Looking back at Jessie Ball duPont Center’s first year

Looking back at Jessie Ball duPont Center’s first year
The Jessie Ball duPont Center is a popular venue for workshops, press conferences and fundraising events.

The transformation of the former Haydon Burns Library into the Jessie Ball duPont Center did much more than preserve an architectural treasure. It designated Northeast Florida as a respected model of collaboration among nonprofit organizations. The building’s airy design fosters communication among its nonprofit tenants and the group concept provides innovative opportunities to bring the area’s entire nonprofit community together to share ideas and resources.

The landmark structure at the corner Ocean and Adams streets downtown had been vacant since 2005, when Jacksonville’s Main Library moved to its new building—a jewel of the Better Jacksonville Plan—off Hemming Plaza. In 2013, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund purchased the former library for $2.2 million and invested $25 million in renovations. In addition to providing affordable office space to nonprofits, goals included nurturing collaboration among tenants in addressing community needs and raising visibility of the nonprofit sector in civic life.

Since it opened June 2015, the Center has exceeded expectations in almost every area, according to Sherry Magill, president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, which is based there. Its 19 tenants, seven more than originally anticipated, range from a sole source operator to United Way of Northeast Florida with about 80 employees.

“We are extremely proud of the way the building has performed, of the way tenants are working together to achieve efficiencies and of the warm reception the building has received from the community,” Magill said. “The Center is busy every day and it has brought countless numbers of people to downtown Jacksonville.”

The first-year impact of having a building dedicated to nonprofits has been “really great,” agreed Rena Coughlin, CEO of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, also a tenant. “We all have experienced true benefits to our bottom line by sharing meeting and training space, technology, office equipment, even kitchen supplies. The Nonprofit Center, which hosts about 200 training workshops and other events a year, saved $7,000 in operating costs the first year by sharing resources.

The building’s finances are strong, in part because of strong occupancy but also because of so many outside groups renting space for events, according to Magill. In the first year, more than 70 non-tenant events were held in the building, which earned an Energy Star Award from the Environmental Protection Agency for its energy conservation, scoring 99 points out of a possible 100.

“It is a gorgeous, cheerful and technologically brilliant place to think, work and collaborate,” Coughlin said. “We reduced our environmental footprint because we have so many shared resources, proving you don’t have to sacrifice quality to become more efficient. It’s an example of civic philanthropy at its best.”

By Lorrie DeFrank
Resident Community News

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