Seven Decisions That Killed Downtown

August 18, 2015 69 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

During the late 20th century, changes in the nation's business policies and practices dramatically impacted our central business districts. Some, like Charlotte and Houston, came out as winners. Others like New Orleans and Jacksonville were dealt blows they're still working hard to overcome today. Ever wonder why Downtown Jacksonville has too much office space on its hands? Believe it or not, it has nothing to do with local leadership or the popularity of our rapidly growing suburbs.

2. Atlantic National Bank

Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department

Atlantic National Bank (ANB) was founded in 1903 by Edward W. Lane, railroad magnate Thomas P. Dehman, and Fred W. Hoyt. Dehman was a railroad magnate involved with several 19th century railroad companies including the Florida, Atlantic and Gulf Central Railroad and the Atlantic, Suwannee River and Gulf Railway Company.

Its early growth led to the construction of two of downtown's oldest highrises, 121 Atlantic Place (1909) and the Schultz Building (1926). Rising 135 feet, 121 Atlantic Place actually enjoyed a short reign as Florida's tallest. In need of more space, ANB expanded in 1951 by building a large four story modern structure on the corner of Forsyth and Hogan Streets.

Courtesy of the Jacksonville Public Library Special Collections Department

By 1972, ANB had grown to become the largest of Jacksonville's big three banks (ANB, Florida National and Barnett). Now it was time to make their mark on downtown's skyline. That year, ANB announced plans for a $9 million, 18-story tower that would be known as the ANB Building. The 278 foot structure was completed in 1974. ANB occupied floors 1,2,4,5,6,7 and 8 of the 309,000 square foot tower. Floors 9-16, roughly 110,000 square feet, were available for lease. The Clipper Room, a 250-seat restaurant for the bank's employees, and the Quaterdeck Club were located in the building's top floors. ANB connected the new tower and a new garage across the street, with a network of tunnels that also provided access to historic 121 Atlantic Place.

With the bank's assets approaching $3.9 billion, its president Edward Lane, Jr, negotiated the merger of this longtime Jacksonville financial institution with Charlotte-based First Union in 1985. At the time of the merger with First Union, ANB has 1,384 employees downtown.

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