Councilwoman Boyer shares plans for river activation

City Councilwoman Lori Boyer’s plan to activate use of the St. Johns River picked up momentum in the new city budget, though Hurricane damage will slow things down.

Her goal is to have “rich, embellished landscaping with iconic features” along the downtown riverfront to help tell Jacksonville’s story and engage people in the river and the city. She presented ideas at the Oct. 26 Waterways Commission meeting.

There’s $1 million in the city budget to begin work on three of what she calls “nodes” at Friendship Fountain, the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, and the USS Charles F. Adams, a floating naval warship museum planned for the Northbank.

Boyer has been consulting with the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and recently had a “charrette” – or brainstorming session – to come up with ideas for the Friendship Fountain node.

Chris Allen, director of design at Haskell Co., said the nodes are meant to be thematic activity spaces that connect to transportation and connect people to the river.

One idea is to have “river towers” that would be 40 to 60 feet tall to mark each node and be identifiable from a distance, Allen said. The space around Friendship Fountain could be opened up to create a park, a splash zone and an area for food trucks.

Boyer said there’s money in the budget to restore Friendship Fountain to be a focal point for lighting up the Riverwalk with music and light shows, possibly playing off the Performing Arts Center and Acosta and Main Street bridges.

She envisions about a dozen nodes along the downtown riverfront that could include pocket gardens, highlighting aspects of Jacksonville history like the Great Fire, sports and the military.

AIA has hired a consulting team to develop a master plan that should be ready by March 2018.

Boyer also said money is now available for demolition of the old City Hall and Courthouse buildings ($8 million), putting in finger piers behind Riverplace Towers ($300,000), docks behind the YMCA and at Post Street ($900,000) and a kayak launch at the Duval County Public School administration building ($200,000).

About two dozen floating docks need to be repaired from damage caused by Hurricane Irma, including ones off Metropolitan Park, the Northbank Riverwalk and Riverside Arts Market. Short-term repairs were made to downtown docks for the Florida-Georgia game, said Lt. Tim Smith of the City’s Emergency Preparedness Office.

Most of the damage occurred when the post-storm surge pushed them over their pylons. A few also lost their gangplanks, said Bob Skalitzky chief of the City’s Natural and Marine Resources Division. The repairs are expected to cost about $7.2 million.

Another 14 sites, including the River Road bulkhead, Memorial Park and parts of the Riverwalks will require about $7.8 million in repairs, Smith said.

The city is applying for FEMA money for the repairs and will also seek FEMA funding for mitigation work that would “harden” the infrastructure against future storms, Skalitzky said.

By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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