Free Bird needs a new location and downtown advocates want more nightlife. Can a match be made?
The owners of Freebird Live, in Jacksonville Beach, are looking to relocate from Jacksonville Beach to a strip center in Atlantic Beach. Rumor has it that a new upscale club will be moving into Freebird’s current space, forcing them to seek a new location. However, there is one major kink in Freebird’s plans to takeover a vacant 6,600sf space, formerly occupied by Atlantic Theatres. The city of Atlantic Beach does not want them because of the potential parking and sound problems affecting nearby residential areas.
So lets sum up the situation. One of the country’s premier smaller live music venues needs a new location and Atlantic Beach doesn’t want them. Can you hear it? Here comes opportunity knocking at our door again. Lets think outside the box. Why not relocate to downtown. It’s no secret that downtown is on its way back to claim its spot as the city’s top entertainment destination. Night time crowds have been increasing rapidly since a new crop of venues, such as Club Paris, Mark’s, TSI, Deep Blue, and Twisted Martini to name a few have recently hit the downtown scene. Offering the olive branch for Freebird Live to come downtown is something that can greatly benefit all parties.
Here are a few locations that could be ideal for Freebird’s operations.
Bay Street Town Center – Churchwell Building
The Churchwell features a 10,000sf space at ground level that served as a club during the Super Bowl. The building will soon be renovated with residential lofts on the upper three floors. This location would be beneficial to both the city and Freebird, because it sits on the same block as Mark’s, the Dive Bar, and TSI, with GQ’s Wine Bar a short distance away. Combine these live music venues and bars together and you have the makings of a nightlife district with synergy, a first for Jacksonville.
Haydon Burns Library
With the JEDC and Main Branch putting together a deal for this large facility, there would be plenty of room for an establishment like Freebird. The location has central visibility on downtown’s main streets, is within walking distance of most of the Northbank, and there is already night time synergy forming between the Burrito Gallery, Moon Colony Razorblade, and London Bridge.
The Landing is the city’s premier attraction for out of town visitors. It has struggled in the past, but is enjoying a huge turn around under the direction of Toney Sleiman. Freebird would benefit from this location by getting more exposure to visitors coming in and through town, while the Landing would benefit from having on of the region’s most unique live music venues. Can you imagine this place with the crowds Freebird, Twisted Martini, Hooters, Fuddruckers, Club Paris, Deep Blue, and more could combine to pull together?
Bay Street Town Center – Holmes Block
This 16,664sf building was renovated for the Super Bowl two years ago. Other than a small architectural office, the rest of this historic structure still sits vacant. This location would provide Freebird with more than enough space for its operations, along with high visibility from the Main Street Bridge, and visitors coming and going to the sports district. For downtown, with Freebird at this location, it would provide a strong destination anchor for the Bay Street Town Center. This building also shares an alleyway with the Florida Theater. Property owners in the area plan to convert the alley into an outdoor courtyard with restaurants/bars possibly opening up into it.
Snyder Music Hall
Probably the most intriguing of all, combining this one-of-a-kind space with a unique Jacksonville musical institution, like Freebird, could be a match made in heaven. Owned by the City, Snyder offers 13,800sf of space along with large sidewalks and a location on Hemming Plaza, which could provide room for large crowds and special music events. At this location, Freebird benefits by taking over a vacant, available space designed for music events while the city benefits by having another strong locally based anchor destination at Hemming Plaza. Maybe even a themed restaurant or small attraction focusing on the Jacksonville’s music scene and history (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ray Charles, etc.) could be a part of this as well?
Basically, getting Freebird and downtown together could become one of the best things to happen to downtown, at least since the "Big Idea's" plan died. The opportunity is here. Now it is time for all parties to take advantage of the situation.