JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - At a time when the government is cutting services, the Jacksonville City Council is being asked to spend $400,000 on a very tiny park.
The money is coming from the state, and its target is a small strip of land in front of the Chamber of Commerce building at the base of the Main Street Bridge in downtown Jacksonville.
The area is considered a public park, which comes as a surprise to many on the council.
The building itself is currently undergoing a $3 million renovation, but it's being funded privately.
Meanwhile, the park is 168 feet long and 48 feet wide. It's not much bigger than a basketball court, and it's slated to become downtown's new front door.
The plan is to spend more than $400,000 to renovate the property, which is owned by the city. It's a park nobody really knew about, and it's taking councilman John Crescimbeni by surprise.
"If it's the property I am thinking of, to spend a half-million dollars on landscaping improvement, I can't imagine what we would spend that on for as small as what I have pictured in my mind," he said.
A rendering (pictured, above) shows the plan for the park, complete with flag poles, decorative lights and reflective ponds.
Those in the area Wednesday said they didn't know the area was a park, but some are willing to give it a chance.
"I think it would depend on the usage, but I am sure with that small space there would not be much usage," one local resident said. "Did not look like there were benches in that picture for people to actually use. But it might be a good thing for public-private partnership."
That is exactly what's happening. The city says once it's done, the Chamber will take over and maintain the property. A spokesman for the mayor says the money is all coming from the Department of Transportation.
It's a beautification project and will also upgrade drainage in the area. The park will have a stage-like structure so it could be used for other events.
While it's not city money, per se, it's still city property and it's tax dollars, and that's the concern for Crescimbeni.
"They were asking our permission to move a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and then they casually mentioned they were going to add that to some other funding that they had," he said. "I think they told us it was like $200,000, which would make it $400,000, but now Im hearing it's almost $500,000, which is a lot of money."
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