There seems to be a dichotomy between the constant cries for downtown redevelopment and the constant pleas to preserve everything that is a few decades old.
The attached photo illustrates how the city’s core might look if the “preservationists” had their way.
Currently, the “Jacksonville Hysterical Society” is seeking the preservation of this old building and 19 others it claims are essential – such as a crumbling old furniture store that has long been an eyesore on Forsyth Street and a former car dealer’s showroom on Main Street that has been completely transformed, and not for the better.
Why? Because they are old?
This building, now called Genovar’s Hall, was a saloon. It is falling apart. It was not vital in the city’s past, because there were many other saloons. And it is not vital to the city’s future. It can be photographed and plowed under without any great loss.
Yet, there are continual efforts to appropriate public money to throw away on it. When it came up in 2007, again, City Councilman Warren Jones was quoted by Max Marbut of the Daily Record as saying “I never thought this issue would still be around.”
The headline on the story: “Genover’s Hall: the preservation project that just won’t go away”
And it is still around.
Also on the list of buildings prized by preservationists are several old school buildings, even as the public school system is trying to gin up support to building newer, better schools.
Arguably, some of the old schools still are in good condition, have some architectural value, and are located in suburban neighborhoods, not downtown. But the ones that are old and useless should be torn down and replaced with newer ones, saving land costs.
Jacksonville’s downtown area would be far better off with a newer, more functional building.
No one should object if someone wants to buy an old building with their own money, bring it up to building and zoning codes, and pay the property taxes.
But there is no compelling reasons to extract money from the taxpayers to make the center of their city uglier. Buildings such as the Snyder Memorial Methodist Church, already owned by the city? Perhaps, if a use can be found.
Bad ideas such as the new intersections downtown do enough to make the city uglier. (It isn’t the fact that they are round, but that they deliberately are paved roughly, making driving unpleasant and damaging automobiles.)
The private sector always has done a good job of building newer, better buildings. City officials need to stick to landscaping and facilitating efforts at real improvement.
That brings to mind the Jacksonville Landing, but let’s not go there – even if we could. It is now Lenny’s Lawn, a bare expanse of grass where an attractive building once stood. That demolition, by the way, was not opposed by the preservationist community.