Long-awaited Riverfront Plaza delayed one month
The first phase of the long-awaited Riverfront Plaza — on the site of the former Jacksonville Landing — has been postponed.
A yearlong construction project on the park's western side should have begun Monday, but it won't get underway until July 5, city officials said.
The construction could have interfered with multiple activities in the next few weeks, a city spokesperson said.
One activity is the city's annual Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration, which includes special events at Riverfront Plaza, according to the city's website. City residents also traditionally line the Northbank Riverwalk there to watch fireworks launched from Downtown bridges and barges in the St. Johns River.
City officials said construction in June also could have caused traffic and parking concerns for the upcoming swearing-in ceremonies of the mayor-elect and City Council, held at the Jacksonville Center for the Performing Arts a block away from the park site.
"The mayor and mayor-elect’s office feel that it is best to postpone the start of construction to July 5 due to the holiday week and other festivities happening around this time to eliminate any traffic and/or parking disruptions," a City Hall statement read.
Mayor-elect Donna Deegan said Monday morning that she had just heard about the postponement. She said she had no part in asking for it but agreed with the move.
"Sounds like this was a decision made by the mayor's office because of the council swearing-in and mine and the July 4th celebrations," she said in a text message.
"I did not request a delay," she said in another text. "The fact is, we have council swearing-in on the 22nd, mine on the 1st and July 4th holiday. I believe that's why the decision was made."
Back in mid-May, city officials said work on the Perkins & Will Inc. Riverfront park design, selected almost two years ago, would begin June 5 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.
The first phase's final elements were 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.
Phase two of the park could start in about a year. It 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 also would include a 44-story residential tower proposed by American Lions LLC.
As for the park’s proposed 151-foot-tall “Jax” sculpture, set 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,” has had mixed reviews. The sculpture will require private donations, city officials said.