JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is now ready to spend millions to not only repair a huge hole on Liberty Street but also replace the bridges in the entire area after a good chunk of the road collapsed into the St. Johns River in February.
The collapse left area homeowners without power for weeks and the city without a road for months.
Now, the City Council is looking to spend $37 million to fix the entire site.
The plan will remove the courthouse parking lot permanently, will replace Coastline Drive in front of the Hyatt hotel and will replace Liberty Street to the river. The plan also calls for reworking the Riverwalk around the new site.
A council finance committee approved the plan Wednesday morning, but it will have to be voted on by the entire council when it takes up the budget next month. If approved, the work would start this year and would take more than two years.
"I think what we will see here is really the city creating a wonderful part of our downtown that doesn't exist right now," City Council president Greg Anderson said. "But it's also fixing some major structural issues that have to be addressed."
Anderson said the Liberty Street collapse is a black eye for Jacksonville.
A huge hole that shut down a section of Coastline Drive and Liberty Street has sat untouched since February. Three years before that, another section failed when an overweight crane was moved on the road.
"There is no more acute issue that points to the lack of maintenance over the last few years as Liberty Street does," Anderson said.
In July, Mayor Lenny Curry proposed spending $5 million to make temporary repairs. Now, he and the council said that would be a waste of money and want to spend $37 million to fix the problem once and for all.
A part of Liberty Street, which is a bridge, and a section of Coastline Drive in front of the Hyatt hotel, which is also a bridge, will be rebuilt.
"It will be a very safe area. It will be an attractive place, and I think it will be a great addition to our downtown," Anderson said.
The construction could mean more access problems for the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront until the repairs are complete, but the general manager said in a statement to News4Jax that he's happy to see progress.
"We are very pleased that the Mayor's office and City Council are moving forward with a plan to address the issues with Liberty Street," Gino Caliendo said. "We look forward to a brighter future for the riverfront and downtown."
Gary Beard, who works near the site, blames the city for the collapse. He said officials didn't enforce weight limits on the roads that have been in place since the 1960s. He said he was skeptical of how quickly the repairs could be made.
"I'll be on the brown side of the grass before it gets done," Beard said.
The full council will vote on the plan in September.