Review board: Florida Casket Co. design needs work before final OK

The DDRB approves the conceptual plan to convert the historic building into a music history museum and venue.

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The Jacksonville Historical Society’s plan to convert the former Florida Casket Co. building into a music museum, event venue and archive took a step toward groundbreaking. 

The Downtown Development Review Board voted 8-1 on June 9 to grant the project conceptual design approval. 

The society hired Lane Architecture to design the venue in the 15,200-square-foot structure built in 1882 at 318 Palmetto St. near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Thompson Construction Co. is listed as the contractor and Powell & Hinkle Engineering is the engineer for what Jacksonville Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss said June 9 will be a $3 million project. 

The building is adjacent to the Jacksonville Historical Society building.
The building is adjacent to the Jacksonville Historical Society building.

Board Chair Trevor Lee and several other members agreed that the design “needs a lot of work.” 

Lee said he didn’t want to stall the project by voting against conceptual approval, but the board disagreed with architect Michael Blake that the two stucco additions would not distract from the historic look of the former casket factory. 

Lee said the additions as designed “would detract from what is a relatively handsome old brick building.” 

Board member and architect Craig Davisson was the lone “no” vote.

Plans show two additions on each side of the three-story structure that designers said would bring the building access up to code.

As conditions of approval, the board instructed the designer to bring color renderings and materials samples of the additions to the final approval hearing.

An elevation of the renovated Florida Casket Co. building.
An elevation of the renovated Florida Casket Co. building.

The board also suggested the architect work with DDRB staff and the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission to find a way to uncover the first-floor windows that are covered by bricks.

The project will pay homage to Jacksonville’s musical history and its place in the roots of Southern Rock and contributions to other genres. 

Bliss said the building construction and code improvements will take about $1.7 million of the project budget with the remaining $1.3 million for exhibits, fixtures and interior improvements.  

The nonprofit CEO said the development team is monitoring increases in construction costs, but have raised $700,000 for the project. 

According to Bliss, the historical society archive space planned for the second floor will be named for Preston Haskell, founder of the Jacksonville-based global architecture, engineering and construction firm Haskell.

The former Florida Casket Co. building Is near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
The former Florida Casket Co. building Is near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Preston Haskell pledged $400,000 toward the museum venue in November 2021.

The former casket factory is next to the former St. Luke’s Hospital that now is the Jacksonville Historical Society offices.

When the project was announced in June 2020, Bliss said in a news release that he thinks interest for the museum will be high and finding artifacts should not pose a challenge, given Jacksonville’s connections to Southern rock ’n’ roll.

“The roots of what we know today through the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers stand on the shoulders of giants in the blues and jazz genres in Jacksonville’s African American community,” Bliss said in a release.

The board staff’s review says final approval will rely heavily on analysis from the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission.

Bliss said June 9 the project is in city permitting and he expects the commission to review the proposed remodel soon.