Councilwoman Boyer keeping finger on pulse of San Marco

Looking forward to checking off completed projects

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer is a very busy woman. As chair of the Land Use & Zoning Committee (LUZ), she’s keeping her eye on the development, building and remodeling that’s heating up again after five long years of stasis.

In a 30-minute meeting at her office in City Council Chambers late last month, Boyer quickly went through a list of different construction projects in San Marco that begin with the Southbank Riverwalk, jump down to the north end of San Marco Boulevard and stretch down to San Marco Square and Balis Park, then back up Hendricks Avenue.
According to Boyer, renovation of the Southbank Riverwalk is slated to begin Sep. 1 and be
completed in less than one year.

“It’s long overdue and an insurance liability,” Boyer noted regarding the splintering, and sometimes missing, boards.
The current hang-up, however, she explained, is concerns by the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville-Riverfront hotel about construction noise and also whether they will be part of the plan to allow public access to the Riverwalk. The hotel wants to limit or even prevent activity along the boardwalk directly behind the hotel so has not, to date, been amenable to providing public access on either side of its property. Two access routes (see drawing) are available, but require bicyclists and pedestrians to take a roundabout way.
Also in the Southbank area, plans for the Southbank Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are stalled while the Jacksonville Transportation Authority is waiting to hear back from the Florida Transportation Authority regarding flexibility on either expanding the project boundaries or changing what streets qualify in order to remove Riverplace from the equation and not lose the federal funding.
Visitors and regular commuters to Downtown may have noticed the paving recently done under I-95southbound off the Fuller Warren Bridge. The center portion, between Palm Avenue and San Marco Boulevard, will be a dedicated parking lot for Baptist Hospital, replacing the lot they are losing to the east due to the Overland Bridge project.
The portion of the underpass area to the west of Palm Avenue is being considered for a public venue space, perhaps an “activity” park that would help promote the healthy living missions of the nearby hospitals and clinics. According to Boyer, the area is too small for a jogging trail and it is not a good place for a playground. “I don’t see this as RAM II,” said Boyer, referring to the Riverside Arts Markets.

Boyer mentioned that a group of people, including representatives from Florida Department of Transportation, Melody Bishop from the Downtown Investment Authority and Doug Skiles of EnVision, a civil engineer who specializes in unique public land use, will meet in early to mid-July to discuss design options for that potential public place.
Moving southbound along San Marco Boulevard, travelers will notice that the Square re-opened in May and Balis Park was completed in time for Fourth of July. Reese Riggle, newly elected president of San Marco Preservation Society, said that there are plans for a celebration in late
summer/early fall.

Beyond the Square, across the street from Southside Baptist Church on Atlantic Boulevard, plans for a Chase Bank are awaiting resolution for a reconfiguration request that was made after the bank’s request for a deviation from plan was approved.

Concerns by residents over another egress from the bank’s drive-thru onto Thacker Avenue across from the Julia Landon College Preparatory School resulted in a subsequent request that would require adjacent property owners to make accommodations. According to Boyer, Chase officials are willing to make adjustments if the property owners are agreeable.
Moving over and up Hendricks Avenue, northbound toward I-95, the San Marco Station redevelopment is underway. Unfortunately for the tenants in the former South Jacksonville City Hall building, the parking lot was demolished as part of the overall construction plan. Although final plans provide for eight dedicated parking spaces for the San Marco Preservation Society and Greenscape, the question is how long before those spaces will be available. “There is no indication that repaving is imminent,” said Boyer.

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