Playing tourist in Midtown

Recently I spent a long weekend in NYC. It had been 12 years since I had visited the Big Apple, and I delighted in playing tourist: staying in mid-town Manhattan, attending a wedding in Long Island City and shopping in SoHo. But, despite the fact that I was visiting for pleasure, I couldn’t help but make mental notes of big city best practices.

Learning curve aside, it’s easy to see how New York’s public transportation makes living without a car a reality for so many. You name it, I took it. Buses were standing room only. Buskers danced to Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” on the subway, while seasoned New Yorkers put on their best poker faces. (I couldn’t say which was more entertaining.) Taxis were convenient and warm on cold, snowy evenings. The waits were brief and the wayfinding concise. But in my opinion, the best part about public transit is the before and after… the walking, and its associated physical and mental health benefits that so many New Yorkers enjoy.

Central Park and its People

New York’s public parks are well managed and programmed, drawing large crowds despite freezing March temperatures. Bryant Park is a frequently referenced case study for public space management and it’s easy to see why. Meticulously maintained, Bryant Park had lush landscaping, a wealth of moveable tables and chairs, hospitable signage, and plenty of programming: I happened upon both an ice-skating rink and a children’s health food festival during my stop. And though I only had a half hour to spend in Central Park, the experience there was quite similar. I watched harbor seals frolicking at the Central Park Zoo, spied a second ice-skating rink, and took in the natural beauty as I wandered among joggers, tourists and locals alike on a late Sunday afternoon.

Adaptive reuse and historic preservation are alive and well in New York. Take trendy SoHo for example. Crowded streets zigzagged through the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. Decorative cast iron facades—dating back to between the 1840 to the 1880s in many cases—encompass pre-existing industrial buildings. The facades enabled buildings to attract commercial clients over the years. And then following the abandonment of a proposed elevated expressway plan, which would have devastated the area in the 1960s, the district attracted artists who utilized the buildings for living and working studios. Today, the district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, declared a National Historic Landmark and is chocked full of galleries and shops.

There’s something special about New York: the setting for so many stories, the subject of so many songs. And while there’s a lot to be learned from other cities big and small, I’m also reminded of all that’s special about Downtown Jacksonville. The small-town charm, locally owned and operated businesses, the way the Florida sun reflects off the St. Johns, and the vast possibilities for a city starting to come into its own.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Historic Preservation No Comments  

Tonight, City Council will entertain public hearings on the Mayor’s $9 million investment plan for Downtown and the mobility fee moratorium. Discussion on the Bostwick Building, however, continues to be deferred at the request of the property owners, but is still scheduled to be on the March 5 Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee agenda.

In light of this, we thought we’d revisit the Bostwick discussion with this excellent design exploration from our friends over at Content Design Group showcasing one option for adaptive reuse:

Urban facelift rendering by Content Design Group

 “This urban facelift obviously just shows one way to save the building, keeping the facade and putting in new windows and doors, adding another steel structure to the walls and roof on the interior, and adding a roof deck with bar. This is the most expensive reuse of the building. Another way to save it, would be to only save the facade and build a new separate building on the interior of the lot. Would make a fantastic outdoor space between the shell of the old and the new.”

Full article and more renderings here.

by: Jennifer Hewett-Apperson in Advocacy, Historic Preservation No Comments  

Jacksonville City Council’s Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee will conduct a public hearing and make a recommendation on two pieces of legislation regarding the Guaranty Trust and Savings Building/Bostwick Building at its next meeting, tomorrow, Tuesday, January 15, at 5:00 p.m. The first item that will be addressed is Resolution 2012-657, which is the owners’ appeal of the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission’s (JHPC) denial of a demolition permit sought by the owners. If this appeal is granted, then the second piece of legislation that is on the agenda – Ordinance 2012-720, which is an application by the JHPC to designate this building a Local Landmark – will be rendered moot. Designation of the Guaranty Trust/Bostwick Building as a Local Landmark would protect this historic building from future demolition threats and is dependent upon the denial of the demolition permit being upheld. 

What can you do to help save this building? Speak in opposition of the owners’ appeal of the JHPC denial of the demolition permit (RESO 2012-657) and in support of granting the building Landmark status (ORD 2012-720) at the January 15 LUZ meeting. If you cannot attend this meeting, then please email the members of the LUZ Committee and City Council.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Historic Preservation No Comments  

The fate of the Bostwick Building will be decided over the next three weeks.

On Tuesday, January 8, City Council will hold its first public hearing regarding the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission’s (JHPC) recommendation to designate the Guaranty Trust and Savings Building, also known as the Bostwick Building, a historic landmark through ordinance 2012-720. DVI needs you to make your voice heard.

The hearing will be held at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. Public comment is limited to three minutes per speaker. If you cannot attend the public hearing, please call or email City Council representatives. Building facts and contact information is provided below.

In the past twenty years, Downtown Jacksonville has lost nearly 30 historic buildings.

People want a place with a vibe, with character. A healthy stock of historic buildings gives a place personality, and allows that place to attract the creative class: creators, innovators and investors. Historic buildings foster small business incubation and affordable housing. Historic buildings help stabilize neighborhoods. Historic buildings attract arts, culture and heritage tourism.

“Every study of travel motivations has shown that an interest in the achievements of the past is among the three major reasons why people travel. The other two are rest or recreation and the desire to view great natural sights… Among cities with no particular recreational appeal, those that have substantially preserved their past continue to enjoy tourism. Those that haven’t receive no tourism at all. It’s as simple as that. Tourism does not go to a city that has lost its soul.” -Arthur Frommer Preservation Forum [1988]

The Bostwick Building is historically significant.

Guaranty Trust and Savings Bank/Bostwick Building (Photo provided by The Jacksonville Historical Society)

The Bostwick Building was among the first buildings permitted following the Great Fire in 1901. It contains bank vaults that survived the Great Fire and once housed the office of Henry Klutho, a noted architect who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and designed many iconic Downtown buildings, including the St. James Building. It made the Jacksonville Historical Society’s “12 Worth Saving” list. It is located in perhaps the most intact block of historic buildings that exists Downtown today. 
And, according to the JHPC the Bostwick Building meets six of the seven criteria established for landmark structures exceeding the requirements for landmark status.

What about property owner rights?

DVI believes that awarding the property owner’s request for a demolition permit rewards property neglect. Property owners have a responsibility to their neighboring properties and the community at large to maintain their properties. And, as a community, we have an obligation to collectively raise our expectations of standards to which we hold our Downtown.

Designating a building, such as the Bostwick Building, as a historic landmark is not just about preventing its destruction; it is a tool that adds value to the building and can make the cost restoration much more feasible. At the local level, landmarks within Downtown can access the Downtown Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Additionally, historically designated properties that undergo substantial rehabilitation may be eligible for an ad valorem tax exemption. Tax credits for up to 20% of the total rehabilitation cost are also available at the federal level for certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure.

District Council Members

District 1: Clay Yarborough. 630-1389 | Clay@coj.net

District 2: William Bishop. 630-1392 | WBishop@coj.net

District 3: Richard Clark. 630-1386 | RClark@coj.net

District 4: Don Redman. 630-1394 | Redman@coj.net (Land Use & Zoning Committee)

District 5: Lori N. Boyer. 630-1382 | LBoyer@coj.net (Land Use & Zoning Chair)

District 6: Matt Schellenberg. 630-1388 | MattS@coj.net (Land Use & Zoning Vice Chair)

District 7: Dr. Johnny Gaffney. 630-1384 | Gaffney@coj.net

District 8: E. Denise Lee. 630-1385 | EDLee@coj.net

District 9: Warren A. Jones. 630-1395 | WAJones@coj.net (Land Use & Zoning Committee)

District 10: Reginald L. Brown. 630-1684 | RBrown@coj.net

District 11: Ray Holt. 630-1383 | Holt@coj.net

District 12: Doyle Carter. 630-1380 | doylec@coj.net  (Land Use & Zoning Committee)

District 13: Bill Gulliford. 630-1397 | Gulliford@coj.net (Land Use & Zoning Committee)

District 14: Jim Love 630-1390 | JimLove@coj.net

At-Large Council Members

Group 1: Kimberly Daniels. 630-1393 | KimDaniels@coj.net

Group 2: John R. Crescimbeni. 630-1381 | JRC@coj.net

Group 3: Stephen C. Joost: 630-1396 | Joost@coj.net

Group 4: Greg Anderson. 630-1398 | GAnderson@coj.net

Group 5: Robin Lumb. 630-1387 | RLumb@coj.net

More on the Land Use & Zoning Committee here.

by: Katherine Hardwick in Advocacy, Historic Preservation No Comments  

Ordinance 2012-720, which provides for the designation of the Bostwick Building as a local landmark, will be introduced tonight, Dec. 11 at City Council. Public hearings have been scheduled for January 8 and 15, 2013. The Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee will make a recommendation to the full City Council, with final action in late January.

The old St. Luke’s Hospital (right) and the Florida Casket Company building. (Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Historical Society)

One is a 130-year-old factory. The other, a 134-year-old hospital. Both are symbols of and testaments to the importance of historic preservation in Downtown Jacksonville.

These buildings – the 1878 St. Luke’s Hospital and the 1882 Florida Casket Company – were purchased this fall by the Jacksonville Historical Society in celebration of the organization’s 80th year. Both are located on the same lot at Palmetto and Duval streets near the Sports Complex area. The Society plans to use the hospital for its archives and the Florida Casket Factory for events, exhibits and other history programs.

With recent developments in the revitalization efforts of the Bostwick Building, the Hayden Burn Library and the Laura Street Trio, the efforts of the Society and others working to preserve Downtown historic structures are crucial to creating a more vibrant Downtown. Plus, it’s good for our economy. In a 2011 study, PlaceEconomics found that historic preservation results in more jobs than new construction, increased property values, increased tourism, fewer environmental impacts and increased quality of life.

What historic Downtown buildings would you like to see renovated, and for what reuse purpose? Weigh in with your thoughts in this post’s comment section.

by: Jennifer Hewett-Apperson in Advocacy, Historic Preservation No Comments  

At yesterday’s meeting, the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission (JHPC) recommended that the Bostwick Building be granted historic landmark status. The JHPC agreed with staff recommendations that the Bostwick Building meets six of the seven criteria established for landmark structures. (The only criterion not met was number two.) In order to be eligible for landmark status, a structure must be at least 50 years old and meet two of the seven criteria if the owner is the applicant, and four criteria if the owner is not the applicant, as is the case here. The commission and staff noted that it is very rare for a building to meet so many of the eligibility criteria.

What happens next? JHPC will forward an advisory recommendation to City Council, accompanied by a report of findings. The landmark recommendation will be taken up by the City Council at the same time as the owner’s appeal of the JHPC’s denial of a request for demolition permit. The public hearings for these items have not been scheduled at this time, but we will provide an update once the dates are known.

If the JHPC’s recommendation is approved by the City Council, then the Bostwick Building will be afforded additional protections against demolition. Declaration of a building as a landmark by City Council also enables the property owner to access a number of financial incentives that can make restoration more cost feasible. At the local level, landmarks within Downtown can access the Downtown Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Additionally, historically designated properties that undergo substantial rehabilitation may be eligible for an ad valorem tax exemptionTax credits for up to 20% of the total rehabilitation cost are also available at the federal level for certified rehabilitation of a certified historic structure. Designating a building, such as the Bostwick Building, as a historic landmark is not just about preventing its destruction; it is a tool that adds value to the building and can make restoration much more cost feasible for the owner.

What can you do? Let your City Council representatives know how you feel about this issue by either emailing them or speaking at the public hearings. Gain an understanding of the issues from an ordinance code standpoint by reviewing City of Jacksonville Ordinance Code Section 307.104 and Section 320.407(b).