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Vote on Fidelity building put on hold

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By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

The Times-Union

A city committee postponed voting on Fidelity National Financial Inc.'s expansion plans at its Riverside Avenue campus Thurday after committee members criticized the prominence of company parking lots and described the design of a new proposed building as "uninspired."

The Downtown Design Review Committee appointed one of its members to help resolve the concerns and deferred voting on Fidelity's proposal that includes parking decks along Riverside Avenue and a seven-story building between one of the decks and the St. Johns River.

The company, which moved to Jacksonville last year, already has three office buildings on the site.

"The campus is evolving to look somewhat beige and bland," Committee Member Kelly Elmore said, "not something emblematic of a Fortune 500 company. Given the location of this campus ... there needs to be a little more of a signature. Right now, it's just dictated by parking."

William Stanly, assigned by interim Chairman Jim Bailey to resolve the concerns, agreed with Elmore.

"I think you've forsaken the street," Stanly said. "I think you can embrace the street and create life on the street."

But Bailey didn't set a date for any meeting. The committee will probably reconsider the plan by the end of the year, Downtown Development Authority Director Al Battle said.

Frederic Parvey, Fidelity's director of corporate real estate and construction, said the company plans to bring 600 employees to the Riverside Avenue headquarters by the end of 2005.

It has hundreds of employees at other locations waiting to move to the headquarters.

"We're holding people off from all over the place," Parvey said. "A lot's coming here."

Architect Jeff Rolland of Rolland, DelValle & Bradley accompanied Parvey to the committee meeting but didn't appear offended by the criticisms of his design. Rolland said the building is one of several improvements planned for the Fidelity site.

"This step isn't a giant step," he said, "it's a progressive step to the future."

Last year, Fidelity moved its headquarters from Santa Barbara, Calif., into the former Alltel Corp. building at 601 Riverside Ave. after acquiring Alltel's mortgage business.

In addition to the seven-story building, the company plans to erect a 10-story building to accommodate its growth.

christopher.calnanjacksonville.com, (904) 359-4404

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17045978.shtml.

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This is a good move by the Downtown Design Review Committee. I'm kind of disappointed because I really expected more from Fidelity, as far as the design is concerned. Come on guys, this isn't the 70's or 80's.

I also noticed they want to build two buildings, one 7 stories and one 10 stories. I wonder if anyone will suggest making a more signature building, fit for a Fortune 500 company, by combining the two to make a 17 -20 story tower, thus leaving more room future expansion.

Anyway, even if they still end up making a bland building, I'd like to at least see it designed in a more urban fashion, along Riverside Avenue.

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I really though they were going to do something urban. That rendering looks like some retro office building that belongs in Arlington. I hope they include retail on Riverside Avenue. Also, an access point for the Riverwalk would be nice. The Peninsula is doing something like that. That's how you capitalize on your waterfront property, by opening it up for people and businesses.

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