Renovations planned (again) for Friendship Fountain

Renovations planned (again) for Friendship Fountain
Friendship Fountain on the Southbank will undergo renovations that could include synchronized lights.

District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer is anxiously awaiting the master plan she hopes will take the Riverwalks to the next level, helping to activate the downtown riverfront.

The idea for nodes, or thematic pocket parks, along the Southbank and Northbank Riverwalks has been under discussion for several years. The vision was initially developed by the Jacksonville chapter of the American Institute of Architects as a way to unify the various developments emerging downtown.

The City of Jacksonville has hired consultants – HR&A, which specializes in economic development, and SWA, landscape architects to work with The Haskell Company – on a plan for a dozen nodes located at key points along the Riverwalks.

Boyer hopes by summer to have a master plan that will enable people to better connect with the St. Johns River as well as to the city’s history and culture. One node might tell the story of the Great Fire and another explore the city’s military heritage.

The first two nodes would be at Friendship Fountain and across the river at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts.

The City has allocated $1 million for the renovation of the fountain, which is functioning but in poor repair. The City spent $2.279 million in 2011 on improvements to the fountain, including the pumps, spray jets, and intake valves and pipes. Additionally, the park area surrounding the fountain was a remnant of the original 1960s plan, so the 2011 renovation removed significant areas of concrete to add more lawn areas as well as improve the existing hardscape and landscaping of the park.

Boyer wants the current renovations to make the fountain capable of multimedia shows that could be at the fountain or incorporate the Acosta and Main Street bridges and the performing arts center.

The fountain node would also incorporate the Museum of Science and History and could include a playground, picnic area and amphitheater.

The performing arts center node would tell the story of Jacksonville’s arts and culture history. It, too, could have an amphitheater and picnic area where multimedia shows could play off the façade of the adjacent CSX building, she said.

The City knows people will come downtown to events along the river like the annual Light Boat Parade and Fourth of July fireworks, she said. She hopes events at the nodes will give them another reason to come more often.

The sites of the other nodes are still up in the air. They are dependent on the location of the USS Charles Adams floating museum, the redevelopment of the old City Hall/Courthouse property, and Shad Khan’s plans for the Shipyards property.

Whatever the final design is, Boyer says, there needs to be a WOW! factor.

“If people are wowed, it will bring people downtown,” she said.

By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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