Byline: P. Douglas Filaroski, Times-Union staff writer
Architects competing to design Jacksonville's new main library received news yesterday that the project planned as a signature site might have to share a block with historic buildings.
"It's sort of a wild-and-crazy kind of challenge," said Malcolm Holzman, one of the nationally known architects who came to town for a formal tour of the Hemming Plaza location for the $95 million library.
"They do it all the time in Rome -- blending the old and the new," Holzman said. "But this is not Rome. This is going to be difficult."
City and library officials hosted a half-day orientation so architects could see Jacksonville's buildings, hear about its history and learn the rules of the four-month competition.
In mid-October, each firm will present a model and drawings of designs to committees that will recommend a winner to Mayor John Delaney.
Representatives from three of the four competitors attended: Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, Robert A.M. Stern, and Vitetta-Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen. An architect from Michael Graves & Associates missed a flight because of bad weather.
Discussions yesterday in the current 100,000-square-foot library veered to the possibility of the new, 300,000-square-foot library being angled between a museum and three other historic buildings on the block.
The Bucklin and Ulmer Building and the South Atlantic Investment Trust Building, which both housed famed shoe designer Joseph LaRose's business, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And the Rhodes Building nearby on Main Street is on a list of buildings targeted for preservation by the City Council's new president, Matt Carlucci.
City library project manager Rex Holmlin pointed out the buildings during a walking tour. The Rhodes Building, an example of Chicago high-rise style from the 1910s, juts 11 stories high on the east side of the block.
The LaRose buildings are two-story retail structures with ornate decorative facades on the south side of the block.
Holmlin asked architects to tell city officials in a report by Aug. 2 whether a signature downtown library could be designed under those conditions.
Delaney would like to save the historic buildings by incorporating them into the project, but he also would like assurances the public money being used for the new library will result in a building of "international caliber," Holmlin said.
"He understands these goals may be mutually exclusive," Holmlin said.
City officials will decide within days of the architects' reports whether the buildings will stay or go, Holmlin said. …