Southbank Riverwalk facelift begins

Southbank Riverwalk  facelift begins

Construction schedule football friendly

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Jacksonville media got an unwelcome drenching early last month when Mayor Alvin Brown kicked off construction for the new Southbank Riverwalk with a press conference.
Over the sound of rain drumming on the canopy, Karen Bowling, chief administrative officer, said that at the inception of the project it didn’t take very long to figure out the challenges, including concerns from the businesses along the Riverwalk about the noise from the construction. “I can’t say enough about what good partners Haskell and Public Works has been. We’re probably going to hit some more bumps in the walk, so to speak, but we’re convinced that by what we’ve been able to work through so far, we’ll be able to get to the finish line.”
“It’s no secret that I love Downtown and I believe in Downtown, and the Riverwalk is one of the greatest assets we have in the city,” said. Mayor Brown. “Most cities would die to have a St. John’s River coming right through downtown. What a better way, not only to build and repair this Riverwalk for us but for the next generation, for everyone to enjoy this great, great asset. It took teamwork, that’s how we got here, plus $14.9 million to do this project. The citizens of Jacksonville deserve it.”

The Riverwalk was originally constructed in 1985 with support from Mayor Jake Godbold, City Council, the Downtown Development Authority and the City of Jacksonville Public Works Department.

Storm clouds gathered for the Mayor’s press conference on the Southbank Riverwalk construction project

Storm clouds gathered for the Mayor’s press conference on the Southbank Riverwalk construction project

District 4 Councilman Don Redman noted, “This is a major project for me and I am so glad to have the Southbank Riverwalk in my district. We appropriated the money for this project over three years ago when I broke my leg on the Southbank Riverwalk. I saw the need at that time, and it has been growing greater and greater ever since. It will be a great place for people to come and safely jog and ride bikes and enjoy themselves.”

Haskell Corporation and teammates CH2MHill and Flagg Design partnered with the City for design-build services to deliver the project, which will include new shade structures, steel benches, trash receptacles, pet stations, bike racks and drinking fountains. The Navy Memorial will be reconstructed and new floating docks installed, as well as brick pavers to cover new pre-cast concrete piles and decking, new steel guardrails the entire stretch of the boardwalk and light poles with energy-efficient LED lighting.

After nearly 30 years of wear and tear, demolition of the existing Riverwalk will be done in two phases this fall, allowing new construction to begin the first of December, moving east to west along the boardwalk. The completion date is targeted for September 2014 in time for next year’s football season.

Demolition and reconstruction will be coordinated around Jaguar football games to ensure a positive game day experience for fans. Coordinating the construction schedule with property owners is intended to minimize business interruptions for the water taxi service, Jax River Cruises, and the hotels and restaurants along the Southbank Riverwalk.

“I expect for us to work it out,” said Brown in regard to a question about access to the water through the Crowne Plaza Riverfront Hotel property. “These things take time but at the end of the day we’ll have it all worked out.”

The Mayor felt that the initial challenges were overcome by good leadership. “Providing strong leadership on the project, staying on top of it, making sure we work with all the stakeholders, good communication, everyone was working together and we all had the same shared vision and goal,” said Brown. “Karen Bowling led the charge, she got it done and I want to commend her for working with everyone, all the stakeholders, which makes the difference. It was about the leadership.”

Some portions of the Riverwalk will not be completed under the nearly $15 million budget. Although the money was set aside with the intention of reconstructing the entire Riverwalk, in the more than two years of negotiations with property owners, prices increased and the budget is now not sufficient to cover the whole stretch.

“At almost every single turn we encountered some legitimate problem. If you have a business along the Riverwalk, you are concerned about noise during construction. To Haskell’s credit, they reworked and reworked and reworked plans, with absolutely everybody who presented a barrier or obstacle to getting this done,” said Bowling. “I feel very proud that we’re here today and we’re starting.”

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