JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Recently approved demolitions of historic structures downtown, including City Hall and Gulf Life, demonstrate an old pattern resurfacing in Jax -- tearing down historic structures in a “wait and see” strategy or for a project that represents the antithesis of a vibrant downtown, a surface parking lot.
Other demolitions like the Greyhound building indicate that preservation and adaptive reuse, especially of mid-century structures, are still not seen as a go-to method for economic revitalization in DT Jax. With each loss of these unique structures, a piece of our community identity and memory is lost as well.
Though Jax is not alone in preservation struggles and there are current preservation success stories in DT Jax, these recent losses raise a larger question about why historic preservation continues to not be at the forefront of a downtown and urban core revitalization strategy like in other major US cities. Three key issues should be considered moving forward.
One, Jacksonville is missing a critical advocacy component that other major cities have - a citywide historic preservation nonprofit organization.
Jacksonville is unique for a city of its size in that it does not have one centralized historic preservation nonprofit for the entire city. Instead, historic preservation advocacy is addressed by smaller nonprofits for specific neighborhoods like Springfield Preservation + Revitalization Council, Riverside Avondale Preservation, Old Arlington Inc., or the San Marco Preservation Society. But other neighborhoods don’t have that preservation advocacy; notably absent in having a neighborhood preservation advocacy organization is downtown Jax.
Other organizations like the Jacksonville Historical Society and the Museum of Science and History work on educating the community about our citywide history, but they do not have historic preservation as their mission.