Salty Fig’s parking lot river-friendly

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

When The Salty Fig opens in December, it promises not only “great food and a big city bar promoting the best local ingredients,” but may also serve up a lesson in how businesses can cheaply incorporate green design practices.
Owner Mark Rubin has invested two years and $100,000 converting the alley behind the King Street restaurant into a 13-space parking lot that incorporates pervious
pavement and a bioswale.
“When you can easily introduce a component of sustainability into a project, why not do it? I feel we all have a social obligation to protect the environment,” Rubin said.
The bioswale’s price was “nominal” according to San Marco-based engineer Doug Skiles, the project’s designer. “It was an area requiring landscaping regardless, and we looked for a way to add value at no extra cost.”
The major expense was associated with convincing the city and Riverside Avondale Preservation to allow him to convert the alley into a parking lot, Rubin said.
“Attorney and architect fees and fees associated with various applications to the city ate up most of the cost. We also constructed an 8-foot fence for a neighbor that allows air to pass through but not sound. Construction was the smallest expenditure,” Rubin said.
St. Johns Riverkeeper is considering Salty Fig as a pilot for a new river friendly restaurant program for its incorporation of sustainable design elements.
“Criteria is being finalized for the program, but I am excited that they will use a bioswale and serve as an example of how we can effectively manage stormwater using green infrastructure practices,” said Riverkeeper’s Jimmy Orth.
The ecological benefits of bioswales have made them popular throughout Jacksonville, Skiles said. He and Orth conceived of San Marco Library’s bioswale, which was designed by Ortega Forest resident and Jacksonville Zoo horticulturist Bob Chabot. While it was too expensive to include any follow-up results testing, its main purpose was to demonstrate the possibilities.
“Bioswales not only provide temporary storage for stormwater runoff, they are landscaped with plants that naturally filter and clean the stormwater as it recharges the aquifer. The plants themselves serve a beautifying purpose, often used to screen parking areas. When filled with native plants, the bioswales provide a natural habitat for many of our indigenous birds, insects and mammals,” said Skiles, who has another planned for San Marco Station.
Many of these benefits are now on the menu at The Salty Fig.

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