City Takes New Look at Moving, Restoring Brewster Hospital; Newest Estimate $1.7 Million to Rehabilitate Historic Structure

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS, The Times-Union

A plan to move and restore historic Brewster Hospital is being readied by Jacksonville City Hall -- again.

The latest version, being rolled out five years after the city's first draft, calls for moving the 120-year-old vacant hospital from the northwest to the northeast corners of Monroe and Davis streets in Jacksonville's LaVilla neighborhood. The building, Florida's first hospital and nursing school for blacks, would then be rehabilitated, possibly becoming museum and office space.

The work carries a price tag of $1.7 million, more than twice what the city had proposed budgeting for the project last year.

The City Council deferred approving $800,000 for the project last fall because it wasn't sure what the total bill for rehabilitating the structure would be; since then, a historic preservation expert determined the cost to be $1.7 million.

Yet if the hospital is to be restored, doing so isn't getting cheaper. As proposals have come and gone over the years, the city-owned building has fallen further into disrepair. A look at the building now reveals missing windows, pieces of roofing lying on its lawn and pieces of wood ready to fall off the building.

"We don't need any more delays," said City Councilwoman Glorious Johnson, a longtime advocate of the project. "We need to secure it, move it and do work."

Making the move from architectural sketches to magnificently restored building means winning council approval for the money and, to a lesser extent, making sure the relocated building would retain state and federal historic building certification. …