At long last, Riverfront Plaza construction will begin June 5
Farewell, sunset Zumba classes and Thursday River Jams on the St. Johns Riverfront — for now.
Starting June 5, the first phase of the 7-acre Riverfront Plaza will begin construction on the grassy lawn that was once home to the Jacksonville Landing.
City officials said work on the Perkins & Will Inc. park design, selected almost two years ago, will start along Independent Drive and the western half of the site, including the Northbank Riverwalk. That phase will include curving walkways, native plant gardens and a cafe with a playground on top of it.
It will take about a year to build, with the final elements still in the bidding process, so there is no final cost, city officials said. But the funding will come from the city's Capital Improvement Plan.
The second phase will focus on the eastern side of the site next to the Main Street bridge.
That work includes a pedestrian ramp from the bridge and the beer garden beneath it, along with a fountain and other elements. It would include a 44-story residential tower proposed by American Lions LLC.
The Downtown Investment Authority voted in September on more than $36 million worth of incentives for the American Lions project, according to the Jacksonville Daily Record. The tower will include about 300 apartments and a rooftop restaurant on about an acre of Riverfront Park. The project's development agreement will go before City Council this summer, city officials said.
Phase two of the park could start in about a year.
As for the park's proposed 151-foot-tall “Jax” sculpture, proposed for the eastern end of the park, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund is working with its artist and a number of experts to refine the design and present something that is more affordable, city officials said.
The sculpted chrome design, which spells out "Jax" in shiny script, has had mixed reviews. The artist attended recent River Jams to gather public input, and city officials said revisions will capture "the spirit of Jacksonville" while remaining impactful.
The sculpture will require private donations, city officials said.