The Downtown Development Review Board gave final design approval Dec.12 for JEA’s proposed $72.2 million, 200,000-square-foot headquarters at 325 W. Adams St. and an adjacent 850-space parking garage.
As a condition of the approval, the DDRB did request changes to the look of one corner of the building and to landscaping planters used as security barriers.
The vote was 4-0. Board member Bill Schilling, vice president at Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., recused himself because his company is a contracted architectural firm on the project.
The office tower and parking garage, developed by Ryan Companies US Inc., will sit on one city block, bounded by Adams, Monroe, Pearl and Julia streets adjacent to the Duval County Courthouse. JEA will lease the building from Ryan after it's complete.
Architecture and board feedback
Before the approval vote, Ryan and Kimley-Horn showed the board samples of window glazing that will give the front of the building a blue color and the multicolored, perforated metal screening that will block the view of vehicles in the parking garage.
The most substantial change to the building design after the conceptual review was the addition of a one-story office space of about 2,700 square feet between the parking garage and the main tower. It replaces an outdoor employee courtyard.
Ryan representative Cyndy Trimmer of Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow told DDRB members the courtyard change was a result of a building analysis by Associated Space Design.
JEA is paying the Atlanta-based company up to $105,250 for workspace planning and to analyze if the building meets the utility’s current and future need
Trimmer said the one-story building will have a rooftop terrace to replace the courtyard. Another rooftop terrace is planned for the top of the nine-story building.
Otherwise, the building’s square footage is unchanged from the design that was conceptually approved in September.
The garage and streetscape
Two pocket parks will shield the Monroe and Adams street sides of the one-story addition from the sidewalks. The final design shows a green “living” wall at the back of the park with benches fastened to the park walls.
A planter in the park’s center can be seen from the sidewalk, solving a visibility problem Schilling asked project’s architects to address for the final review.
Although Ryan addressed the board’s request for garage screening, board members want the structure’s corner at Adams and Monroe streets to have more aesthetic appeal.
Board member Joseph Loretta asked that Ryan redesign the corner as a condition of the approval.
DDRB members asked Ryan in October to provide more design details about the office tower, specifically how the project’s 4,900 square feet of urban open space will meet the requirements of Downtown’s zoning overlay.
Ryan representatives brought a more detailed street-level look at their plans, but a DDRB staff report says the project does not conform to the streetscape design guidelines recommended at conceptual review.
The DDRB wants Ryan to provide documentation that shows the landscaping meets the overlay’s 40% shade requirement from both building awnings and shade trees.
Another condition of Ryan’s board approval is a redesign and possible removal of several 30-inch-tall planters surrounding the building.
In addition to landscaping, the planters serve as security barriers to keep vehicles from driving into the structure.
“These planters look like you’ve turned it into a fortress, and that’s not what you want it to look,” DDRB member Craig Davisson said. “You may want it to function that way, but that’s not what it should look like.”
JEA Project Manager Nancy Veasey said the height and abundance of planters was likely a misreading of the board’s directive to enhance the building’s landscaping.
“The security folks at JEA are very committed to us having bollards,” she said. “I think part of it was the balance of making it more urban on the landscape than suburban,” she said. So it may have been a misunderstanding in translation.”
Ground floor retail
The JEA headquarters includes 7,170 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the parking garage. The 35-foot-deep storefronts are planned for the one-block stretch of Julia Street as well as the corners of Adams and Monroe streets.
Ryan representatives did not announce prospective tenants, but Trimmer said in October they could include shops, restaurants and services, like a fitness center or credit union.
Ryan expects the retail to be filled “on day one.”
Ryan received conceptual review approval Sept. 19 and on Oct. 22, JEA Managing Director and CEO Aaron Zahn announced the utility would not opt out of its lease agreement with Ryan for the new headquarters.
City Council approved the sale of the 1.52-acre headquarters site for $2.6 million to Ryan on June 25. The company is required to begin construction by Dec. 31, 2020.