Will parking derail Post Modern Brewing?

Jacksonville's planning department is recommending the city deny plans to restore Riverside's old Purple Petunia building as Post Modern Brewing. It's an example of outdated suburban rules potentially derailing an adaptive reuse project in an urban neighborhood.

From Purple Petunia to Post Modern Brewing

Editorial by Bill Delaney.

In June 2020, The Jaxson reported that local small business people Andrew Suslak and Brandon Merkle had plans to transform a unique, much loved Riverside building into Jacksonville’s next craft brewery, Post Modern Brewing. Built in 1935 as a live-in Pure Oil station, the unusual English cottage style building is now best known as the Purple Petunia, an antique shop and florist that was a neighborhood destination for decades. Post Modern’s proposal to restore the building was met with enthusiasm from many Jaxsons happy to see the old building get a new life.

Like many other adaptive reuse projects, it would take some creative thinking and no little amount of money to restore the building for its new use. As such, Suslak applied to rezone the building as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which would allow them more freedom to work than the current commercial zoning. Most of the requested deviations are simple, such as allowing a brewery, altering the setback, and removing the minumum distance limitation for on-site sale of beer and wine. They have also requested relief from the city’s parking requirements, which if followed would demand 19 spaces on a lot where there simply isn’t room. The brewery’s plans include 9 spaces, including 4 on street and several more to be added on the lot.

The PUD was reviewed by the Jacksonville Planning and Development Department for a recommendation to be forwarded to the Planning Commission and City Council for a final decision. Unfortunately, the PDD report recommends denying the plan, mostly based on the parking requirement.

The parking boogeyman

The PDD report’s focus on the parking requirement is unfortunate for several reasons. First and foremost, the city requirements for parking are heavily autocentric and suburban based. They don’t take into account that parking is less of a need in urban neighborhoods like Riverside and Murray Hill, where many residents walk, bike or take rideshare to establishments - in fact, the site plan includes bike parking.

It also neglects the fact that there there are various surface lots within blocks of the building that could be opportunities for offsite or valet parking. Indeed, the City of Jacksonville’s zoning code doesn’t allow for shared use parking agreements. This is one of the biggest flaws in the suburban-oriented code - it forces businesses to meet all parking requirements on site, instead of allowing for more creative and market-based solutions that could make better use of underused parking and vacant lots in the immediate area.

And finally, the PDD report neglects the fact that more parking simply isn’t viable on the property. Adding the amount proposed by Post Modern already removes several trees. Unbendingly sticking to the parking requirement further limits adaptive reuse possibilities for a building that has already sat vacant and in increasing disrepair for years.

Next page: More reasons to support Post Modern Brewing.