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Board approves Fidelity's master plan

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By CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

The Times-Union

Changes to the design of a proposed Fidelity National Financial Inc. building were small, but the reaction it caused Thursday was much different from three weeks ago.

The Downtown Design Review Committee approved the company's master plan and an eight-story office building despite only slight changes to an earlier design criticized by committee members.

Fidelity swayed committee members by giving them a better look at how the new building will fit into the company's long-range plans for the Riverside Avenue site.

"They shared the entire master plan," committee member William Stanly said after the meeting. "Last time, there were a lot of vacant pieces. Now they really defined what it could look like, and that helped us see how that one piece fit into their puzzle."

Last month, the committee deferred voting on the earlier version of the plan after Stanly and committee member Kelly Elmore criticized Fidelity's plan.

Elmore said the proposed building's design was "uninspired." Concerning Fidelity's plan to line Riverside Avenue with parking decks, Stanly said, "I think you've forsaken the street."

But Thursday, the plan got mostly praise by the committee.

"I think the building looks great," committee member Jonathan Garza said. But "it's not necessarily perfect in terms of aesthetics."

The latest design removed a parking lot between the proposed office building and an existing building. It also added trees between the proposed building and the St. Johns River and an additional floor.

However, the new plan calls for the exterior of the building to be the same basic design, and Fidelity National parking decks would still line Riverside Avenue between the street and company buildings.

Fidelity National officials contacted committee members since the previous meeting and explained the company's larger plans. And they presented renderings showing how the role new buildings will play in the company's master plan, Downtown Development Authority Managing Director Al Battle said.

"I think they provided the level of detail showing why certain building were situated where they were and did a better job showing how the new architecture will fit in with the existing architecture," Battle said. "The nuances were small."

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

In addition to the eight-story building, the company plans to build two parking garages along Riverside Avenue, a two-story garage and a five-story. The proposed master plan also calls for a 13-story office building at Riverside Avenue and Forest Street, and two other office buildings of unspecified height.

Project architect Jeffrey Rolland said he met twice with Stanly between the initial committee meeting and the second. Stanly said he looked at the other parking options, and the garages along Riverside Avenue was the best choice.

Frederic Parvey, Fidelity's director of corporate real estate and construction, said Thursday construction on the new building is scheduled to start in late January and be completed in 2006. He said 1,600 to 1,800 employees would work in the building.

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.

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

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stor..._17228400.shtml.

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That sucks. I was really hoping that their "revised" plan would be better. We can only hope that thes new parking garages will have retail facing the forgotten Riverside Ave. And I thought their master plan called for condos or something, not just offices.

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That sucks.  I was really hoping that their "revised" plan would be better.  We can only hope that thes new parking garages will have retail facing the forgotten Riverside Ave.  And I thought their master plan called for condos or something, not just offices.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The condos were for a newly purchased parcel north of the existing campus. I believe that parcel will be divided between Fidelity (for use as offices) and a second party involving the Fidelity CEO that will complete the condos and related items.

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wow, what an improvement : they went from really bland to only just kind of bland. and as for Riverside avenue, i agree more thought should have been placed into adding retail to the streetscape, but then again who are we kidding, this is jacksonville and no one walks!!!!

thankfully there is a parking garage attached so i will have somewhere to park!

thanks.....

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I was hoping for something that was a lot better. Oh well! The parking garage should be neat I heard.

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I don't mind the somewhat bland design and short stature of thebuilding. After all, it is your typical in-fill project. Plus, the design is similar to the 13 floor fidelity building, which is simple yet pretty.

Like others, I am annoyed by the parking garages fronting Riverside Avenue. I'm not sure if the downtown zoning overlay extends all the way to I95. If it does, they will have to have ground floor retail on at least 50% of the street frontage. If not, they could put up a blank wall.

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well, as for the ground floor retail, i wish the best of luck to any retail will appear on riverside avenue... again we fall into the same dilemma, no one in Jacksonville walks! it only happens in malls or areas like San MArco or five points. it seems to me for something in that vain to work you would have to basically build a street front mall, with a min. of about 20 stores. basically make it worth while for people to park in the fabulous new garage and walk through the area.

by the way, walked down Monroe street by the new downtown library? the 12' brick wall is especially beautiful in the sunset ...

Thank you very much.

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Even if their garages have street level retail, the area still won't be pedestrian friendly or desirable. You can have lunch at a nice sidewalk cafe, and watch 6 lanes of traffic speed by, as Riverside Avenue becomes a highway.

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So there will not be any retail offered on the Riverwalk side of these new buildings either, I assume?

I realize this is after the fact,but a pedestian tunnel underneth a 6 lane Riverside Ave. couda wouda have been a nice forethought in the planning of this stretch of road.

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That should be the primary focus. Riverfront retail should come first, then Riverside Avenue. I would love to see more retail along the water.

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I think there's a much better chance to see a sidewalk cafe and outdoor patio area along the riverwalk, before you see anything on Riverside Avenue. Unfortunately, at this time, there's no reason to put any retail on Riverside Ave, in that general area. The best we can hope for is that the garage is designed in a way that a portion can be converted into street retail sometime, in the distant future.

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Riverside Ave by Fidelity will not be 6 lanes. Not to mention, just because a road is six lanes doen't mean it is going to be Roosevelt Blvd.

As far as what would go in a ground level retail garage at the Fidelity: Starbucks!!!

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Starbucks would really benifit from all those office workers! But after 6pm, that area would be kinda dead.

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^Oops, I forgot about that one. Maybe since it was on the other side of the bridge? Oh well...

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"There's already a Starbucks about 5 blocks south of Fidelity in Five Points."

That matters to Starbucks about as much as it matters to Wal-Mart

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