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Jax Finance Committee Approves Military Museum For Old Armory Building

Kevin Meerschaert

A military history museum has been cleared to move into the National Guard Armory downtown after a dispute about the building’s future, but there is still a chance for an arts center to also be part of the redevelopment.

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee on Tuesday approved an agreement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp to renovate the armory for the museum.

They would pay for all renovations and lease the building for $1 per year. A coalition of arts nonprofits are also vying to turn the space into an arts center.

A major concern for city lawmakers is if either group will be able to raise the estimated nine to $10 million needed to renovate the building.

Council President Bill Gulliford said he doesn’t want to see another proposal to redevelop an historic Jacksonville building fall apart due to a lack of funding.

"All I'm asking for is a little prudence in judgment as to how we go through this process," he said. "Not who gets it, I don't frankly care who gets it. I just want to make sure that it's done right."    

Camp Commander Calvin Hart has told council members the Sons of Confederate Veterans don’t need the entire building, so an arts center could also move in.  

Some in the arts community said they don’t think it would be a good match.

The armory, built in 1916, was once the city’s principal public facility for entertainment and social events including an address by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax   

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.