The historic Bowden house at 3323 Loretto Road has for years stood as one of the few remnants of Mandarin’s rural, farming-centric roots. The building, constructed in the early 1900s, housed the family of blacksmith, vegetable trader, and eventual county supervisor of elections Fleming Bowden.
Unfortunately, like so many other historic properties in modern Jacksonville, it’s now at risk of being demolished.
The property’s current owner, the Murel G. Cissell Living Trust, is looking to sell the 23.6-acre lot to Hart Resources, LLC, which in turn wants to build a 56-home subdivision on the land.
The proposed development would require a rezoning of the property, which is currently zoned as Residential Rural-Acre. Under current zoning, Hart Resources would only be allowed to build a maximum of 23 houses. An ordinance (#2020-0020) is currently in the review process to rezone the property as a Planned Unit Development, allowing up to seven units per acre.
Regardless of the outcome of the rezoning ordinance, the Bowden house would be demolished once the project moves forward, removing one of the neighborhood’s few remaining early-1900s structures.
The proposal has prompted complaints from Mandarin residents, whose objections are two-fold: they don’t want to see the Bowden house destroyed, and they believe the new subdivision would be detrimental to their neighborhood. A petition to stop the rezoning of the property has over 5,400 signatures, and residents have shown up to committee and council meetings to voice their concerns.
Many of them believe that, while Hart Resources is perfectly within their rights to redevelop the property, there’s no need to allow for more than twice as many units along an already high-traffic, three-lane road.
The protection of once-rural land is becoming a subject of interest in the city, with another pending ordinance (#2020-0002) proposing the rezoning of 48 acres of agricultural land near Black Hammock Island for a development with just under 100 homes.
The fate of both projects will likely be determined in the next month or two, as each ordinance moves through the committee process. Residents are determined to speak up at every opportunity, with the Mandarin Museum’s Facebook page providing routine updates on public hearings related to the ordinance.
As for the Bowden house, its fate will be dictated by whether Hart Resources goes through with development even if the rezoning request is denied. If it does, it seems that relocation may be the building’s only remaining option. One obvious potential landing spot would be Walter Jones Historical Park, which already features multiple historic Mandarin buildings.
If relocation can’t be arranged, though, this project may spell the end for the Bowden house, whether residents win the rezoning battle or not.
If you’re interested in sharing your thoughts regarding this development, the ordinance will be discussed during the Land Use and Zoning committee meeting on March 17 at 5:00 PM at city hall.