The renovation of the former Haydon Burns Public Library will make Downtown architectural development history when the building opens as the Jessie Ball duPont Center, a three-story office building with ground-floor retail space.
The project also will make history in that the organization behind the project, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, is approaching the $21 million project with the intent to make no profit, even after the 90,000-square-foot complex is fully leased.
"Our plan is to offer below-market rents," said Sherry Magill, president of the fund, which purchased the building in June for $2.2 million.
The Jacksonville-based fund is a national foundation that provides grants to charitable organizations specified in her will by the late Jessie Ball duPont, widow of industrialist Alfred I. duPont.
The redevelopment plan approved in December by the city Historic Preservation Commission was subsequently granted conceptual approval by the Downtown Development Review Board of the city Office of Economic Development.
Magill said pending final approval from the board, anticipated Jan. 16, renovation could begin as soon as February with a likely March 2015 completion date for the project.
The appearance of the building will not be substantially changed. "We're not getting rid of the fins," Magill said.
The only major exterior modification will be creation of a space on the ground floor of the northeast corner of the building that will be leased to a coffee shop or restaurant operator.
The interior of the 49-year-old building will be updated to 21st century standards, including energy-efficient windows and lighting and a new HVAC system. Rain water will be collected and used to irrigate the garden space on the second floor.
"The building will be as green as it can be," said Magill.
As for the office space, Magill said the rents will be below the market rates currently being paid by local philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Being able to offer the organizations more affordable, long-term leases fits the mission of the fund.
"It goes back to who we are. The duPont Fund is concerned about the health of the nonprofit sector in Jacksonville," Magill said. "Our work is to advance our interests as a sector."
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund will be the first tenant in the new center and will require about 5,000 square feet in the 90,000-square-foot building
Magill said the fund is negotiating with several organizations that could be potential tenants. She predicted that when the project is fully leased, 15-20 nonprofits will share the address and as many as 250 people will work in the building.
She said the fund is not in the real estate development business and described the project as "a stretch for us." Magill said the project will require $21 million of the fund's $280 million in assets.
"This was a big leap of faith for the trustees, but it fits in with our mission to support the nonprofit sector," she said.