November 24, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Preston Haskell

Founder and chairman, design-build firm Haskell Co., Jacksonville, age 72

Cynthia Barnett | 7/11/2011
Preston Haskell
[Photo: Jon M. Fletcher]

» On Saturdays, I would find myself walking through half-constructed buildings, seeing how they were built, what the structural and mechanical aspects looked like. If there was a house being built in my neighborhood, I would crawl through it.

» Unfortunately, 'no new taxes' resonates with the electorate. We are going to get ourselves into a very bad squeeze by being shortsighted and making blunt-instrument promises about taxation.

» Birmingham's future looked very bleak around 1962. I wanted to establish my own identity in a new city.

» My art acquisition is based upon the Abstract Expressionism movement of the 1940s and '50s. I have a number of the original AbEx's such as Hans Hofmann and Mark Rothko and Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell. And then the second generation of AbEx's came along such as Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis. And then of course minimalism and pop art followed AbEx in the 1960s so I have a few examples of minimalism.

» Jacksonville was more of a southern city than a Florida city. I thought that when I first saw it and now.

» I thought that integrating the design and the construction would lead to fewer conflicts, faster delivery time, lower costs and importantly, singular responsibility. If the roof leaked or the floor cracked, there was only one person that the owner could turn to.

» My current car is a Honda Insight, 7 years old, one of the first hybrids available in Jacksonville. I am No. 1 on the waiting list for a Nissan Leaf. My plan is just to plug it in when I get home every night and unplug it every morning with a full charge.

» We never pay a dividend. We've always reinvested all our earnings.

» It's an emotional thing. It was the creativity. The AbEx's became the center of the art world during the late '40s and early '50s. So it was historically significant. It's quintessentially an American movement.

» It's got to be good growth.

» Many fathers, emotionally and otherwise, want their sons to follow into the business. I did not feel that way. I wanted him to do that which would give him the most satisfaction. He came to me and said, 'Dad, I don't want to make my career in the Haskell Company.'

» The very powerful American Institute of Architects in Florida would not let a member of the AIA work for a design-build contractor. That made recruitment of architects difficult because they had to choose between working for us and being a member of the AIA.

» The issue at the local level is the decline of downtown, the leapfrogging of close-in neighborhoods and the proliferation of the automobile, highway traffic and outer suburbs. The extreme suburbs and adjacent counties contain so much of the intellectual and financial wealth that we should have in Duval County.

» I have things of pop art, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, amongst others. The fifth branch of the collection is Frank Stella, who doesn't fall into any of the above categories. There are about 50 Frank Stellas. I love it. Not just for the artwork, but the technique.

» One-party control of the House, Senate and governorship is a bit extreme. They've been a bit extreme in dismantling growth management.

» I was 60 years old. I did not want to wait until the last minute to develop a succession plan. And we had always had a strong tradition of promotion from within, but I said to myself if I could get Steve Halverson, it would be worth the risk of going outside.

» I hope that the next wave of development will be infill downtown and that neighborhoods like Springfield, Avondale and Riverside will bring people in and make commuting to work a 10-minute proposition rather than a one-hour proposition and build the tax base. We will be a much better society than one that is diffused and not interested in the core of the city.

» Fact is the art appreciates in value much faster than most any other investment.

» We need enlightened, thoughtful people who are not extremists. But our party system has set us up. To get nominated by your party, you have to cater to the extreme wings. That gives you two extremists running against each other. They find it difficult to move to the middle.

» I would like to see us have an 11- or 12-mill tax rate instead of a 9-mill tax rate and use that to make us the best city in the South, instead of the cheapest city in the South.

» I haven't quite accomplished it, but I want to put a piece of art in every private office.

Tags: Florida Icon, Housing/Construction

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