Several innovative ideas envisioned and produced in Jacksonville have significantly altered the pattern of urban development in our country. Today, thousands of office parks line major highways in cities all across the nation. Unknown to most Jaxons, the nation's first suburban office park was developed in Jacksonville in 1957 and still exists today.
Ira McKissick Koger (1912-2004) is credited with creating the office park concept. During his career, he designed, built, financed, and leased more than 30 office parks acros the country, producing $150 million in annual rent.
Born in Charleston, SC, Koger first came to Jacksonville in 1939 to serve as an advertising manager for an afternoon newspaper. After entering the Navy during World War II, Koger returned to Jacksonville and eventually took over a construction company owned by his wife's great-uncle, O.P. Woodcock.
In the mid-1950s, Koger envisioned the concept of the suburban office complex as an alternative to Jacksonville's congested downtown, high-rise offices. He believed that businesses would prefer offices in the suburbs with easy access to highways and ample free surface parking.
Koger's original office complex opened as the Koger Center a few miles outside of downtown in Jacksonville's fairly undeveloped Southside in 1957. The concept proved to be very popular and highly successful. As Koger expanded the suburban office concept to other communities, other developers took note and did the same. Koger Properties eventually developed 350 buildings in 36 office parks across the country by the time it collapsed under heavy debt load, filing for Chapter 11 protection in 1991.
In 1999, Koger Equity Inc. sold the pioneering office park to Lennar Partners of Miami as a part of a plan to get rid of older properties. At the time of the sell, Jacksonville-based Koger Equity had 263 office buildings operating or under construction in 15 cities throughout the country.
Now known as the Midtown Centre and owned by D Group Equities, the nation's first suburban office complex features 31 buildings comprising 762,993 square feet.