Before famed Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick died in 2014 at age 89, he visited one of his signature buildings, the former Haydon Burns Library, with the lead architect planning its reincarnation.

Hardwick worried the 50-year-old downtown landmark, with its colorful brick murals, bright tiles, large windows and 88 exterior fins, might be stripped of its character, or worse, be torn down.

But after the tour with KBJ architect Will Morris, who outlined how the library was to be transformed into the Jessie Ball duPont Center for nonprofits, incorporating much of the original design and materials, he was relieved.

“We walked the space. We talked to him about our goals, some of our aspirations,” Morris said Thursday at a media tour of the almost-completed duPont Center. “He was extremely delighted the building had a new life.

Built in 1965, the building has been vacant since it was replaced in 2005 by a new main library on Hemming Plaza. Numerous redevelopment plans have been proposed since then but went nowhere.

In 2014, the duPont Fund bought the building as the $25 million new home for the philanthropy’s headquarters and other area nonprofits. The first of the 13 tenants — the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund — move in next week. Others will arrive later in April and May and the rest by the end of the year, according to duPont Fund spokeswoman Mary Kress Littlepage.

The duPont Fund will own the property as an asset, rather than a profit driver, and not charge the going commercial rental rate to recover its investment, she said. Nonprofit tenants will be charged $12.25 per square foot, compared to the typical $25 rate for downtown office space.

Also, the building has a common kitchen, training and meeting spaces, so tenants save money by not requiring as much space as they would separately, she said. With common copy rooms, for example, nonprofits can arrange joint copy machine rentals or paper purchases.

“We’re not wasting space and tenants can pool their resources,” said KBJ architect Brooke Robbins, who worked with Morris on the project. “We’re providing an opportunity for people to work together.”

The building meets LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification requirements, including an accessible roof garden, recycled water and other energy-saving features. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification is the most widely used green building program in the world, according to the council’s website.

Hardwick brought his original design plans on that last visit and remembered even the most intricate details, Littlepage said. Although he did not live to see the building’s renovation, he would be pleased with the outcome, she said, and his widow, Jo, is expected to attend the grand opening in June.

“This was special to him. He understood Will’s [Morris] vision,” she said. “He was very happy about it.”

By:  Beth Reese Cravey

Florida Times-Union