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Public Spaces

This Funky Florida Library Now Serves as Nonprofit Startup Incubation Hub

Haydon Burns Library, now DuPont Center, in Jacksonville, FL

For several decades, the distinctive Jessie Ball duPont Center building in downtown Jacksonville, FL, served as the city’s main public library.

The building was commissioned in 1960 to replace the existing downtown library. Architect Taylor Hardwick created a unique design aimed at brightening up the monotonous downtown environment. His mid-century modern design featured vibrant colors and big glass walls, with large, wavy panels creating a funky, artsy aesthetic previously unseen in the area.

The project took five years to complete, costing $3.7 million to build.

The three-story, 126,000 square foot library was dedicated on November 28, 1965. It was named in honor of Haydon Burns, who was the city’s mayor at the time and had also recently become Florida’s governor-elect.

The state-of-the-art facility served as the city’s main library for four decades. But by the ‘90s, upgrades were desperately needed, and the building’s technological infrastructure increasingly became too outdated.

In the early 2000s, a new main library was commissioned as part of the city’s Better Jacksonville Plan urban renewal project. The city then started taking bids from developers to take over the Haydon Burns Library building, which would officially close its doors in 2005.

In 2012, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund took an interest in the building. A year later, it purchased the building from Main Branch LLC for $2.2 million – a $1 million discount from its pre-recession price tag.

JBDF then initiated a $25 million renovation project, led by KBJ Architects, with the goal of establishing a center for nonprofit organizations in Jacksonville.

The Jessie Ball duPont Center opened its doors in 2015, with JBDF moving into the building’s third floor. Since then, a few dozen nonprofit organizations have joined them in the building.

Today, the center is thriving, with tenants including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida, Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, First Coast YMCA, and many other Jacksonville-area nonprofits.

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