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Activating The River: What’s Next For The Landing, Northbank And Southbank

Bill Bortzfield
Crews continued demolition work at The Jacksonville Landing on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.

Jacksonville’s Downtown waterfront will look very different in 2020 with a host of projects underway that will significantly change the view.

At the top of the list is The Jacksonville Landing, where demolition is scheduled to be completed by May 28, 2020, at the latest.

Whether the Landing property will be reopened to the public following the demolition is still an open question, according to Downtown Investment Authority CEO Lori Boyer.

Related: Site Of Jacksonville Landing Mass Shooting Demolished

“I would hope that it would be available, but, understand, we are trying to be in a position where this could be put out for bid as early as March,” Boyer said.

So while the short-term plan does call for grass to be planted, the possibility of public events at the location will depend on how quickly the bid process goes.

“If we have already awarded the site to someone and someone else is assuming site control in July – it might not make sense,” Boyer told WJCT News during a Wednesday interview.

She said a number of groups have expressed a desire to potentially host concerts or other events on the site.

Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes previously told WJCT News that a 2015 plan to redevelop the Landing is the starting point for future development.

That plan, which was the result of public meetings, called for public spaces but also envisioned everything from restaurants and apartments to a museum.

Rendering from 2015 visioning exercise to redevelop The Jacksonville Landing.

Boyer speculated that the Landing’s long-term redevelopment might include structures that are taller than the buildings that are currently being demolished.

“We know that someone building on that property will likely go higher than the two stories that the former Landing was and that upper stories in the current market would likely consist of some mix of residential, hotel and/or office. And how that mix plays out would largely depend on the market,” she said.

Boyer said the 2015 process showed the public wants Laura Street opened up to the water.

"We want to have a central public space at the intersection of Laura and the Riverwalk," Boyer said.

Next door, at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, another riverfront project is facing a delay. 

Plans there call for “wallcasting:" or projecting a live stream on the side of the CSX building, along with a sensory garden.

The project will be similar to SoundScape Park in Miami Beach, where the New World Symphony often performs with a live projection of concerts or other video on a soaring, 7,000-square-foot projection wall at the New World Center.

Credit New World Symphony
In Miami Beach, WALLCAST concerts are projected on a 7,000-square-foot projection wall.
Credit Bill Bortzfield
"Wallcasting" in Jacksonville is planned on the side of the CSX building.

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union has reported the plan also calls for moving Visit Jacksonville to the southeast corner of the T-U Center.

But Boyer said preliminary work uncovered structural issues with the St. Johns River bulkhead in front of CSX and the T-U Center that need to be dealt with first.

“There was no point in putting the garden features or the interactive elements in before you got the bulkhead work done,” Boyer said.

The design work for the T-U Center area upgrades are continuing. Boyer said the funding for the project is available, and some of the musical play equipment has already been ordered and has arrived in town. 

Design work is also being done to improve the roundabout at the end of Pearl Street, she said. Boyer said to look for bulkhead and other work to get underway in mid-2020.

The wallcasting is part of a larger plan that Boyer and others started working on back when she was still a City Council member.

The idea: Activate the river with a system that allows synchronization of special events such as Fourth of July light shows.  

JTA is installing an LED lighting system on the Acosta Bridge, and the $6 million reconstruction of Friendship Fountain is expected to begin in the spring, according to Boyer, which will result in elaborate new lighting and water shows at the St. Johns River Park, which is more commonly known as Friendship Park.

All three projects are being designed and built to interact with one another.

"That lighting, together with the fountain, together with the Acosta Bridge, would be a free, programmed show that would just run nightly," said Boyer.

Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News
By early 2021, this view will be dramatically different, as a new Friendship Fountain project is completed and the Landing disappears from the Northbank skyline.

Meanwhile, on the Northbank, the area behind the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfont, where the former City Hall Annex and Courthouse were demolished this year – which has been dubbed the Ford On Bay in marketing material – is expected to move to the next step next year.

WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record reported requests for proposals went out in October, and the project is expected to be awarded to a developer by February 20, 2020.

DIA officials have previously said that development will be mixed-use and could include office, open space and a hotel.

Credit Downtown Investment Authority / Via Jacksonville Daily Record
Via Jacksonville Daily Record
This image from the Ford On Bay marketing material shows the area available for development around the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront and Berkman Plaza.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.