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Berkman II is scheduled to be imploded Nov. 14

Gaffney Berkman II
Raymon Troncoso
Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney and Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization manager Park Beeler give an update next to the Berkman II demolition site.

The long-abandoned Berkman II tower has a new demolition date, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14.

The demolition and reconstruction of the building is being paid for and managed by Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization, an organization that is set to take ownership of the property and build a new mixed-use retail and residential plaza.

Berkman II, which Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council members have called an "eyesore," has been standing as a vacant husk on the Downtown riverfront skyline for about 14 years.

The tower, originally built to expand on the luxury condos of Berkman Plaza next door, was left unfinished after negligent construction practices led to an accident in 2007 that killed one man and injured a score of others.

Originally, a high-rise excavator was being used to tear the building down in small chunks, piece by piece. But according to Riverfront Revitalization manager Park Beeler, those plans were halted after a portion of the top floor collapsed, and a subsequent inspection found structural concerns in the building that made continued use of the excavator unsafe.

A demolition using explosives was scheduled for Oct. 17, but delays in obtaining materials and scheduling conflicts with downtown events caused the date to be pushed back.

"You got the Jaguars playing, you got the Jacksonville Fair on a weekend, and you got [The University of Florida vs Georgia], you got three events behind the October day, that pushed us, that kept pushing us back as we was trying to plan a new date," Councilman Reggie Gaffney said Monday during a news conference to announce the new demolition date.

Raymon Troncoso
Gaffney and Beeler survey the Berkman II demolition site in July after a high-rise excavator is brought in.

Gaffney has been fronting the effort to demolish Berkman II and has given his support to Riverfront Revitalization's replacement project.
The planned November demolition, which will use explosives to cause and straight-down implosion of the building, has almost doubled the cost of the endeavor, according to Beeler.

The original excavator plan was set to cost $1.3 million. On Monday Beeler said it was now $2.3 million and further delays would increase costs for both the demolition and eventual reconstruction as the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically raised the price of building materials.

Gaffney and Beeler say the Jacksonville Sherriff's Office, which operates across the street along with the city's prison, as well as nearby buildings including Berkman, have approved of the demolition.

According to Gaffney, precautions including fencing and mesh barriers will be in place to limit the spread of dust and other materials from the Berkman II tower during its implosion.