Email from Haskell developer on riverwalk concerns

From: Flagg, Chris 
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2015 2:09 PM
To: Fallin, Thomas
Subject: RE: Southbank Riverwalk - Access Width - CM Redman

Hey Tom:

Thank you very much for reaching out to me and I'm happy to explain our design reasoning for the subject item.

While in our initial design phase, an immediate request arose from multiple sources, ie; the COJ, the JEDC (at the time) and from residents, to insure that whenever possible, shade was of utmost importance. It was noted at that time, the Northbank riverwalk had fallen significantly short of increasing shade areas for pedestrians, so we intended to create areas to accommodate that program item. Landscaping was not an option due to the concrete design of the replacement structure. Thus, the shade sails were chosen as the alternative shade providing structures. They became a principal design element within the project and due to the multiple restrictions due to the walk's width and length, strategic planning was necessary to ensure that we could provide adequate pedestrian shade areas, along with achieving, within budgets, proper walkway widths for the length of the project. You will notice that at all shade sail locations, the walk width is totally shaded by the sail. The benches were provided and manufactured to our specifications, to not only provide seating, but to provide head height protection to pedestrians due to the limited width and ground mounting capacity of this shade sail design. Because of the limitations on walkway width, we had to choose a bench manufacturer that could provide the circular seating to maximize all of our above concerns. A straight bench cannot work with this shade sail as it presents to many pedestrian hazards. Our bench and shade solution was one of many considered and was finalized after much thought and effort was put into the final design intent.

As for bicycles, although we provide bike racks and varying walkway widths throughout the length of the design in order to accentuate certain points of interest in our overall design, the intent was to have it available for the casual bike user and was not meant to create any bike/pedestrian conflicts for various safety and liability reasons. It was always thought that the pedestrian would have the benefit of right-of-way and that bikers would be considerate enough to dismount at high pedestrian use areas, seating areas and gathering spaces. There was never any conversation regarding any serious bike routing on this riverwalk in the context of races, competitions or even any fast riding. Therefore, all walkway widths, pass through points, etc., all meet or exceed safety and handicapped accessibility requirements for pedestrians. Lastly, the COJ program criteria was for the walkway to be built all over water, so widths and length became a very important element of consideration in order to have all of the most important elements of the design intact.

With that being said, I was also involved in the "San Marco by Design" effort sponsored by the COJ a couple of years ago, and it was pointed out at that time that the Southbank Riverwalk would be a critical pedestrian path to encircle the southbank area and that it COULD be used by bikers, but with considerations and limitations. The primary function is as a walkway, not a bikeway. I was part of the initial visioning plan effort for the Riverplace Blvd redevelopment plans as well, and it was of high importance for any new road design to contain a dedicated bikeway to be used in accordance to all context sensitive street design criteria. That would provide the overall circumnavigation of the southbank neighborhood by bike, as desired by the residence.

Also, during the multiple iterations related to redesign of the river walk, its length and its access points fluctuated a number of times so that there were not always proper connection points that would serve both the pedestrian and biker due to narrow walks, through-building access, etc.

To summarize, with all of the early program, design and budget restrictions, the most effective solutions to provide an exciting pedestrian walkway to serve the community as a destination, gathering point and river front interpretation opportunity, were implemented to maximize the best solution for all users.

I apologize for the lengthy explanation, but due to the complexity of the design, much thought and consideration was addressed for all potential users and although maybe not totally ideal, it will serve our community as a wonderful riverfront destination.

I will be happy to meet personally with you, your staff, Councilman Redman, or whomever would like further clarification on this or other matters related to the Southbank design. Councilman Redman has been an ardent supporter of this effort and I fully appreciate his continued interest in its successful completion.

Thanks very much,

Christopher D. Flagg, FASLA
Director of Design – Municipal and Education Division
111 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville, FL 32202