Downtown development spotlight: Haydon Burns Library

Rendering of the Jesse Ball duPont Center
Rendering of the Jessie Ball duPont Center

On the east side of the city block bound by Adams, Ocean, Forsyth and Main streets sits a vacant architectural icon of Downtown Jacksonville. Come 2015, this landmark, the former Haydon Burns Main Jacksonville Public Library designed by local architect Taylor Hardwick in 1965, will be bustling with activity thanks to the vision of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.

Last year, the organization purchased the former library with plans to convert it into a center for nonprofits, the Jessie Ball duPont Center. With design plans drawn and the team poised to begin, construction is expected to get underway next month to resurrect this historic structure.

Sherry Magill, president of the Fund, spoke at Friday’s JAXChamber Downtown Council meeting. Her passion almost palpable, Magill shared with her audience of business owners and city leaders some insight into what’s planned for this “truly catalystic” project.

Downtown Council
Sherry Magill speaks to the Downtown Council.

Here are some interesting takeaways from her talk:

  • The project was a “big leap of faith for the trustees” of the Fund. Of their $280 million portfolio, nearly 10 percent of that amount will be invested in this project (about $20-21 million including purchase price).
  • The building’s well-known exterior will remain mostly intact with a few slight renovations and adjustments.
  • The Center will be “as green as it possibly can be,” said Magill. Plans include a green roof, properly insulated windows, rain-water recycling capabilities and other green initiatives.
  • The building will including a central walkway open to the public that will allow access to the garden.
  • The second floor will house a conference center with additional space for seminars and other events.
  • The corner across from Burro Bar (Adams and Ocean streets) will include retail space, possibly for a local coffee shop or eatery, with cafe seating outside.
  • Occupancy will start with an anchor nonprofit and fill in from there. Organizations interested include nonprofits in policy, finance education, housing and neighborhood redevelopment and others.
  • Once complete, the building will offer about 85,000 square feet of rentable space in addition to about 5,000 square feet that will be used for the Fund’s new headquarters. It is expected the building will house about 250 nonprofit workers once at capacity.

With construction expected to begin in early February, Magill said the building should be move-in ready by March 2015. “We would not have just picked any building in Downtown Jacksonville,” she said. “Jacksonville is going to be really proud of this project.”

The project to convert the former Haydon Burns Library into the Jessie Ball duPont Center will go before the Downtown Development Review Board for final review next week, January 15. Stay tuned to DVI’s news section for updates as this project progresses.