JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city has set a date for the implosion of the old City Hall Annex as work continues on dismantling historic buildings in downtown Jacksonville that have outlived their purposes.
The Bay Street high-rise that once served as the city's headquarters is set to come crashing down in a cloud of dust on Jan. 20. Meanwhile, crews aim to demolish the old courthouse by spring.
The effort marks the biggest demolition project undertaken downtown since the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Coliseum was demolished in 2003. It’s expected to cost a total of $8 million.
Taking down the courthouse has been a painstaking process as the city works to preserve some of the building’s history, including a memorial to seven workers who died during its construction.
That memorial will eventually be moved into the current Duval County courthouse, along with several other artifacts collected over the years since the old courthouse was first dedicated in 1958.
Court administrator Joe Stelma, who worked at the old courthouse for years, said there are a number of reasons why now’s the time to get rid of the building.
"Well, I think the time has come for that building to be torn down and made use for whatever that building for whatever the city has in mind," said Stelma. "It served its purpose."
“I don’t think good riddance would be the word,” he said. “I am sure the city might be saying that from maintenance and upkeep over the years. It’s full of asbestos. That’s what everybody is thinking about.”
Stelma said he still has memories, both good and bad, of the building dating to when he was just a child. He recalled how inmates used to try to get revenge against the judges who put them behind bars.
“Inmates would stuff the toilets with toilet paper and it would back up in one of the judge’s offices,” he said.
Just across the street sits the old City Hall Annex. That’s where crews are working to remove pieces of the structure before January when the dynamite goes off and the building comes down.
Management at the nearby Hyatt Regency Jacksonville said the plan is for the hotel to stay open when the implosion takes place, even though it’s about 10 paces away from the annex.
City officials said being close to the site won’t be a problem for neighboring businesses. They said they plan to put up a screen of some kind to contain the dust, so that it doesn’t reach the hotel.