JAX Chamber: Downtown’s New Front Door
In the spring of 2011 we responded to a request for proposals from the JAX Chamber, titled Downtown’s New Front Door, a Project to Inspire Revitalization. The Chamber knew that numerous building systems in their structure were getting to the age where replacements and repairs were beginning to be needed, along with maintenance required for a number of elements. Instead of just making those needed fixes, the Chamber realized because of their position in the community and the physical position of their building, they could do so much more than fix the building issue, they could invest and look toward Downtown Jacksonville’s future.
The Chamber property serves as the front door to Downtown. This property currently does not set the tone needed to help launch Downtown into revitalization, and the Chamber has the opportunity to serve as a catalyst for Downtown Development through the renovation of its headquarters facility in a way that sets an example for the rest of the community.
We responded in passionate agreement, that this was a special opportunity:
It is our belief that this project can be the turning point for downtown, and more importantly the City of Jacksonville. We can no longer simply create projects for this city that are “better than what it was,” or just “good enough for Jacksonville.” It is time to throw down the gauntlet, and to create something meaningful. Something that makes our citizens proud and makes our private developers want to try harder. A project that looks to the future and shows the potential of what can be done in Jacksonville, with an eye towards cost effectiveness, aesthetics, and sustainability. To us, this is not only about the chamber building being the physical front door to Jacksonville; we also need to think about this project as the threshold to the potential for our city. We hope and believe that the chamber realizes what a unique opportunity this is for them and the City of Jacksonville. This project can be the spark that downtown needs, extending the magnitude and strength of the St Johns river into the city.
Thankfully we were chosen to interview for the project. As a small and new architecture firm, just being selected to interview for the project alongside some of the larger more established Jacksonville firms was a huge honor. To be selected as the Architects of Jacksonville’s New Front Door, was obviously surprising, but a testament to the passion, energy, and belief we have in the Urban Core with our work and conversations, including the Urban Facelift Project.
With the selection, we are charged with redeveloping the first floor of the Chamber completely, for cosmetic changes on the other two floors, and cost effective ideas to improve the entry and the facade of the building, all with an eye towards sustainability. We’ve looked at creating a canopy that marks the entry to the building, graphics and signage that add color to the starkness of the building, vegetative walls, and lighting systems that can be customized to events and holidays, such as Jaguar games and Florida/Georgia weekend. The landscape and urban design is the work of the awesome guys over at Marquis Halback, Inc.
After months of meeting and programming, we created a design that we believe is progressive and forward thinking for the first floor. What has become kind of a cave in the existing design, has been completely opened up, allowing natural light through the space and the ability for visitors and members to see the Chamber at work for them. Multi-use spaces abound, while the center of the floor has become a cafe, acting as the kitchen and dining area for staff, lounge and meeting space for visitors, and event/workshop space for the Chamber. What has once been more of a corporate space, has now become more like a loft setting with exposed ceilings, clearer signage, translucent panels with graphic vintage images recalling the denser, bustling days of Downtown Jacksonville. It is a space that welcomes not only CEO’s of large companies, but small graphic design firms and creatives or small mom and pop shops.
We’ve been waiting for this unveiling of the initial designs for awhile now, so we’re excited that we’re able to share them after last night’s unveiling at the Chamber’s 127th Annual Meeting. You can watch the video that played at unveiling here: http://youtu.be/c1skzK_V7B8 . We’ll update as the designs are tightened up and have more images to show.