Crews assess damage in Liberty Street collapse

Part of Liberty Street collapses into St. Johns River

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Crews from JEA, the city's public works division and the Department of Transportation will be back at the scene of a downtown street collapse.

Part of South Liberty Street in downtown Jacksonville collapsed into the St. Johns River on Sunday, leaving the Berkman Villas Townhomes without power because of a damaged conduit and transformer.

"We don't feel safe," said resident Bernadette Eagle. "We really don't feel safe and safety is your biggest concern, especially in your own home. You should feel safe."

Mark Wilson was watching Eagle's home for her while she and her boyfriend were out of town. He said when he got up in the morning, he walked out to find a giant hole in the ground.

Eagle said the property manager e-mailed all the residents letting them know what was going on. Eagle said they rushed home.

"I didn't think it was that big because we weren't here when it happened," Eagle said. "It's really alarming. It's scary because that's the second one on the same street. How safe is this area? We're really concerned."

Wilson said he's afraid the collapse could expand and cause damage to the parking garage just feet away, which is why he and Eagle moved their cars out of the garage.

"I pressed the remote and found out that the exit door was not opening," Wilson said. "I quickly said, 'Well because there's no power, maybe there will be an issue getting my truck out.' At that point, I pressed the other side -- the entrance -- and that opened up, and I thought, 'Let's get out of here safely.'"

JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said its crews are working with city of Jacksonville engineers because utility workers can't get to the transformer until the area is declared safe.

David DeCamp, director of communications with the city, sent News4Jax this statement:

"Power supply to nearby townhomes was broken because of the incident, and work is under way to assess options to restore power. As a precautionary measure, the City's Environmental Quality Division is monitoring the site, which fronts the St. Johns River. We also are working with the Florida Department of Transportation, which oversees bridges. The section of street functions as a bridge because it is over water. The section of Liberty Street is structurally separate and distinct from other properties nearby.

In order to allow personnel proper access and limit traffic impediments, Coastline Drive between Market and Liberty streets has been closed."

This is not the first collapse in the area. Part of South Liberty Street and the sidewalk between the Berkman Plaza and the old Duval County Courthouse collapsed in early 2012 when a 12-ton crane was being used to pressure wash the existing parking garage.

That stretch of South Liberty Street near Coastline Drive has been closed ever since

In December 2007, a parking garage under construction on the other side of the condominium complex collapsed, killing one construction worker and injuring 23 others.

In April 2014, a bankruptcy judge awarded a lien on the half built Berkman Plaza II to Choate Construction.

Choate was owed $10.2 million for the work done at the site before the collapse.

The estimated value of the property was $12.4 million, but it was sold at auction for $100 in April 2014 when the original contractor entered the only bid..

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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