- 2014 - February - 12th -
The site of the proposed Levels restaurant, bar and entertainment venue at 323-325 E. Bay St.

Design approved for Laveranues Coles' Bay Street venue

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

It won’t be open in time for the 2014 Jacksonville Jazz Festival Memorial Day weekend, but the final design for “Levels,” a new restaurant, bar and entertainment venue at 323-325 E. Bay St., was unanimously approved Tuesday.

After the design was presented Thursday to the Downtown Development Review Board and the concept was approved with conditions, architect John Allmand appeared before the board Tuesday with a revised design. The board is part of the city Office of Economic Development.

The venue is being opened by Laveranues Coles Jr., a former NFL player and Ribault High School standout.

The original plan included slate exterior walls, which would have required a deviation from Downtown streetscape standards. The standards mandate a minimum 50 percent transparency on street level.

Based on the width of the site, standards require a minimum 205 square feet of transparent surface. The original design would have provided 108 square feet of transparent surface along East Bay Street.

The revised design presented Tuesday provides more than 400 square feet of transparent surface on the street level, about 75 percent, eliminating the request for deviation.

Allmand’s new plan is based on a traditional storefront design, but with three, 10-foot-tall doors with glass awnings above along the front of the 110-year-old building.

“It’s a celebration of the entry,” he said. “There’s a little drama to it.”

The sign indicating the name of the venue will be mounted three feet behind a window on the west side of the building. In the original design, the sign was to be mounted on a slate surface.

The revised look makes that side of the façade a “window display,” Allmand said.

“It’s a great addition to Bay Street. It’s kind of funky,” said board member Carol Worsham, architect and vice president of HDR Architecture and Planning. Worsham criticized the original design Thursday as “not being welcoming.”

The board’s jurisdiction is limited to Downtown’s exterior appearance, but Allmand explained to the board Tuesday some of the interior elements of the project as well.

He said the second floor will be reinforced to allow more than 200 people to use the entertainment space portion of the new venue.

Also, with the building’s elevator near the Bay Street side, the interior design could allow it to be seen through the front windows.

That would provide a view of the “vertical circulation” in the space, which would be fitting for a club called “Levels,” he said.

Allmand estimated he will complete the drawings required for building permits in about 30 days. He said the construction phase would last 90-120 days after the city issues the permits.


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