Mayor John Peyton met today with City Council members Dr. Johnny Gaffney, Warren Jones, Don Redman and Michael Corrigan to discuss moving forward with the implementation of three major downtown improvement projects: Southbank Riverwalk replacement, Friendship Fountain restoration and Metropolitan Park redevelopment.
Legislation was filed to allocate approximately $23 million for funding of these downtown improvement projects. All of the money for these projects represents one–time dollars previously allocated for downtown initiatives. These three projects were selected based on reprioritization and best need for downtown Jacksonville.
“These improvement projects are vital to the continuing revitalization of downtown and will only enhance our public spaces and river access to our residents and more than 13 million visitors who visit downtown each year,” said Mayor Peyton. “We currently have a very competitive bid market that will translate into better utilization of these downtown funds to enable downtown to be in an ideal position post-recession to attract future private capital investment.”
Office buildings on the Southbank support more than 10,000 employees, or 20 percent of the downtown base. It also houses nearly 800 residential units that represent more than $215 million in private investments. Combined, the structures along the Southbank represent more than $500 million in taxable value. With the increase of residents and users and the potential for future development, the Southbank Riverwalk serves as an amenity and catalyst for private sector development, yet it is strongly in need of major repair.
The legislation proposes allocation of $11.9 million for the Southbank Riverwalk replacement with improvements that include:
- Replacement of the current structure with a more durable walking surface that will translate into an additional 40-year life span for the Riverwalk
- Update Riverwalk fixtures such as trash receptacles, lights and railing
Friendship Fountain was constructed in the 1960s as a unique, iconic fountain within a larger park that spanned the area between the Main Street and Acosta Bridges. The original Taylor Hardwick design included a fountain that had a central spray jet that shot water more than 100 feet into the air and was surrounded with various paving patterns and site amenities that were indicative of the era.
Since then, portions of the park have been redeveloped and the fountain, due to age, has fallen into disrepair. The fountain's custom designed pumps have reached their lifespan and are in need of a complete replacement. Today, the location of the Friendship Fountain ties into the Southbank Riverwalk with the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) and the River City Brewing Company flanking its boundary.
The legislation proposes the allocation of approximately $3.2 million for improvements to Friendship Fountain and the surrounding area that includes St. Johns River Park. Proposed renovations include:
- Restoration of the fountain and replacement of the pump system
- Removal of thousands of square feet of concrete and installation of a lawn
- Installation of a more relevant connection to the Riverwalk
- Installation of park amenities including lighting, trash receptacles and seating
Currently there are few public spaces in the urban core where visitors can enjoy direct access to the St. Johns River. Based on results from a citizen-based workshop, portions of Metropolitan Park and Kids Kampus need to be redeveloped to create a more relevant and open public space. This project will not only capitalize on greater river access, but will also create a more user-friendly, inviting destination for the 2.5 million visitors annually that attend events in the sports and entertainment district.
The legislation allocates approximately $8.2 million to support phase one of the redevelopment of Metropolitan Park, better leveraging the use of the 30 acres on the St. Johns River and the Northbank Riverwalk. Proposed improvements include:
- Creation of an enhanced children's play area including improved water features and connectivity to the current Fire Museum
- Removal of current fencing and other barriers to improve river access
- Creation of a 4-acre public lawn with flexible space (for activities such as family activities, festivals, markets, athletic events, etc.), picnic pavilions, landscaping and tree canopy for shade
These downtown projects will further promote the importance of the St. Johns River to the region's economic development, complement the current programming of downtown events, improve downtown's public spaces and river access and create jobs and work activity in a needed time.