The Downtown Development Review Board unanimously granted final design approval on August 11 for the Jacksonville Historical Society’s proposed renovation of the Florida Casket Co building.
The building, at 318 Palmetto St. next to the historical society offices in the former St. Luke’s Hospital, was built in 1882. It is a designated local historic landmark.
The historical society plans to renovate the three-story, 15,200-square-foot structure to include a proposed Jacksonville Music History Museum on the ground floor, a library and storage space for the archives of the organization on the second floor and an event and performance venue on the third floor.
Thompson Construction Co. is the contractor and Powell & Hinkle Engineering is the engineer for the $3 million interior addition and renovation project.
The addition includes three-story stucco structures to be built on the east and west sides of the building. The additions will house stairwells designed to comply with modern building code and public safety regulations, restrooms and a catering kitchen.
The board approved the conceptual design on June 9, but withheld final approval until the architect, Jeffrey Lane of Lane Architecture in Jacksonville, eventually addressed the restoration of the main floor windows.
The project received a certificate of suitability from the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission on June 22.
Lane’s design presented on August 11 shows the brick covering the windows on the south side of the ground floor replaced by metal panels. They would provide space for murals or promotional posters and also to maintain security.
The brick infill of the first and second floor windows on the north side of the building facing Duval Street would be retained.
DDRB staff recommended approving the plan to provide an interim phase, on the condition that the design be reviewed in three years to restore the south elevation first floor windows, or that the historical society seek a deviation .
Jacksonville Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss said the nonprofit did not support window restoration because the building had little exposure to the streetscape.
The structure is surrounded on three sides by the Duval Street elevated causeway, the Maxwell House coffee factory, and the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena loading dock.
The south side with the entrance to the building faces the offices and parking lot of the historical society.
“There is no foot traffic around the building. You will only see the interior when you enter the building,” Lane said.
Bliss said covering the windows would better protect historic archived material from light damage and provide greater protection for the collection during tropical storms.
The board voted to change the final approval to extend the time to later assess the windows from three to five years.
DDRB chairman Matt Brockelman advised the historical society to work with the planning department to make the south facade “as engaging as possible” during the permitting process.
“I think it’s a great project,” Brockelman said.
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