JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The much-delayed demolition of a downtown Jacksonville eyesore could get a dynamite turbo boost in about six weeks.
Jacksonville City Council member Reggie Gaffney told News4Jax on Friday that the owners of the Berkman Plaza II are now finalizing permits to have the buidling imploded after concerns were raised that the plan to bring it down with heavy machinery is too dangerous.
A week ago, police and firefighters blocked off parts of Bay Street and the Riverwalk after engineers worried parts of the 180-foot-tall structure could fall during demolition.
The vacant building is nestled between the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office headquarters, the Duval County jail and the Berkman Plaza condominiums and marina.
Originally, the property’s owner wanted to implode the tower, but the city had concerns about how that might affect surrounding properties and opted to bring in a company that would use a special excavator to remove the concrete and metal structure.
Berkman Plaza II has been half-finished since 2007, when the parking garage collapsed while under construction killing construction worker Willie Edwards III, 26, and injuring 23 others.
In February 2011, a three-member panel of arbitrators ruled the collapse of the garage was the “direct result of design errors” for which Berkman is legally responsible. The panel also ordered Berkman to pay Choate Construction, the general contractor, a multi-million dollar lien, for wrongful termination, after the garage collapse.
Since April 2021, the city has been preparing to demolish the building one floor at a time.
In July 2021, the demolition began with a high-reach excavator. The work was expected to take at least three months.
“I think we got plans to remove the structure as soon as possible,” Gaffney said. “Do not forget we’ve got football season coming up.”
He said the contractor, Pece of Mind, thinks the safest and most efficient way is an implosion.
News4Jax reached out to the company’s owner Steve Pece for comment.
There are concerns because the last major explosive demolition in downtown Jacksonville didn’t go according to plan. The former City Hall building, near the Hyatt Regency, was imploded in 2019. However, the explosion and debris caused dust and damage to nearby buildings, including the Blackstone Building. The tower, which houses business offices and a restaurant, still has boarded-up areas where the glass was broken.
The Berman Plaza II demolition won’t cost taxpayers anything, Gaffney told News4Jax.
“It’s not gonna cost us one penny,” he added. “It’s gonna cost the owner of the project. Don’t forget he already paid $1 million. And I think this change will cost him another $600,000.”