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A gas station with a rooftop bar? LaVilla project up for final review Thursday

On Thursday, the proposal for a multi-story, mixed-use Daily's gas station is up for final review before the Downtown Development Review Board.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Will a gas station with a rooftop bar be the latest project in Jacksonville's historic LaVilla district?

On Thursday, the proposal for a multi-story, mixed-use Daily's gas station is up for final review before the Downtown Development Review Board. The location of the building is different in the latest proposal. It puts the building on the corner of West Bay and Broad streets, the entrance to Lavilla from San Marco and Brooklyn. 

The developers say in their report to the review board, that moving the building from the center of the block to the corner "will encourage more safe pedestrian interactions" and create a "semi-private urban open space."

Once called the 'Harlem of the South,' Jacksonville's LaVilla district has struggled to return to its vibrancy. Ephraim Riggins captures this in his poem "LaVilla Love Letter." 

"In the heart of Duval, there's a love letter titled 'LaVilla,'" Riggins recited for First Coast News in front of the Old Stanton School. 

Riggins's grandmother went to school there.

"They used to study under the dream Mr. James Weldon welded," Riggins recited. "He lifted every voice without straining his back, back when this neighborhood was active."

The neighborhood was almost entirely demolished by the city in the early-90s. But, new projects are underway, including a park and townhomes. The Daily's project could be the newest one.

"I don't mind businesses and things coming here and trying to make some headway here," Riggins said when First Coast News asked for his opinion on the project. "It's just, are we paying respect to what was? That separates revitalization from erasure."

A mural is planned for the back of the building, which the developer says will celebrate LaVilla's rich history. Riggins hopes whatever revitalization takes place, it pays homage to the history and culture of the former Harlem of the South. 

"It is a monument waiting for the return of its momentum, it's moment," Riggins recited. "It is a love letter waiting for the next page."

First Coast News asked Daily's officials and their attorneys how they plan to preserve the culture of the district as well as when construction could start if the project is approved. They did not respond to our questions.

The Downtown Development Review Board meeting is at 2 p.m. at the Ed Ball Building, located at 214 North Hogan Street in downtown Jacksonville. It can also be viewed virtually here.

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