Councilman lays out District 14 priorities for 2017

With 2016 fading into the rearview mirror, completing existing city projects and paving the way for new ones is on the agenda for 2017.

The focus of the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which contains 180 updated or new projects at $1,088,893,075 for the next five years and beyond, is to maintain and build the city’s infrastructure, and many elements of that plan directly affect our area.

District 14 Councilman Jim Love spoke in specificity about what his priorities are for the new year, including items in the CIP as well as some that aren’t. 

For starters, he plans to revisit and update the Riverside Avondale Zoning Overlay. Established in 2008, the overlay was put into place to protect the character, economic vitality, aesthetic appeal and historical integrity of the Riverside Avondale Zoning Overlay area by providing for supplemental zoning regulations and development standards that were established to support the area historic districts and their surroundings.

Love introduced a bill to City Council last May to make changes to the overlay, then refined it and introduced Bill 2016-580 to the council in August.

“We are going to be making some minor changes to the overlay – it hasn’t been updated for eight years,” Love said. “We will be holding workshops, inviting people to discuss what needs to be changed. We are on schedule to start in January.”

In the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, it’s in the CIP to begin working on the 5 Points intersection. According to the CIP, this project provides modifications to existing roadway infrastructure within the 5 Points area to enhance pedestrian utilization and improve vehicular safety. Within this area, the improvements will impact Park Street, Post Street, Margaret Street, Lomax Street, Oak Street and Herschel Street. Improvements include turning Lomax Street into a one-way eastbound street, expanded sidewalk areas, and reduced roadway widths for safer pedestrian crossings and the retention of the historic beacon that sits at the heart of the Five Points Intersection.

“The work will begin on the 5 Points intersection in the latter quarter of next year. The redesign is a $750,000 project.”

— Jim Love, District 14 Councilman

“The work will begin on the 5 Points intersection in the latter quarter of next year. The redesign is a $750,000 project,” Love said. “The road will be narrowed and the sidewalks will be wider; the beacon will be slightly moved so it’s easier to get around, Lomax will be a one-way street headed toward the river, and it will have new sidewalks, making it more pedestrian friendly. None of the parking spaces will be taken away.”

The Riverside Avondale Community Garden, which celebrated its grand opening last April after years in the making, is important to Councilman Love, who has been a proponent of the garden since the beginning. Located across from Willowbranch Park, at the corner of Park Street and Azalea Terrace, the park is so popular among residents that there is a waiting list for plots.

“I have set aside bond money to finish the parking lot at the garden. It may seem like a minor thing, but I want to get it done,” Love said.

In addition to the overlay bill, Love is also working on a crime initiative that would include education on how landlords can make their buildings less subject to crime, and could make them partially responsible for protecting the surrounding community from criminal acts of the tenants. For example, they could be found liable and fined for renting property to drug dealers. 

“They are doing it in Charlotte – we are looking at theirs and modifying it a little bit. We are working on that, and I hope to have it out next year,” he said.

To enhance the riverfront area at the end of Post Street, the councilman is looking for a floating dock to place there. Someone who wants to open a restaurant at 1000 Riverside Avenue suggested the dock to him.

“There is already parking there, so that makes it nice. The dock would be for boats or possibly a kayak launch. I don’t know if we can get it done by the end of next year, but I’m looking for a Florida Inland National District (FIND) grant, which we can spend on waterfront amenities like docks and bulkheads, as long as it can reach the ocean,” Love said.

Also in the works for next year is a J bill (a local bill that alters state law to allow or disallow city/county specific initiatives) to allow smaller restaurants to have a full bar without having to pay an exorbitant price for a liquor license.

“I want to expand the bill to include part of Edgewood in Murray Hill. The bill would allow smaller restaurants to be able to survive by selling alcoholic beverages besides beer and wine,” Love said. “Instead of being required to have 150 seats to get the license, they could get it with 100 to 149 seats.”

Other projects in the CIP include designing and constructing a replacement bulkhead for the Willowbranch Creek system, a restoration project for Big Fishweir Creek, a new sidewalk along Lakeside Drive from Wabash Avenue to Herschel Street, sidewalk and potential drainage improvements along Yacht Club Road from the clubhouse north to Ortega Boulevard and storm drain replacement on Osceola Street between Riverside Avenue and River Boulevard.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) Skyway expansion is another project that Love is excited about.

“The JTA is planning to bring the automated Skyway express to 5 Points. It won’t happen next year, but it will be in the planning stages. I’m anxious to be part of figuring out how to pay for it and how to bring it to 5 Points – it’s going to be exciting,” Love said.

“I’m looking forward to improving Jacksonville, particularly Riverside Avondale, whether it be through the Overlay or finishing up park projects like the community garden and Memorial Park,” he continued. “I look forward to 2017. I think it will be a great year.”

By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News

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