Durkeeville Project Illustrates Zoning Code Issues

June 7, 2011 17 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While the introduction of Family Dollar should be a boon for a neighborhood in need of additional retail, allowing an autocentric suburban box in the middle of a historic, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood illustrates why Jacksonville's zoning code should be modified.

The Project

Project site

Construction is underway on a one-story, 9,180-square-foot Family Dollar store on the southwest corner of Myrtle Avenue and Kings Road in Durkeeville.  

Demolition underway along Kings Road for Family Dollar store.

Neighborhood History & Context

Durkeeville is located just northwest of Downtown Jacksonville.

The Durkeeville community was founded in the 1930s, when African-Americans were barred from living in many parts of the city.

This was during the period of mandatory separation of the races and legal discrimination.  The people who came together to create Durkeeville were middle class and working class individuals.  Some were doctors, lawyers, educators and business people.  Others were ordinary laborers.  They created a neighborhood that sheltered and nurtured many during this challenging time.

Unfortunately and ironically, the elimination of legal discrimination resulted in the decline of the community.  This was due to the relocation of many prominent residents and the flight of much commercial activity from the area.

By the 1980s, Durkeeville struggled with urban blight, poverty and crime associated inner city neighborhoods.

A number of the remaining long-term residents formed the Durkeeville Historical Society and collaborated with city officials to revitalize this historic section of Jacksonville.

-Durkeeville Historical Center

These images illustrate that Durkeeville is just as historic and walkable as Riverside, Springfield and San Marco.  Jacksonville's zoning code should recognize this and encourage infill development to fit the surrounding context.


The Problem

Durkeeville is Jacksonville's densest neighborhood and a large percentage of its residents walk, bike and use mass transit as a part of their daily commutes. In addition, the majority of land uses in this historic, streetcar neighborhood are pedestrian-friendly. Despite these contextual characteristics, Jacksonville's suburban zoning code has allowed a design that favors the automobile over the community it is intended to serve.

The Family Dollar site plan showing surface parking between building and street, despite the surrounding buildings being adjacent to the sidewalk, with parking in the rear.

To make room for Family Dollar, the Standard Feed Company's (relocated across the street) historic brick warehouse complex will be demolished. Although Standard Feed opened on April Fool's Day in 1946, the buildings date back decades before that.

Standard Feed is on more than two acres on Kings Road, just west of Interstate 95. There's a mural on the east wall that shows a satisfied-looking farmer and some happy animals. Forklifts buzz around picking up bags of feed . Trucks sit the next lot over, awaiting the next delivery.

The business opened on April Fool's Day 1946, but the brick buildings out back have been in use for longer than that. Walking through them, Davis says that he's heard that people built Model A cars back there, or perhaps aircraft wings.

Love bloomed there too, apparently. He points to some partially obscured graffiti on a post, remarking: "JBW loves somebody in 1939."
Source: "STANDARD PROCEDURE Feed store hasn't changed much since 1946 - and customers like it that way", Florida Times-Union 12/6/09

A Solution: Form-Based Code

A simple solution to limit the destruction and de-densification of our urban core neighborhoods is to implement form-based codes. Form-based codes encourage private-sector projects to seamlessly fit within the surrounding urban context they are intended to serve.

Here is an alternative conceptual site layout of the Family Dollar project. Everything from number of parking spaces and building square footage/shape, to retention-pond measurements has been retained. However, from a form-based code perspective, surface parking has been relocated away from the street, and a public plaza with outdoor seating has been included near the store's entrance that now faces the intersection of Myrtle and Kings.  

Two bus stops, as well as shady tree-lined sidewalks, have been added as well.  This sketch took five minutes to put together, proving that with simple site design modification, a suburban box can be situated in a location that improves the quality of the pedestrian environment surrounding it without an increase in costs to the developer.


What Are Form-Based Codes?

Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. They are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law. Form-based codes offer a powerful alternative to conventional zoning.
Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in both words and clearly drawn diagrams and other visuals. They are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development, rather than only distinctions in land-use types.
This approach contrasts with conventional zoning's focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS), to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory. They are drafted to implement a community plan. They try to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism. Ultimately, a form-based code is a tool; the quality of development outcomes depends on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements.

Riverside Square: A Local Positive Example

What has been approved on this high-profile urban corner in Durkeeville would have never been allowed a short distance away in Riverside.  Here, developers and the surrounding community worked together to create a project that was a win for all parties.  Anchored by Publix, Riverside Square ended up being the first modern retail center in the city to incorporate an urban layout as opposed to the suburban site plan used with Durkeeville's Family Dollar.  As seen below in Riverside, shops line the street in a pedestrian-and-transit-friendly manner, as opposed to a large surface parking lot.  The implementation of form-based codes will allow for scenes like this to take place in communities such as Durkeeville, Brentwood, Eastside, Brooklyn, Moncrief, and North Riverside.


To facilitate the revitalization of the urban core, at a minimum, form-based codes should be considered for the Central Business District (yellow), Urban Priority (light green), and Urban (dark green) development areas of the 2030 Mobility Plan.

For years we've stated that we want to revitalize our urban neighborhoods, make our community more walkable and get our municipal budget under control. Modifying our conventional zoning ordinance, at least within the urban core of our city, is one strong way to move in the direction of turning talk into reality.

Article by Ennis Davis