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First Coast

The Jaxson: How Public Pushback 6 Years Ago Led To A Planned Downtown Hotel

The proposed Hyatt Place hotel across from the Jacksonville Landing serves as an example of how community awareness and advocacy can reshape decisions at the planning level that then incrementally lead to a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly outcome.

The timeline for the Hyatt Place project actually dates back to 2012, when Parador Partners LLC first attempted to develop a parking garage adjacent to the SunTrust Tower. The original design for the parking garage along Hogan Street would have added a road circling the structure, leaving no room for street-level retail, despite being located directly across the street from the Jacksonville Landing.

Several excuses were made to the Downtown Development Review Board for why the project could not support retail in the design, including a lack of market support and the developer’s desire to avoid the $300,000 cost of adding sprinklers to the project as a part of the fire safety design, despite receiving $3.5 million in incentives from the city.

Submitted to the Downtown Development Review Board (DDRB) for conceptual review in June 2012, Haskell’s design encountered heavy public opposition. This led to the concept’s being rejected by the DDRB and a workshop’s being scheduled to assist in the development of alternative design concepts.

Fearing that a garage on the block alone would establish a dead pedestrian zone in the heart of the city for the next century, an alternative concept was created based off the site design of a garage in Greenville, South Carolina.  In Greenville, the Spring Street Garage was built in the middle of a block, leaving space along the sidewalk for infill development at a future date.

This June 13, 2012, sketch by Modern Cities’ Ennis Davis was created to illustrate how the garage could be set back from the street in order to accommodate future retail.

In February 2017, Jack Shad and Modern Cities’ Mike Field opened downtown’s first food truck court on the space that had been created for future retail along Hogan Street. This unique outdoor food court activated the space into an affordable culinary destination.

At the time, The Court co-founder Jack Shad said, “We’re calling this concept an ‘urban meet and eat.’ Food plays such an important role in social interactions and fostering a sense of community. The Block Urban Food Park was created to fit right into that nexus between food and community. It’s a dynamic outdoor space that provides employees a place to meet up with friends and colleagues outside of the office environment, in a relaxing setting that sparks creative collaboration.”

Fort Lauderdale-based Mainstreet CV 76 S Laura Street LLC’s current intentions of adding a Hyatt Place hotel solidified the vision expressed six years ago. When complete, the 102,256-square-foot hotel will bring additional foot traffic in the immediate vicinity and active this 0.27-acre site with more commercial use via the inclusion of a restaurant and bar at street level.

Unlike many competing hotel proposals that include large amounts of surface parking, the presence of the existing adjacent parking garage eliminates the need for parking to be included in this project, making it financially feasible to develop a truly urban and pedestrian-friendly footprint.

As a result of a simple conceptual planning design modification made six years ago, this block of Hogan Street is well on its way to becoming one of the Northbank’s most interesting and active destinations.