a real city.  What remains is an island surrounded by those acres of eerie, threatening empty land I cited in my last entry.  Yet there are still real assets downtown...if only we will hold onto them.  Even now, there is enough left to become the center of a real cityscape...something that is not like Atlanta or Charlotte or Miami...but is like Jacksonville, a place with an identity of its own that reflects all of its attributes.  We've destroyed too many of the architectural assets that were unique to this town already.  Please, let's figure out a way to stop the maddening, mindless assault on our heritage.

Timkin

April 16, 2012, 10:14:14 PM
Following up on the last comment, if the buildings do sit vacant for 5-7 years, that will give the city 5-7 years to contemplate why Jacksonville hasn't been able to gain that critical mass that will bring investors back to downtown.  What incentives exist?  Or, rather, what incentives exist for investors not to come downtown?  Who (read: landowners with connections, insiders, etc) benefits when yet another development encompasses acres of land and contributes once again to needless sprawl while bypassing what was once a vibrant urban core.  We have destroyed dozens, really hundreds of unique, significant buildings of value that were part of a real city.  What remains is an island surrounded by those acres of eerie, threatening empty land I cited in my last entry.  Yet there are still real assets downtown...if only we will hold onto them.  Even now, there is enough left to become the center of a real cityscape...something that is not like Atlanta or Charlotte or Miami...but is like Jacksonville, a place with an identity of its own that reflects all of its attributes.  We've destroyed too many of the architectural assets that were unique to this town already.  Please, let's figure out a way to stop the maddening, mindless assault on our heritage.

^  agreed !!!

mtraininjax

April 17, 2012, 07:19:27 AM
The buildings are not 8 blocks off the river on Julia or worse, near the Prime Osborn, they are right smack dab on the river.

These buildings will not sit empty or be around in 5-7 years. The land is too valuable. I doubt Brown can get his act together fast enough to do anything with them this term. He does not even have his downtown team together, almost 1 year into his term. He moves at the glacial pace of government.

Jack

April 17, 2012, 02:37:10 PM
This has been an excellent discussion, but one additional thing needs to be addressed. The courthouse, in it's current state, is not fit for habitation by any new tenants. I am personally aware of two instances in which plumbing pipes have spontaneously burst, flooding office areas. Fixtures are literally falling from walls. The HVAC system can not be properly adjusted. Rats inhabit inner spaces.

Though I have no personal knowledge, the City Hall Annex cannot be in much better shape. Thus, if these buildings are to be saved, they will have to be completely gutted and re-built from the inside. I am not sure that they have enough historical value to justify this type of expense. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold for redevelopment, it will no doubt be more valuable if vacant. I am not in favor of demolishing these buildings, but do not believe there is any reasonable alternative.

Kaiser Soze

April 17, 2012, 02:38:55 PM
This has been an excellent discussion, but one additional thing needs to be addressed. The courthouse, in it's current state, is not fit for habitation by any new tenants. I am personally aware of two instances in which plumbing pipes have spontaneously burst, flooding office areas. Fixtures are literally falling from walls. The HVAC system can not be properly adjusted. Rats inhabit inner spaces.

Though I have no personal knowledge, the City Hall Annex cannot be in much better shape. Thus, if these buildings are to be saved, they will have to be completely gutted and re-built from the inside. I am not sure that they have enough historical value to justify this type of expense. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold for redevelopment, it will no doubt be more valuable if vacant. I am not in favor of demolishing these buildings, but do not believe there is any reasonable alternative.
Here here

thelakelander

April 17, 2012, 03:03:26 PM
This has been an excellent discussion, but one additional thing needs to be addressed. The courthouse, in it's current state, is not fit for habitation by any new tenants. I am personally aware of two instances in which plumbing pipes have spontaneously burst, flooding office areas. Fixtures are literally falling from walls. The HVAC system can not be properly adjusted. Rats inhabit inner spaces.

Though I have no personal knowledge, the City Hall Annex cannot be in much better shape. Thus, if these buildings are to be saved, they will have to be completely gutted and re-built from the inside. I am not sure that they have enough historical value to justify this type of expense. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold for redevelopment, it will no doubt be more valuable if vacant. I am not in favor of demolishing these buildings, but do not believe there is any reasonable alternative.

As long as they are structurally sound they are possibly salvageable and they are certainly not in danger of collapsing Berkman II style.  In reality, they are not different from many similar structures built a half century ago that have been reused in cities all across the country, including Jacksonville.  Just in downtown alone, Metropolitan Lofts and City Place are examples of similar structures that have been reused.  Furthermore, in most adaptive reuse cases, structures are pretty much gutted anyway.

Anyway, in a downtown environment where building fabric is critical in terms of building pedestrian scale vibrancy, outright demolition should always be a last case scenario.  Today, despite billions literally spent on downtown redevelopment gimmicks over the last 40 years, we're all witness to a downtown environment that has suffered as a result of shortsighted demolition happy moves at the public level.

At this point, without true evaluation of the properties or a viable coordinated plan for downtown in general at the public level, who knows if these buildings should stay or go?  All in all, this is the main point of this article.  Before we slam the door with a sizable investment in dynamite, let's actually take the proper steps to determine what the best move really is.

stephendare

April 17, 2012, 03:06:59 PM
This has been an excellent discussion, but one additional thing needs to be addressed. The courthouse, in it's current state, is not fit for habitation by any new tenants. I am personally aware of two instances in which plumbing pipes have spontaneously burst, flooding office areas. Fixtures are literally falling from walls. The HVAC system can not be properly adjusted. Rats inhabit inner spaces.

Though I have no personal knowledge, the City Hall Annex cannot be in much better shape. Thus, if these buildings are to be saved, they will have to be completely gutted and re-built from the inside. I am not sure that they have enough historical value to justify this type of expense. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold for redevelopment, it will no doubt be more valuable if vacant. I am not in favor of demolishing these buildings, but do not believe there is any reasonable alternative.
Here here

Jack.  In your personal opinion, would it cost less to completely replace a building, girders and concrete and all than it would be to gut it and replace outdated systems?

It seems like after you rebuilt the actual structure, you would still have to install new plumbing, HVAC, and electric systems.

What's your insight into this?

Would it be far cheaper to rehab?

sheclown

April 17, 2012, 08:25:14 PM
Demolishing a building to rid it of rats seems rather drastic.

As far as pipes bursting,  it is probably old cast iron pipes.  One could survey the pipes that are in bad shape and replace them.  As far as fixtures falling from the walls, reattach them?

Not a fan of gutting either. 

There was gutting fever in Springfield a couple of years ago.  What happened?  Contractors gutted and then left town leaving the skeletal remains of buildings everywhere.

Timkin

April 18, 2012, 01:58:09 AM
This has been an excellent discussion, but one additional thing needs to be addressed. The courthouse, in it's current state, is not fit for habitation by any new tenants. I am personally aware of two instances in which plumbing pipes have spontaneously burst, flooding office areas. Fixtures are literally falling from walls. The HVAC system can not be properly adjusted. Rats inhabit inner spaces.

Though I have no personal knowledge, the City Hall Annex cannot be in much better shape. Thus, if these buildings are to be saved, they will have to be completely gutted and re-built from the inside. I am not sure that they have enough historical value to justify this type of expense. On the other hand, if the land is to be sold for redevelopment, it will no doubt be more valuable if vacant. I am not in favor of demolishing these buildings, but do not believe there is any reasonable alternative.
Here here

Jack.  In your personal opinion, would it cost less to completely replace a building, girders and concrete and all than it would be to gut it and replace outdated systems?

It seems like after you rebuilt the actual structure, you would still have to install new plumbing, HVAC, and electric systems.

What's your insight into this?

Would it be far cheaper to rehab?


^^ For that matter... to completely remove a building , is there not a fairly substantial impact fee, just to replace the building?   For something of that size, or a replacement building that is possibly larger, is there not a fee, AFTER the enormous cost of asbestos remediation, demolition, etc?

thelakelander

April 18, 2012, 05:53:54 AM
If pipes failing means its time for demolition, we may want to put the new courthouse on the list....

New courthouse already leaking; contractor paying for spill repairs

Quote
The contractor overseeing construction of the new Duval County Courthouse will handle costs of repairing water damage discovered after a sprinkler system joint failed this month, a city official said Tuesday.

“This repair will not affect the opening of the courthouse,” said Jim Robinson, the city’s acting public works director. He said the failure was “unfortunate but not a major issue.”

Carpeting, ceiling tiles and drywall were damaged in a 3,200-square-foot area after a second-floor sprinkler pipe apparently failed following a pressure test, he said.

full article: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-04-17/story/new-courthouse-already-leaking-contractor-paying-spill-repairs

Jack

April 18, 2012, 03:07:25 PM
I am not an engineer, and don't know the relative costs of gutting and rebuilding from the inside vs. starting anew. Perhaps the former is cheaper. But choosing that option assumes a prospective tenant/tenants who would be happy with the number and size of floors these buildings present. That is a HUGE limitation on development options. Again, I agree with the premise that the buildings should be saved. However, I live in the real world. How long have the Laura St. trio been a blight on downtown in their present condition? When will they be redeveloped?

thelakelander

April 18, 2012, 04:05:47 PM
Did you know Detroit's Book Cadillac Hotel sat abandoned for 24 years before being renovated in 2008 as a Westin Hotel?  Downtown Lakeland's Terrace Hotel sat vacant for a decade before it was renovated in 1998.  We've had some buildings like the Old YMCA, Carling, etc. sit vacant for years before being reused as well.  I'd call a demolished site "blight" within a pedestrian scale environment before I'd label structures like the Laura Trio in that category.



IMO, the real world means leaving all alternatives on the table and properly evaluating them before locking yourself into a single position that could do more harm than good.  You can't assume limitations to options without fully vetting them.

fsujax

April 18, 2012, 04:08:11 PM
well, since there is no demand downtown for housing, hotel rooms, restaurants, parking or whatever. What would go in the restored buildings?

thelakelander

April 18, 2012, 04:15:31 PM
Who says there's no demand?  At the FTU editorial board meeting last week Alvin Brown practically swore companies are calling daily about possibly coming downtown in response to Everbank's move.  Downtown is so empty even 7-Eleven decided it was feasible to immediately open up two stores blocks from each other.  Downtowns are in demand nationwide.  Downtown Jax's struggles are the same as the struggle that keeps the city from retaining a larger margin of young professionals.  Too many public regulations and a reluctance to allow free flowing market rate innovation and creativity.

Debbie Thompson

April 18, 2012, 05:35:33 PM
When a company I used to work for bought and moved to the old school board building on San Marco, they removed all but the steel framework and re-built it.  That framework is expensive, and so is the brick facade on the city buildings on the river.   Not to mention the cost of demolition.  Of course, they can be rehabbed cheaper than carting the entire thing off to Trail Ridge and starting over.

Timkin

April 18, 2012, 06:02:33 PM

Where there is a will , there is most definitely ALWAYS, a way !

ChriswUfGator

April 18, 2012, 10:59:03 PM
well, since there is no demand downtown for housing, hotel rooms, restaurants, parking or whatever. What would go in the restored buildings?

Who's to say that, as lake pointed out, any of that would still be the case 24 years from now...

JaxArchitect

July 09, 2012, 10:32:32 AM
I’m glad to hear that there is some dialog regarding the fate of the old Courthouse and City Hall Annex.  Prior to this article, I thought it was a forgone conclusion that the buildings were going to be demolished with no alternatives even considered.
My concern is that in our haste to demolish these buildings to make another poorly maintained and underused public park, we will miss an opportunity to redevelop the property while making use of the existing resource.  Sadly, this is the typical pattern in Jacksonville and the reason why we have so little remaining of our past architectural (and cultural) history. 
I personally think that these buildings have significant merit and if you can get past the patina formed from years of City (lack of) maintenance, the bones of these buildings are quite elegant.  Certainly, they have enough value to consider retaining them, even if it is done selectively, while enhancing the areas in need of improvement.  Every style of architecture goes through stages of love/hate with the general public.  Appreciation for this type of mid-century modern design is on the rise and could very well make these buildings very marketable in the near future.  Furthermore, in my experience as an Architect, it is almost always more cost effective and less energy intensive to renovate an existing building than to demolish and start from scratch.
I have no misconception about the state of the economy and the likelihood of this happening in the near future.  I know how difficult it is to put the pieces together to redevelop a property such as this.  However, I’m still optimistic that the economy will improve and someday redeveloping our riverfront will be feasible again.
I’ve seen plans that have been developed for a new park, and the drawings are quite beautiful and enticing.  However, with no other programmed use to activate the space such as adjacent housing, retail, and office space, these types of spaces tend to fall into disrepair and never live up to their planned use as a “festival” space.  Ultimately, the leaders of Jacksonville need to recognize that until there is more housing downtown (for which there is documented demand), we will never have the vibrant city that we all yearn for.  When this is achieved, public spaces such as this have the potential to be successful.
I agree with Steve Lovett’s comment that, before anything is done, it is critical to set goals and prioritize what we want to be when we grow up.  If these particular buildings don’t get saved, I hope it’s because there was some serious dialog about what is the right use of this property, not just a knee jerk reaction because no one knew what else to do.

tufsu1

July 09, 2012, 10:42:23 AM
yes...Steve Lovett's park drawings are in this week's Business Journal....and while it is a far better idea than the one floated by Ted Pappas, I still think the best use for most of the site is as a new convention facility....as for a park, why not put a green roof on top of the building, yielding acres of passive and/or active rec space too!

Timkin

July 09, 2012, 12:21:20 PM
I’m glad to hear that there is some dialog regarding the fate of the old Courthouse and City Hall Annex.  Prior to this article, I thought it was a forgone conclusion that the buildings were going to be demolished with no alternatives even considered.
My concern is that in our haste to demolish these buildings to make another poorly maintained and underused public park, we will miss an opportunity to redevelop the property while making use of the existing resource.  Sadly, this is the typical pattern in Jacksonville and the reason why we have so little remaining of our past architectural (and cultural) history. 
I personally think that these buildings have significant merit and if you can get past the patina formed from years of City (lack of) maintenance, the bones of these buildings are quite elegant.  Certainly, they have enough value to consider retaining them, even if it is done selectively, while enhancing the areas in need of improvement.  Every style of architecture goes through stages of love/hate with the general public.  Appreciation for this type of mid-century modern design is on the rise and could very well make these buildings very marketable in the near future.  Furthermore, in my experience as an Architect, it is almost always more cost effective and less energy intensive to renovate an existing building than to demolish and start from scratch.
I have no misconception about the state of the economy and the likelihood of this happening in the near future.  I know how difficult it is to put the pieces together to redevelop a property such as this.  However, I’m still optimistic that the economy will improve and someday redeveloping our riverfront will be feasible again.
I’ve seen plans that have been developed for a new park, and the drawings are quite beautiful and enticing.  However, with no other programmed use to activate the space such as adjacent housing, retail, and office space, these types of spaces tend to fall into disrepair and never live up to their planned use as a “festival” space.  Ultimately, the leaders of Jacksonville need to recognize that until there is more housing downtown (for which there is documented demand), we will never have the vibrant city that we all yearn for.  When this is achieved, public spaces such as this have the potential to be successful.
I agree with Steve Lovett’s comment that, before anything is done, it is critical to set goals and prioritize what we want to be when we grow up.  If these particular buildings don’t get saved, I hope it’s because there was some serious dialog about what is the right use of this property, not just a knee jerk reaction because no one knew what else to do.



  ^I love the way you think !!!! +1,000,000!!!

Debbie Thompson

July 09, 2012, 01:16:21 PM
JaxArchitect, write to the City Council and Mayor's office.  Give them your professional opinions, as an architect, about the adaptive re-use possibilities of the buildings. 

fsujax

July 09, 2012, 01:17:43 PM
Lake, I was being sarcastic about there being no demand for anything downtown.

tlemans

July 09, 2012, 03:49:42 PM
Who says there's no demand?  At the FTU editorial board meeting last week Alvin Brown practically swore companies are calling daily about possibly coming downtown in response to Everbank's move.  Downtown is so empty even 7-Eleven decided it was feasible to immediately open up two stores blocks from each other.  Downtowns are in demand nationwide.  Downtown Jax's struggles are the same as the struggle that keeps the city from retaining a larger margin of young professionals.  Too many public regulations and a reluctance to allow free flowing market rate innovation and creativity.

You hit the nail on the head Lakelander. As a man thinks so is he. I would like to say that as a city thinks so is it. The mentality has to change in Jacksonville. Too many public regulations!

Ocklawaha

July 09, 2012, 05:11:17 PM
This is a repost from another thread...


the Pantheon in Rome has been in continuous use as a church or temple since it was built in about 126 CE.

The Maison Carre is older, having been built circa 16 BC. It's the best really complete temple from the classical world that still exists, and it was turned into a Church, too. It still functions as a museum.

Theatre_of_Marcellus, Julius Caesar started building it; it was first used for performances in 17BC, finished 12BC, used variously as a theatre, then fortress, then residences.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is a public house in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which is one of several that lay claim to being the oldest in England, 800 years.  It currently holds the official Guinness Book of Records title, but Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton, Greater Manchester has claimed it is older by some 234 years.

Qufu Confucius Temple (Kong Miao).  The Temple started as three houses in the year of 478 BC, the second year after the death of Confucius, in continuous use, today it's a museum of culture.

A few years back, Dutch architects Merkx + Girod converted a Dominican church into one of the coolest bookstores ever, the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht was built in 1294.

Temple of the Flourishing Law) is a Buddhist temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Its full name is Hōryū Gakumonji, or Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law, the complex serving as seminary and monastery both. It was built in 607 burned then rebuilt in 711.

The Pickman house in Salem MA. was built in 1664, it serves as the nations oldest continuously operated museum today.

Gonzalez-Alvarez House in St. Augustine, built in 1723, adaptive reuse as a museum.

Bottom line, with every brick that comes down/came down in Jacksonville, we lose irretrievable history. There is just no reason for our city to continue this destructive course.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 12:47:47 AM
yes...Steve Lovett's park drawings are in this week's Business Journal....and while it is a far better idea than the one floated by Ted Pappas, I still think the best use for most of the site is as a new convention facility....as for a park, why not put a green roof on top of the building, yielding acres of passive and/or active rec space too!

A convention center on this site will: 1.) Require major structural upgrades to support it on piles over the river, probably to the tune of $15-20MM, plus expensive ongoing maintenance given the exposure to dynamic river action and the depth of the river along that portion of the northbank (65'+); 2.) Yield a convention center that is on an extremely small site and not adaptable or expandable to meet potential future markets; 3.) Be located immediately adjacent to a jail (I don't think convention attendees and police headquarters/jail are ideal immediate neighbors); and 4.) Create a massive barrier between the Bay Street public edge and the river, permanently sacrificing an opportunity to connect the Bay Street redevelopment area from the waterfront.

If it's going to require a $20MM investment, lets invest that toward the cost of a new jail - located in better proximity to the new courthouse. The jail in its current location will forever create a divide between the downtown core and sports complex and be an impediment in the growth and revitalization downtown. 

Unfortunately a fair amount of my article was edited, but my point was more about creating a strong set of goals and values and holding those as the benchmark of all of the city's decisions. The park was just one example of what's possible if we establish values and try to achieve as many good things as possible with any decision. If you check out www.elm-plan.com and look under the "news" section you can see the full article.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 01:00:24 AM
I’m glad to hear that there is some dialog regarding the fate of the old Courthouse and City Hall Annex.  Prior to this article, I thought it was a forgone conclusion that the buildings were going to be demolished with no alternatives even considered.
My concern is that in our haste to demolish these buildings to make another poorly maintained and underused public park, we will miss an opportunity to redevelop the property while making use of the existing resource.  Sadly, this is the typical pattern in Jacksonville and the reason why we have so little remaining of our past architectural (and cultural) history. 
I personally think that these buildings have significant merit and if you can get past the patina formed from years of City (lack of) maintenance, the bones of these buildings are quite elegant.  Certainly, they have enough value to consider retaining them, even if it is done selectively, while enhancing the areas in need of improvement.  Every style of architecture goes through stages of love/hate with the general public.  Appreciation for this type of mid-century modern design is on the rise and could very well make these buildings very marketable in the near future.  Furthermore, in my experience as an Architect, it is almost always more cost effective and less energy intensive to renovate an existing building than to demolish and start from scratch.
I have no misconception about the state of the economy and the likelihood of this happening in the near future.  I know how difficult it is to put the pieces together to redevelop a property such as this.  However, I’m still optimistic that the economy will improve and someday redeveloping our riverfront will be feasible again.
I’ve seen plans that have been developed for a new park, and the drawings are quite beautiful and enticing.  However, with no other programmed use to activate the space such as adjacent housing, retail, and office space, these types of spaces tend to fall into disrepair and never live up to their planned use as a “festival” space.  Ultimately, the leaders of Jacksonville need to recognize that until there is more housing downtown (for which there is documented demand), we will never have the vibrant city that we all yearn for.  When this is achieved, public spaces such as this have the potential to be successful.
I agree with Steve Lovett’s comment that, before anything is done, it is critical to set goals and prioritize what we want to be when we grow up.  If these particular buildings don’t get saved, I hope it’s because there was some serious dialog about what is the right use of this property, not just a knee jerk reaction because no one knew what else to do.

There are numerous existing buildings awaiting redevelopment (Old Main Library, Trio, Barnett, Ambassador, etc.) and numerous others with very high vacancy rates. Increased residential development will become more viable if the city is a great place, and parks play a large role in that. I'd suggest that Memorial Park is the last great park the City of Jacksonville has created, and it has become the "living room" of Riverside, translating value several blocks perpendicular to the river. I believe that the Courthouse Site has the opportunity to achieve the same - and begin the process of further redevelopment in the Bay Street District and in the blocks further north, as well as creating a high quality accessible waterfront for everyone.

Your very last sentence is on the mark. A more thoughtful, intelligent decision-making process is most definitely needed.

thelakelander

July 10, 2012, 06:51:58 AM
I like Steve's plan.  It appears that a ton of thought has been put into it.  I wish this was done for a space like Hogans Creek/Springfield Parks, which I believe would have a high positive impact on downtown and the urban core in general.  The courthouse green on West Adams is another space that could have a significant impact on a bombed out section of downtown if we paid it any attention. 

However, I do think it would be better if there were more interaction with the surrounding blocks and perhaps the courthouse annex was left in it and re-purposed to something useful.  Steve, do you have a rough cost estimate of your proposal?  Unless that tower is in danger of falling to the ground structurally, it would be crazy for us to demolish it instead of undergoing a more thoughtful, intelligent decision-making process that truly evaluates its potential for redevelopment.  With that said, I think such a process should also look at the surrounding area outside of the courthouse/courthouse annex site's borders as well.

Btw, I think we have (had) some great parks outside of Memorial Park, Hogans Creek being one of them.  Unfortunately, we've let them or the neighborhoods around them go to hell since 1950.  Depending on how one looks at it, bringing them back can be viewed as an opportunity for our community.

mtraininjax

July 10, 2012, 07:08:50 AM
Riverside Park was the original park for Riverside and is larger than Memorial Park, has more amenities, and sort of gets forgotten since it is nearest to Annie Lytle, now if AL can get rebuilt, recreated into something new and exciting, RP will become a destination park. The dog park proposal may help with this as well.

Empty and unused buildings need look no further than the Bostwick Building downtown to see the future. We still have the old public library sitting empty.

fsujax

July 10, 2012, 09:28:02 AM
Another great park, that will not be maintained, activated and over ran by the homeless population is not we need Downtown right now.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 11:32:11 AM
Another great park, that will not be maintained, activated and over ran by the homeless population is not we need Downtown right now.

I really hope that this isn't our greatest aspiration for the city. Why not demand more and better?

A continuing cycle of vacant/abandoned buildings, empty lots, and limited public access to the downtown waterfront isn't beneficial to progress either.

fsujax

July 10, 2012, 11:44:15 AM
We should demand more, I agree. But, look at what we have in office a mayor who will not even consider raising taxes, fees and is willing to let the gas tax expire, it doesn't give me much hope right now and a City Council who is about on the same level. I had high hopes for Brown after he was elected, but those are fading now.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 11:54:44 AM
I like Steve's plan.  It appears that a ton of thought has been put into it.  I wish this was done for a space like Hogans Creek/Springfield Parks, which I believe would have a high positive impact on downtown and the urban core in general.  The courthouse green on West Adams is another space that could have a significant impact on a bombed out section of downtown if we paid it any attention. 

However, I do think it would be better if there were more interaction with the surrounding blocks and perhaps the courthouse annex was left in it and re-purposed to something useful.  Steve, do you have a rough cost estimate of your proposal?  Unless that tower is in danger of falling to the ground structurally, it would be crazy for us to demolish it instead of undergoing a more thoughtful, intelligent decision-making process that truly evaluates its potential for redevelopment.  With that said, I think such a process should also look at the surrounding area outside of the courthouse/courthouse annex site's borders as well.

Btw, I think we have (had) some great parks outside of Memorial Park, Hogans Creek being one of them.  Unfortunately, we've let them or the neighborhoods around them go to hell since 1950.  Depending on how one looks at it, bringing them back can be viewed as an opportunity for our community.

Ennis - there is far more detail to the plan that a reduced on-line version can show. It's very much engaged at a human street-scale level with the Bay Street activity - including interactive water features, a canopy of trees, seatwalls, and spaces that can be highly programmed or function well as passive areas. It should be a park that stands up to any great park in any great city. BTW - this is just one idea. Whatever is done here should be grounded in public input, participation, and represent a high level of community ownership.

I agree re: Courthouse Annex. The Courthouse Park concept can be phased block-by-block. There's a couple of years of activity remaining in that building. A repurposed building can be designed to engage the park - I suspect a well-conceived park would make that building's redevelopment more viable, and sooner.

You mentioned Hogans Creek. This kind of approach and decision-making process should be applied there - and to a ton of other decision points in the city (Shipyards, Southbank Riverwalk, JEA site, The Landing, Hemming Park, etc, etc.). Each of these needs to address the context, and to accomplish multiple objectives - as you suggest. I've been working on a framework of sorts that is in alignment with your thoughts.



 

tufsu1

July 10, 2012, 11:57:48 AM
yes...Steve Lovett's park drawings are in this week's Business Journal....and while it is a far better idea than the one floated by Ted Pappas, I still think the best use for most of the site is as a new convention facility....as for a park, why not put a green roof on top of the building, yielding acres of passive and/or active rec space too!

A convention center on this site will: 1.) Require major structural upgrades to support it on piles over the river, probably to the tune of $15-20MM, plus expensive ongoing maintenance given the exposure to dynamic river action and the depth of the river along that portion of the northbank (65'+); 2.) Yield a convention center that is on an extremely small site and not adaptable or expandable to meet potential future markets; 3.) Be located immediately adjacent to a jail (I don't think convention attendees and police headquarters/jail are ideal immediate neighbors); and 4.) Create a massive barrier between the Bay Street public edge and the river, permanently sacrificing an opportunity to connect the Bay Street redevelopment area from the waterfront.

1. A $20million cost for shoring up the pilings is a drop ion the bucket when it comes to the long-term viability of our downtown

2. It is not that small of a site...it can easily accomodate a 200,000 square foot exhibit hall (not including what could fit on the annex)

3. Condos aren't ideal next to a jail either...but guess what, they got built...as did a 950+ room hotel 2 blocks away....fact is, putting the convention center right nexty to the Hyatt is ideal...and if it needed to be expanded in the future, the police buidling and jail would be optimal locations...and then you just build a diagonal connecting bridge (like orlando just did).

4. Bay Street is mainly an entertainment district....so having conventioneers in town spending money at restaurants and bars will be fine...as for connecting to the river, that can be done as part of streetscape enhancements to Market and/or Liberty Streets 

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 12:01:28 PM
We should demand more, I agree. But, look at what we have in office a mayor who will not even consider raising taxes, fees and is willing to let the gas tax expire, it doesn't give me much hope right now and a City Council who is about on the same level. I had high hopes for Brown after he was elected, but those are fading now.

The Mayor works for the people. It's not the other way around. I'm often discouraged too, but I'm unwilling to accept the longstanding conventional wisdom of Jacksonville that is largely responsible for leaving the city decades behind its peer cities.

It may not happen overnight, but articulating a more intelligent perspective that achieves greater growth and quality of life is better than a perpetual sense of hopelessness and dissatisfaction.     

acme54321

July 10, 2012, 12:14:01 PM
In regards to the elevated parking lot situation.... 

Why not build a seawall and fill it in?  Clearly that has happened on the adjacent hyatt and berkman parcels.  It's not like you are damaging the river there.  It's been covered by a parking lot for 50 years. 

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 12:17:33 PM
yes...Steve Lovett's park drawings are in this week's Business Journal....and while it is a far better idea than the one floated by Ted Pappas, I still think the best use for most of the site is as a new convention facility....as for a park, why not put a green roof on top of the building, yielding acres of passive and/or active rec space too!

A convention center on this site will: 1.) Require major structural upgrades to support it on piles over the river, probably to the tune of $15-20MM, plus expensive ongoing maintenance given the exposure to dynamic river action and the depth of the river along that portion of the northbank (65'+); 2.) Yield a convention center that is on an extremely small site and not adaptable or expandable to meet potential future markets; 3.) Be located immediately adjacent to a jail (I don't think convention attendees and police headquarters/jail are ideal immediate neighbors); and 4.) Create a massive barrier between the Bay Street public edge and the river, permanently sacrificing an opportunity to connect the Bay Street redevelopment area from the waterfront.

1. A $20million cost for shoring up the pilings is a drop ion the bucket when it comes to the long-term viability of our downtown

2. It is not that small of a site...it can easily accomodate a 200,000 square foot exhibit hall (not including what could fit on the annex)

3. Condos aren't ideal next to a jail either...but guess what, they got built...as did a 950+ room hotel 2 blocks away....fact is, putting the convention center right nexty to the Hyatt is ideal...and if it needed to be expanded in the future, the police buidling and jail would be optimal locations...and then you just build a diagonal connecting bridge (like orlando just did).

4. Bay Street is mainly an entertainment district....so having conventioneers in town spending money at restaurants and bars will be fine...as for connecting to the river, that can be done as part of streetscape enhancements to Market and/or Liberty Streets

$20mm is taxpayer money that should be invested carefully. It will require constant maintenance in such a dynamic river environment, and eventual replacement - at a much higher figure sometime in the future. Once you spend it today you aren't done.

Maybe you can fit 200k sf on the site. What have you done to the quality of the environment a block or two from the river with a high-capacity multi-story facility that caters to guests/tourists rather than the residents? I suggest that a convention center on the river creates a massive wall that diminishes the value and potential redevelopment of the Bay Street corridor and the blocks to the north.

The condos and hotel are struggling in their current locations - and one half-bombed out Berkman Tower sits unfinished. An inviting waterfront park/square is a strong connection between a potential convention center and host hotel.

Bay Street may be thought of as an entertainment district now, but it can be much more, with the blocks north an organically grown, highly dynamic mixed use district that supports residential, restaurants, more hotels, bars, office, and whatever else. An "entertainment center" is a contrived model that rarely works. Convention guests and visitors want places that have integrity to the city's they are visiting - they want to see where "real life" in a city happens. Savannah, Charleston, Portland, San Antonio, Seattle, and Greenville are good examples of this.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 12:29:48 PM
In regards to the elevated parking lot situation.... 

Why not build a seawall and fill it in?  Clearly that has happened on the adjacent hyatt and berkman parcels.  It's not like you are damaging the river there.  It's been covered by a parking lot for 50 years.

That's an option, but a very expensive option as well. With the river roughly 60-65' deep it would be a major structural seawall, at probably a similar price tag. And it would need constant ongoing maintenance & eventual replacement at the end of its life-cycle.

tufsu1

July 10, 2012, 01:18:23 PM
Steve...you're suggesting that the park/squrae would be a strong connection between a potential convention center and host hotel....so where are you proposing a convention center be built?

as a sidebar, some images of what a convention center on the courthouse/parking lot site could look like can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/more-convention-center-concept-images/

Ocklawaha

July 10, 2012, 02:34:19 PM
Oh no, you mean we'd cashier the Jaxiananmen Square idea for a focus on our waterfront and Riverwalk?

...I love it, but also think the old City Hall should be spared and recycled. Moving the Sheriff's office out to a near courthouse location and the jail to, um, perhaps Goat Island, would be an improvement too.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 03:10:47 PM
Steve...you're suggesting that the park/squrae would be a strong connection between a potential convention center and host hotel....so where are you proposing a convention center be built?

as a sidebar, some images of what a convention center on the courthouse/parking lot site could look like can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/more-convention-center-concept-images/

Personally, I think the current Jail/Police Headquarters site is a preferred location. It's proximity to the River/Shipyards site, to the Hyatt (kitty-corner through Courthouse Park), and potential synergies with other high-capacity venues such as the Arena, Ballpark, and Stadium are strong. It can also be helpful in connecting the stadium district with the downtown core and encourage organic growth and redevelopment in the blocks immediately north of the old courthouse/annex - west of the current jail police headquarters (which are currently pretty much no-man's land).

The TransformJax images of the Convention Center on the river doesn't leave any meaningful space along the river, is overwhelming to the human scale of Bay Street, and separates the main public edge along Bay Street from the river. Yes, you can create a great convention center on that site - but what other opportunities have you lost in doing so...?

tufsu1

July 10, 2012, 03:18:37 PM
why is it overwhelming (proposed building isn't as tall as the Churchwell Lofts) to the pedestrian scale?  Following your point, why would it not be overwhelming if built where the police station and jail currently sit?

As an example, check out the Pennsylvania Covention Center in Philly on Google Maps....it is much bigger than what is being proposed here (goes for several blocks along Arch St) and has arguably improved the pedestrian experience vs. what was there previously....also look at the Frontier Center in Milwaukee

http://www.paconvention.com/

http://www.midwestairlinescenter.com/categories/2-frontierairlinescenter

vicupstate

July 10, 2012, 03:42:41 PM
Steve...you're suggesting that the park/squrae would be a strong connection between a potential convention center and host hotel....so where are you proposing a convention center be built?

as a sidebar, some images of what a convention center on the courthouse/parking lot site could look like can be found here.

http://transformjax.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/more-convention-center-concept-images/

Personally, I think the current Jail/Police Headquarters site is a preferred location. It's proximity to the River/Shipyards site, to the Hyatt (kitty-corner through Courthouse Park), and potential synergies with other high-capacity venues such as the Arena, Ballpark, and Stadium are strong. It can also be helpful in connecting the stadium district with the downtown core and encourage organic growth and redevelopment in the blocks immediately north of the old courthouse/annex - west of the current jail police headquarters (which are currently pretty much no-man's land).

The TransformJax images of the Convention Center on the river doesn't leave any meaningful space along the river, is overwhelming to the human scale of Bay Street, and separates the main public edge along Bay Street from the river. Yes, you can create a great convention center on that site - but what other opportunities have you lost in doing so...?

I've always thought the best single location for a COnvention Center would be the jail/police site, for all the reasons you list.  It would be close enough to the river to still be basically 'riverfront' but yet on a much larger site than the courthouse and serve as a connector for the Northbank and the Stadium district.  Plus the courthouse site could be use for some other purpose. 

acme54321

July 10, 2012, 03:48:53 PM
I think we can all agree that the jail needs to GO.

I-10east

July 10, 2012, 03:59:15 PM
Everyone wants to move things, but no one has any idea where to relocate them; So where are the jail and police department gonna relocate to? That does not seem practical at all IMO, it simply will not happen; You might as well wish for the Morocco Temple, or the Immaculate Conception to move, it will have the same effect, none.   

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 05:09:09 PM
why is it overwhelming (proposed building isn't as tall as the Churchwell Lofts) to the pedestrian scale?  Following your point, why would it not be overwhelming if built where the police station and jail currently sit?

As an example, check out the Pennsylvania Covention Center in Philly on Google Maps....it is much bigger than what is being proposed here (goes for several blocks along Arch St) and has arguably improved the pedestrian experience vs. what was there previously....also look at the Frontier Center in Milwaukee

http://www.paconvention.com/

http://www.midwestairlinescenter.com/categories/2-frontierairlinescenter

Neither the Philly or Milwaukee Convention Center are ON the waterfront, or interrupt public interaction with the waterfront. In the case of Philly, there are multiple several-hundred room hotels in close proximity, so the convention center is probably a big step down in scale by way of comparison. As I said, I don't dispute that we can build a great Convention Center on that site. But my opinion is that the structural costs together with the sacrifice of the public's waterfront access, and potential diminished value that a barrier such as this creates several blocks perpendicular to the river isn't worth it as compared with other options.

acme54321

July 10, 2012, 05:10:34 PM
Here's a spot: http://goo.gl/maps/kjJ7

thelakelander

July 10, 2012, 05:27:17 PM
Everyone wants to move things, but no one has any idea where to relocate them; So where are the jail and police department gonna relocate to? That does not seem practical at all IMO, it simply will not happen; You might as well wish for the Morocco Temple, or the Immaculate Conception to move, it will have the same effect, none.   
The bigger issue with moving something is where does the money come from to pay for the relocation?  We don't even value funding for proper maintenance of parks, schools and libraries.  It will be a cold day in hell before the jail relocates.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 06:13:03 PM
Everyone wants to move things, but no one has any idea where to relocate them; So where are the jail and police department gonna relocate to? That does not seem practical at all IMO, it simply will not happen; You might as well wish for the Morocco Temple, or the Immaculate Conception to move, it will have the same effect, none.   
The bigger issue with moving something is where does the money come from to pay for the relocation?  We don't even value funding for proper maintenance of parks, schools and libraries.  It will be a cold day in hell before the jail relocates.

I don't necessarily agree.

It will be a cold day in hell if we look at everything as a "cost" (expenditure with no return) rather than an investment (expenditure designed to return more than what's spent). Nearly all improvements in Jacksonville have been "costs" - and we've been left with lots of unanswered questions about what do do with what's been created/left behind/etc...

If Jacksonville's improvements are looked at as investments - purposefully intended to serve their purpose AND to represent the city's values and achieve other goals and objectives (including greater economic growth/value) - then better decisions can be made and the city's potential can be realized.

Unfortunately, the current stance of disinvestment and cutting doesn't support this way of thinking --- and will (and has) cost the city much more in the long run than making well-conceived investments today.

To that point, it's sad that we can justify building tens-to-hundreds of millions of dollars building new roads, freeways, overpasses, etc. - yet we have trouble building or maintaining parks, can't keep libraries open, aren't making public transit improvements, and have school facilities that are embarrassingly inadequate. As a community, we will fall further and further behind if our investments are so consistently misguided. 

thelakelander

July 10, 2012, 06:36:00 PM
I actually agree with your statement even though my previous post sounds like the opposite.

tufsu1

July 10, 2012, 09:04:03 PM
Neither the Philly or Milwaukee Convention Center are ON the waterfront, or interrupt public interaction with the waterfront.

ok..well in that case, how about San Diego or Tampa

the key here is making sure tha actual riverfront (i.e., the riverwalk) is still public....and that there are vistas to the water (which Market and Liberty St would do)....remember that we have a pretty large public open space on the river at the Shipyards...and there won't be major development there anytime soon....plus there's Metro Park...why do we need another one?

Also keep in mind that convention centers are used by local citizens for trade shows (think boat show, home show, car show) and ballrooms could be rented for weddings and the like....I agree that it would be a large piece of land and that public use of at least some of it is key.

One idea TransForm Jax has had (doesn't show in drawings) is to have a terrace on the second level cantilever out over Coastline Drive...and then use the Coastline Drive space as an occasional covered market space...and as noted, another idea is to have the center's roof be used as passive and/or active recreation space.

jcjohnpaint

July 10, 2012, 09:47:50 PM
Personally I'm so sold on the whole convention center idea.  The center will be dead when not in use and the jail wouldn't even provide much more space even if it did move.  The only way that space will stay public would be some kind of park.  Although I don't think the Annex should be torn down either. 

Tacachale

July 10, 2012, 09:53:41 PM
Steve, in general I like your proposal. One thing I can't tell from the pics I can see online - would the old City Hall building be torn down?

I'd rather it not be.

Steve_Lovett

July 10, 2012, 11:54:04 PM
Neither the Philly or Milwaukee Convention Center are ON the waterfront, or interrupt public interaction with the waterfront.

ok..well in that case, how about San Diego or Tampa

the key here is making sure tha actual riverfront (i.e., the riverwalk) is still public....and that there are vistas to the water (which Market and Liberty St would do)....remember that we have a pretty large public open space on the river at the Shipyards...and there won't be major development there anytime soon....plus there's Metro Park...why do we need another one?

Also keep in mind that convention centers are used by local citizens for trade shows (think boat show, home show, car show) and ballrooms could be rented for weddings and the like....I agree that it would be a large piece of land and that public use of at least some of it is key.

One idea TransForm Jax has had (doesn't show in drawings) is to have a terrace on the second level cantilever out over Coastline Drive...and then use the Coastline Drive space as an occasional covered market space...and as noted, another idea is to have the center's roof be used as passive and/or active recreation space.

Tampa's Convention Center has been widely criticized because it chokes access to the river and it has been credited with being a limitation to downtown Tampa's redevelopment because of the limited opportunity for waterfront engagement. Compare the values and activity along Bayshore with a waterfront public edge compared with downtown Tampa that is largely walled in behind the Convention Center.

I happen to be an Arthur Erickson fan and really like the San Diego Convention Center. But it's not as constrained as Jacksonville's courthouse site and it's not built over the water. If it were in a tightly constrained site it wouldn't have been able to expand and adapt to the market as it has - and SD wouldn't be the great convention city it has become.

My opinion on this site is informed by numerous factors, including: future adaptability/expansion, cost of structural requirements and ongoing maintenance costs, elimination of a potentially great public waterfront venue along Bay Street, the ability of this site to be a catalyst for private investment and to create value in the Bay Street District multiple blocks from the river, and the fact that the jail in its current location will forever be a limiting factor in the ability to make the desired connection between the downtown core and sports complex. 

Steve_Lovett

July 11, 2012, 12:06:00 AM
Steve, in general I like your proposal. One thing I can't tell from the pics I can see online - would the old City Hall building be torn down?

I'd rather it not be.

The plan I prepared shows it torn down - mostly because that's the scenario that was posed to me by those who asked me to study these sites. But it doesn't have to be, and I don't necessarily think it should be. I would suggest that the first phase (east block - old courthouse) of the park be developed immediately, and the old City Hall continue to function as it does now (and will for a couple of years). At that time the park can be expanded or the old City Hall building can be adapted for reuse, and oriented to take advantage of it's location adjacent to a great park.

Frankly, my hope in this whole exercise is not so much to force a specific detailed concept but to look at how we make decisions differently - based in Jacksonville's values, and achieving clear goals and objectives with great conviction. The concept is but one idea of what that can possibly look like, and how many different things it can accomplish. I have given it a lot of thought and study and think it has merit, but the final determination will best be informed by extensive public engagement, input, and participation.

simms3

July 11, 2012, 12:21:32 AM
I like Steve's plan.  It has forced me to reconsider my own stance on the CC there.  He is talking "big-city big-picture" speak, too, when he believes everything the city does should be viewed and treated as an investment rather than a cost.

I am glad we agree that there is little to anything salvageable from those 50s/60s government buildings.  Actually - I wish they were salvageable and could be sold to the private market, but there's just no way.  Anyone who buys those buildings is buying land (or I guess in the courthouse's case water!).

Thank you Steve for very intelligent and well thought out replies and thank you for your editorial in the JBJ.

jcjohnpaint

July 11, 2012, 07:56:31 AM
Pittsburgh is another cc on the river.  I really feel that it is quite a dead spot in the dt and river when no convention is taking place.  Philly has the Terminal market that keeps the cc area booming, but on the new segment on N Broad is only somewhat populate because of the Art Academy and Race on the back is pretty dead.  I don't think a convention center is going to add to much vibrancy to Bay in Jax. 
What if the site was between:
Forsyth and Water on on side and Lee and Jefferson on the other.  The only problem I see is a suburban style office building on the land.  Probably would be much easier to move than the Jail and would provide more space.  The skyway is running through the site.  Most convention centers have street running through with ground level lobby/parking, so the center is raised.  Pittsburgh, Philly, LA etc.  The skyway could run under the center and have a convention center stop in the lobby or courtyard/ whatever. 
If the cc was on this site is wouldn't have to break the grid either, would be in close proximity to the downtown without being in the middle, and be next to the transportation center.   

Tacachale

July 11, 2012, 11:57:34 AM
Steve, in general I like your proposal. One thing I can't tell from the pics I can see online - would the old City Hall building be torn down?

I'd rather it not be.

The plan I prepared shows it torn down - mostly because that's the scenario that was posed to me by those who asked me to study these sites. But it doesn't have to be, and I don't necessarily think it should be. I would suggest that the first phase (east block - old courthouse) of the park be developed immediately, and the old City Hall continue to function as it does now (and will for a couple of years). At that time the park can be expanded or the old City Hall building can be adapted for reuse, and oriented to take advantage of it's location adjacent to a great park.

Frankly, my hope in this whole exercise is not so much to force a specific detailed concept but to look at how we make decisions differently - based in Jacksonville's values, and achieving clear goals and objectives with great conviction. The concept is but one idea of what that can possibly look like, and how many different things it can accomplish. I have given it a lot of thought and study and think it has merit, but the final determination will best be informed by extensive public engagement, input, and participation.

That wasn't a criticism of your ideas, which as I say are pretty impressive. More just a general observation that I'd rather we found a re-use for the old City Hall.

simms3

July 11, 2012, 12:55:02 PM
^^^I don't think that's possible Tacachale, unless you want to keep city government employees in there.  It's basically a non-adaptible building that the private sector would never touch without major incentives and guarantees, aka taxpayer dollars going towards it with their profit basically in development fees alone.

thelakelander

July 11, 2012, 01:15:19 PM
^Why do you think it is non-adaptable and why shouldn't it be combined with incentives to get something done?  The fact that it's structurally sound and already publicly owned makes the incentive process much easier, imo.  Where else in town can you find a 15 story tower within a block of the river.  Until we actually try and market it as a redevelopment project and no suitors turn up, I think its a stretch to automatically assume it has no future.

fieldafm

July 11, 2012, 01:20:51 PM
Exactly, and considering the supply of large tracts of office space outside of downtown (which has been dwindling in the last few years) this building could make a decent office tower or considering the supply of residential units downtown (which are near capacity... clearly demand is outweighing supply, evident by multifamily starts near the CBD) the building could make a decent and moderately priced residential reuse project.

Tacachale

July 11, 2012, 01:27:38 PM
^I agree.

fsujax

July 11, 2012, 01:59:41 PM
I see no reason why the tower couldnt be re-used. It has to be one of the most structurally sound buildings around! a huge elevator shaft to boot. Between this building and the old JEA building, the City needs to get moving on putting them back on the tax rolls.

tufsu1

July 11, 2012, 04:13:41 PM
What if the site was between:
Forsyth and Water on on side and Lee and Jefferson on the other. 

if we site a convention center away from the Hyatt, then we likely need to subsidize another convention hotel adjacent to it in order for the center to be successful.

tufsu1

July 11, 2012, 04:15:40 PM
Between this building and the old JEA building, the City needs to get moving on putting them back on the tax rolls.

the old JEA building is owned by Petra (Hionides)...and he wants $9 million for it!

jcjohnpaint

July 11, 2012, 04:16:34 PM
Tufsu I really do like the images from Transform Jax.  Enough to keep me quiet. 

stephendare

July 11, 2012, 04:20:04 PM
What if the site was between:
Forsyth and Water on on side and Lee and Jefferson on the other. 

if we site a convention center away from the Hyatt, then we likely need to subsidize another convention hotel adjacent to it in order for the center to be successful.

Huh?

The convention center needs a signature convention event to be successful, not another hotel.
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