The Jacksonville Historical Society’s project to convert the former Florida Casket Co. building into a music museum, event venue and archive has taken a step forward.

The Town Center Development Review Board voted 8 to 1 on June 9 to grant conceptual design approval for the project.

The company hired Lane Architecture to design the venue in the 15,200 square foot structure built in 1882 at 318 Palmetto St. near VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Thompson Construction Co. is listed as the contractor and Powell & Hinkle Engineering is the engineer for what Jacksonville Historical Society CEO Alan Bliss said June 9 would be a $3 million project.

The building is adjacent to the Jacksonville Historical Society building.

Board Chairman Trevor Lee and several other members agreed that the design “requires a lot of work”.

Lee said he didn’t want to stall the project by voting against concept approval, but council disagreed with architect Michael Blake that the two stucco additions wouldn’t detract from the attention to the historical aspect of the old coffin factory.

Lee said the as-designed additions would “detract from what is a relatively beautiful old brick building”.

Board member and architect Craig Davisson was the only one to vote ‘no’.

Plans show two additions on either side of the three-story structure that the designers say would bring access to the building up to code.

As conditions of approval, the board required the designer to bring color renderings and material samples of the additions to the final approval hearing.

An elevation of the renovated Florida Casket Co.

The board also suggested the architect work with DDRB staff and the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission to find a way to uncover the brick-clad first-floor windows.

The project will pay homage to Jacksonville’s musical history and its place in the roots of Southern rock and its contributions to other genres.

Bliss said building construction and code upgrades will take about $1.7 million of the project’s budget, with the remaining $1.3 million going to exhibits, fixtures and interior upgrades.

The nonprofit CEO said the development team was monitoring construction cost increases but had raised $700,000 for the project.

According to Bliss, the planned second-floor historical society archive space will be named after Preston Haskell, founder of Jacksonville-based global architecture, engineering and construction firm Haskell.

The former Florida Casket Co. building is near the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.

Preston Haskell pledged $400,000 for the museum site in November 2021.

The Old Coffin Factory sits next to the old St. Luke’s Hospital, which now houses the offices of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

When the project was announced in June 2020, Bliss said in a press release that he thought interest in the museum would be high and finding artifacts shouldn’t be a problem, given the ties of Jacksonville with southern rock ‘n’ roll.

“The roots of what we know today through the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers rest on the shoulders of giants of the blues and jazz genres in Jacksonville’s African-American community,” Bliss said in a statement.

Council staff’s review indicates that final approval will depend heavily on analysis by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission.

Bliss said June 9 that the project is in town if the city allows it and he expects the commission to review the renovation project soon.

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