Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Be Patient: Old Buildings Will Be New Again

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Be Patient: Old Buildings Will Be New Again

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

The conversation had turned to London Bridge Pub, a new restaurant across the street from the downtown library.

"If the wrecking ball misses, maybe we'll see the headline: London Bridge is falling down," someone quipped.

It struck me as a clever joke based on a bad idea. A bad idea that seems to be gaining momentum. That bad idea is to knock down the 38-year-old building known as the Haydon Burns Library when a new downtown library opens in 2004.

It's a bad idea for a number of reasons. But the most important reason I'm planning to join the campaign to save the Burns Library is that useful public buildings should never be knocked down if someone wants them. Probably they shouldn't be knocked down even if no one wants them. That's what history teaches us.

Three groups have asked the city to give them the old library when the new library opens. Vestcor, which wants to build a condominium tower, would tear the library down. The Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, which wants the site for office space, would substantially alter the building. The Metropolitan Design Group, the only group that has offered to pay for the building, would leave the building largely intact, renovating it into an art and design center, including offices for the architectural firm Rink Reynolds Diamond Fisher.

The city will decide which group gets the site, though no decision is expected soon.

But people who think the building should survive are fighting a public perception that the library is old and nasty and needs to be replaced. There are three primary reasons people don't like the building today: It hasn't been well-maintained. It is sometimes filled with street people. And it was designed in a modernist style that seems strange amid neoclassical public buildings and corporate glass boxes. …

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