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Downtown dynamite: What to know about Sunday's Berkman II implosion

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Claire Heddles
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WJCT News
The Berkman II building is scheduled for implosion on Sunday.

A downtown Jacksonville eyesore is coming down after 14 years of sitting vacant on the waterfront.

Construction on the high-rise was permanently halted in 2007 after the parking garage collapsed, killing one worker and injuring more than 20 others.

Demolition has been rescheduled at least three times, and contractors threatened to pull out of the demolition project earlier this year after months of delays.

The city of Jacksonville stepped in to cover the remaining $1.2 million for the demolition and set a final demolition date: Sunday at 10 a.m.

The demolition team advises everyone to get ready for heavy dust and traffic delays. Here's what else you need to know:

How it works

The building is set to come down by implosion and will spew dust as the stories fall.

"Implosion is a process where a small amount of explosives is used to disrupt selected supports in a building," A Pece of Mind explanation reads. "This allows gravity to pull the structure down in a controlled manner."

Pece of Mind Environmental Inc. and Controlled Demolition Inc. are carrying out the implosion.

According to documents sent to Jacksonville mayor's office, there could be up to six minutes of heavy dust in the area.

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Screen Capture
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City of Jacksonville
A protection plan contractors submitted to Jacksonville City Council in January.

"With a wrecking ball or high-reach excavator, the building is slowly broken up releasing dust over a lengthy period of time. With implosion, the same overall quantity of dust is released in a matter of seconds and may linger in the general area for four to six minutes before Pece of Mind’s crews begin cleanup of same from streets and sidewalks."

According to a plan submitted to the city in January, the crews are also covering the nearby Sheriff's Office windows and parking garage entrance with poly sheeting.

Traffic

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it will shut down surrounding streets starting at 7 a.m. Roads could stay closed for hours. According to the Sheriff's Office, "until the area has been rendered safe and all debris created during the event has been cleaned up."

Courthouse Drive, East Bay Street and Forsyth Street will be closed between Market Street and Marsh Street.

Liberty Street will also be closed between the riverfront and Adams Street.

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Screen Capture
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COJ
Downtown street closures are scheduled to take effect at 7 a.m. Sunday.

Where to watch

The city of Jacksonville is discouraging the public from watching the implosion in person.

"The City is encouraging citizens to watch from home on the news outlet of their choice," a news release reads. "This event will not be open to the public. There will be no public viewing area."

But at least one company has an option for the curious.

St. Johns River Taxi is charging $25 a person to watch the implosion from one of its boats Sunday morning. The Berkman II implosion cruise will take off from Friendship Fountain at 9 a.m. Sunday. Tickets must be purchased in advance.

What's next

The owners of Berkman II said this week that they will rapidly develop the site once it's cleared. PB Riverfront Revitalization of Jacksonville LLC plans a 40-story, residential mixed-use tower, according to WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record.

“We’re increasing the height of the tower portion of the plan due to heightened demand for residential. It will be primarily a mix of condos and apartments and the possibility remains for (a) hotel,” Manager Park Beeler told the Jax Daily Record on Tuesday.

PB Riverfront’s latest plans would create the city’s second-tallest building. The Bank of America Tower at 50 N. Laura St. is the tallest at 42 stories.