Yesterday’s goes down quickly; work begins on South Kitchen & Spirits

 

Residents were surprised at how quickly the former Yesterday’s Sports Bar was reduced to a pile of concrete. On June 30, the building was razed in less than a day.

“Yesterday’s was standing last night. At around 2 p.m., it was gone! A huge pile of rubble and debris remains,” said Elaine Starling, a nearby resident and owner of Historic Tours of Jacksonville.

Michael Cerni, who lives across the street, was quick to capture before and after photos of the demolition. Although he grew up in the area and recalls it as a fairly busy commercial center, he said he’s not unduly saddened by the demise of Yesterday’s.

“I think the new restaurant will enhance property values in the surrounding Avondale neighborhood,” Cerni said. “I hated to see the building go, but ultimately I think the neighborhood will be better off.”

After the dust cleared, passers-by could see an old painted advertisement had been revealed on the side of the Restaurant Orsay. “RC Cola” it read, along with a hard to discern name of a former business, a grocery, a confectionary or a hardware store, according to residents.

The restaurant’s architect, Jeff Lane, founder of Lane Architecture, said exposing the old advertisement was a surprise bonus.

“We were going to put a wall there [to visually differentiate the two restaurants], but now we won’t,” said Lane, who specializes in clubhouse projects, such as the renovation of the Timuquana Country Club, the Jacksonville Golf and Country Club, Glen Kernan and others.

There have been mixed feelings among residents about tearing down what was an iconic gathering place. Lane said the intent at the beginning was to try to renovate as much as possible, although his preference was to build new.

“I didn’t think the original building was that attractive to begin with, but there were some nice things about it,” he said. “But structurally it would have been a really difficult thing to do and much more expensive than to build new.”

The condition of the building made the decision easier. Lane said the interior steel columns supporting the building were rusted completely through and were not touching the ground; they were not attached at the floor. “That old building was dangerous. That made it easy to demolish,” he said. “Now I think we’re enhancing the site and the neighborhood.”

During zoning discussions and coordinating with Riverside Avondale Preservation, Lane said owner Jason Motley met with RAP executive director Carmen Godwin, who gave him a list of things she wanted done. “He said, ‘We will do all of these,’” said Lane. “We presented this plan twice to the Historic Commission and the first time they felt we weren’t being traditional enough. When we presented it a second time, they said we hit it out of the park.”

Lane expects to start site work in August and estimates eight months for construction. He hopes they will be serving around May 1. “Things are going to get active in about two weeks,” he said. “We have some tearing up to do, pull out slabs, start trenches for foundations.”

The original plan called for a brick veneer with a whitewash, but now Lane is looking at options for different materials on the exterior to save some money. Whatever he does will have to be presented before the Historic Commission Board and RAP.

The construction company selected to build the 6400-square-foot restaurant and 1,200-square-foot covered patio is The Angelo Group, Inc. Lane recommended Janet Whitmill as the landscape architect.

“The nice thing about this site is that it’s about the only site in Riverside/Avondale that has its own parking,” Lane said. “The reality is the zoning for this particular part of town doesn’t require a lot of parking because it’s trying to encourage a lot of walking or biking. On a really good day the parking lot will be full.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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