Work begins to demolish 18-story riverfront eyesore

Berkman II has sat idle since fatal construction accident in 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than a dozen years after construction of a riverfront high-rise condominium project was idled by a collapse that killed one worker and injured more than a dozen others, the 18-story skeleton will begin coming down.

Over the last decade, there have been several failed efforts to sell and redevelop the property on Bay Street across from the Police Memorial Building. With a sale of the property about to close, heavy equipment began arriving Tuesday and demolition is about to begin.

According to permit filed with the city in January, an Orlando contractor will use a high-reach excavator to take down the 18-story, 279,000-square-foot structure. Demolition is projected to cost just over $1 million and take four months.

Taking the building down layer by layer was chosen rather than implosion after residents of the neighboring Berkman Plaza and Marina express concern about damage to that building.

“It’s going to take longer, but it will be less disturbing to traffic on Bay Street and we’re going to build a berm to make sure no debris falls on to Berkman I,” said Park Beeler, an executive with Jacksonville Riverfront Revitalization, told the Jacksonville Daily Record earlier this year.

On Tuesday, bulldozers arrived and part of the barbed-wire fence that surrounded the site was taken down. Site preparations are expected to take about three weeks before dismantling the building begins.

“It’s a step I hesitated to take for years because my team was collaborating with people for condemnation,” Mayor Lenny Curry said. “We’ve been through too many of these, to your point. The conversations of who’s going to buy it, what are they going to do, who’s going to knock it down or not. The new buyer is committed ... and there’s proof there today that they’re prepping to bring this eyesore down.”

The city condemned the Berkman Plaza II in August. The developer intends to replace the tower with 300 residential units, retail and public park space.

A news conference is scheduled for Wednesday morning to announce details of the project.

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