Furchgott's Department Store Credit: FTU / Robbins Design Studio
There is a certain amount of tension assumed to exist between new development and historic preservation. This needn’t be the case, according to Harbinger CEO Steve Williams, a self-described “pro-development preservationist,” who writes in a recent guest column for the Florida TU:
I am very pro-development, but I am also a preservationist. The two are not mutually exclusive, and there is so much wonderful opportunity for both in Jacksonville. Recently, the DIA announced that the city will be providing incentives for the restoration of Furchgott’s Department Store and the Union Terminal warehouse.
Like so many others in this city, I have fond memories of shopping at Furchgott’s as a child. Civic investment in buildings like that show that we value our own personal history, which is important to develop civic pride. These opportunities honor and celebrate the past, while looking to the future in a modern and new innovative way. Plus, it makes economic sense to preserve our authentic architecture.
Indeed, some of the most successful developments in the US in recent years have been adaptive reuse projects. That’s not to say that new construction is destined to become a civic and cultural wasteland. Quite the opposite. We need only to look to Jacksonville’s past to see the possibilities new construction promises, as Williams notes:
After the Great Fire of 1901, architects from across the nation moved to Jacksonville to rebuild the ruined city. The leaders focused on a well-designed, quality plan to recreate Jacksonville as a dynamic city of commerce.
Within two years, there were more buildings constructed than in the decades before the fire — including a gorgeous business district where we can still admire the works of Henry John Klutho today.
Jacksonville is at another such turning point, as a shortage in housing supply has turned into a full-blown crisis, pushing housing prices and rents out of reach in what was previously a proudly affordable city. If Jacksonville is to continue to flourish, it is not a question of whether we build, but whether we do so with style and boldness. We’ve done it before, so let’s do it again.
Read Steve’s full editorial at the Florida Times-Union.
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