EverBank Coming Downtown, Now What?

December 28, 2011 88 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Downtown's revitalization efforts received a major boost last week with EverBank Financial Corporation's official announcement to lease 270,000 square feet of office space in the AT&T Tower 301, which will be renamed EverBank Center. While a conversation on what's needed next to keep the momentum going will bring up several worthy projects across the urban core, here is one opportunity directly related to the EverBank move not to be overlooked.

Creating Vibrancy by Exposing EverBank Center's Retail at Street Level

In a vibrant, walkable downtown, building bases must be human-scaled and allow for interaction between indoors and out. Preferably, there should be active ground-floor uses that create valuable experiences along a street for both pedestrians and motorists. For instance, a row of shops along a street is more interesting and generally safer to walk by than a blank wall or empty lot. Sidewalk activity also serves to slow vehicular traffic. At the very minimum, the edge connection should be visual, allowing passersby to enjoy the activities and aesthetics of the indoor space. These edge uses should be active year-round and unite both sides of the street.

Despite the grim view many have of downtown Jacksonville, one would be surprised to learn that there are a number of businesses in the heart of our central business district that can not be seen from the sidewalk. This is financially limiting for these businesses, as well as contributes to the empty feeling of downtown Jacksonville's streetscape. A year ago we featured the now EverBank Center's (formerly the AT&T Tower) mall as an example of a space that could be cosmetically improved to better expose its retail offerings at street level:

Newsflash Jacksonville: There won't be a Whole Foods, Publix, Nordstrom, or 10,000 residents beating down the doors of downtown anytime soon. However, this does not mean that all is lost. Better exposing and utilizing what's already there is an affordable solution that will stimulate additional foot traffic and create the unique sense of place city leaders desire.

Located on the first two floors of the AT&T Tower (now EverBank Center), The Tower Mall is home to several retailers, eateries and services. Unfortunately, they can't be seen from the street due to window treatment, blank exterior walls, and lack of signage.

This entire block of retail on Forsyth Street is hidden behind tinted windows, landscaping and closed window blinds.

The entrance to Tower Mall near the intersection of Forsyth & Pearl Streets.

This convenience store is along the sidewalk but can't be seen from it.

Confetti's serves donuts, muffins, coffee, sandwiches, salads, and wraps at the corner of Forsyth & Julia Streets. Unless you knew the general public could enter the building, you would never know Confetti's actually exists.

More businesses, including a florist and large cafeteria, along with vacant retail spaces line the tower's ground-level arcade.  One can only wonder what will happen to these businesses once CSX relocates from the AT&T Tower.  Better connectivity with the public streets around this complex would at least let the general public know they actually exist.  EDITOR'S NOTE: Many of these businesses did close once CSX relocated their offices from the tower.

Full article:  Creating Downtown Vibrancy by Exposing Secret Retail

A Simple Solution

Sidewalk dining and outdoor seating at the base of an Arlington, VA office tower.

Long-underutilized and hidden from downtown's workers, visitors, and shoppers, Tower Mall will be a major part of the AT&T Tower's conversion into the EverBank Center.  In addition to EverBank occupying nine floors of the building, a fitness center, Wi-Fi hot spots,  food court, and a national vendor coffee shop are expected to occupy the building by mid 2012 as well.  To insure the long-term vitality of these businesses, they should not be forced to rely soley on the presence of office tenants on the floors above them alone.  Transparent windows at ground level, signage, better lighting, outdoor seating at mall entrances, removing window blinds and installing a mall entrance sign or directory along the sidewalk are all viable affordable options that would improve the pedestrian-level retail environment on this block bounded by Forsyth, Julia, Bay and Pearl Streets.

An example of a transparent storefront entry and exterior signage in downtown Kansas City.

If we're looking for an immediate enhancement in the vitality of the "walkable core", utilizing EverBank's plans to include urban design concepts that expose, promote, and integrate the base of EverBank Center with the pedestrian-scale environment surrounding, is a great next step in downtown's rebirth.

Article by Ennis Davis.