by Bailey White
Pay attention to the changes on Jacksonville’s Bay Street, or you might miss something. As tenants fill Berkman Plaza and construction begins on a new jazz club, the area promises to become a high-end living and dining destination.
The latest piece of the transformation is the historic Hutchinson Building at 315-319 E. Bay St., which will be converted into either commercial or residential lofts.
“We’re about to put up a banner that says ‘lofts available,’ said co-owner Julia Suddath. “And we’ll wait and see who calls.”
The building is four stories and offers almost endless possibilities.
“The warehouse is very clean and it’s wide open,” said Suddath. “There wouldn’t be a lot of demolition work.”
Instead, the architect — Tom Fisher of Rink Reynolds Diamond Fisher Architects — will work with tenants to determine what to do on each floor, roughly 5,000 square feet each. The space appears loft ready, with its high ceilings, exposed brick walls and oversized windows.
“We’ll wait to see who’s going to be renting the space to determine what they need,” said Suddath.
One thing they do know for sure is that the building will be used for either commercial or residential, but not both.
“The contractors have said we can’t really do both, in terms of plumbing and air conditioning,” said Suddath.
There is minimal exterior work to be done, except to the lower part of the facade, which was covered by wood paneling. They’ll remove that, to see what’s hiding beneath it.
“We believe there could be glass transoms underneath it,” said Suddath.
Before renovations can begin, Suddath must obtain approval from the Jacksonville Preservation Commission. The 1910 building is referenced in the book, “Jacksonville’s Architectural Heritage.”
The building also has one of the oldest elevators in the City.
“It has a wooden shaft and you can see the huge beams holding it up,” said Suddath.
But taking a ride on the elevator, which dates to about 1908, is not something future tenants will be able to experience because it’s a freight elevator and not suitable for humans. It will be replaced with a more modern model.
They’ll also install a second staircase and open former office space on the first floor to make way for more commercial space.
The building has been in Suddath’s family since the 1930s and it once served as a record storage company. It’s been vacant for about three years.
“We decided to do something commercial with it at the same time that the City was talking about turning Bay Street into a viable entertainment strip,” said Suddath.
The building has also contributed to Suddath’s personal history. She remembers spending time in the warehouse as a child, when her father used the space as an office.
“It’s interesting to think of what was stored here,” she said. “People thought it was only papers, but my dad remembers other things.”
Dick Suddath, whose father bought the building for $25,000, said the building housed a sculpture by Malvina Hoffman, and manuscripts of writer Stetson Kennedy.
“There was a piano from 1840 that Mendelssohn supposedly played on,” said Dick Suddath. “And there was a wealthy bachelor who would leave all of his silver with us when he went out of town.”