For nearly 24 months, it has been one of the most controversial infill development projects in recent years, symbolizing a cultural and demographic shift taking over urban neighborhoods nationwide. Successfully, finding their way through obstacle courses, stumbling blocks and challenges thrown their way, Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers finally opens for business in Avondale.
Jacksonville Florida's fifth Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers opens at 3611 St. Johns Avenue. However, the road to bringing this restaurant into reality wasn't paved with golden bricks. Mellow Mushroom's efforts to open Jacksonville's first urban core location date back to early 2012, when the popular eatery announced its intentions to transform a long abandoned and blighted gas station into a 250-seat restaurant featuring a large outdoor dining area and public plaza in the epicenter of the Shoppes of Avondale, at the intersection of St. Johns Avenue and Ingleside Avenue.
The Avondale Mellow Mushroom site in April 2012. The ranch-style Shell prototype was the most common design for Shell gas stations in North America during the mid 20th century.
The result of this announcement would lead to a full year of legal challenges from a segment of nearby neighbors who were of the belief that a new business in the heart of the popular commercial district would lead to the loss of the right of peaceable enjoyment of their properties, reduced property values due to traffic, parking, light, noise, and nuisance issues, public safety hazards, and stifling of existing businesses. On the other hand, these challenges led to others in the immediate community branding together to show support for a project that would remove blight from the district, resulting in a more pedestrian friendly and vibrant mixed-use urban environment.
Initial conceptual site plan showing adaptive reuse intent, addition of bike racks integrated within public space via landscape buffer, outdoor seating that interacts with streetscape and addition of 14 net new parking spaces
Responding to fears that the business was too 'cookie cutter' and it would not meet its parking demand, Mellow Mushroom revised their plans for the former shell gas station site. The 1990's ranch style building was demolished and replaced with a new building, closer to the street, allowing the rear of the property to become the largest off-street parking lot within the commercial district.
Revised conceptual site plan based on the recommendations of the opposition group “We Love Avondale LLC” and representatives of Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP).
Furthermore, the restaurant itself isn't the typical dining establishment you'd find on Beach, Atlantic or Blanding Boulevard. Living true to their word to develop something unique for the area, the structure's decor features a contemporary jazz-inspired theme and goes as far as to include a retired fire truck parked inside of it.
According to the company's website, mellow is a state of mind, a culture, a way of being and their mission is to provide delicious food in a fun and creative environment. This goal appears to have been achieved with the opening of their Avondale location.
Regardless, of whether one thinks Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers is a suitable business for an urban core commercial district, it's worth a trip to Avondale to check out the result of a local business working with the community to make a product that all should be proud of.