After delays, Berkman II finally turned into a pile of rubble

Abandoned building demolished Sunday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The building known as downtown Jacksonville’s most infamous eyesore finally came down Sunday morning.

Thousands of people from around the city watched the 10-second implosion that erased the building from the skyline. It became a must-see event.

The Berkman Plaza II building has been an abandoned structure on East Bay Street for more than 14 years.

“Finally! I’ve been working on this since my first year in office and it’s been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle. But it’s done and now we can move on,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said after the Berkman fell to the ground.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: Key moments in the Berkman Plaza II eyesore saga

Hundreds of people lined up here along the riverwalk from the Duval County Public Schools headquarters all the way down to the Main Street bridge to watch the building implosion from across the river.

“I think everybody is glad to see it go,” Debra Fraser said.

Tracy Holland watched the old City Hall implode three years ago. She says this one wasn’t as scary or loud.

“The other time it went off I can only think about people who are stuck in war and they cannot escape that it was actually aimed toward there and this is actually a building coming down on purpose,” said Holland, who has lived in Jacksonville for 45 years.

Antrelle Brown took it all in with her husband and grandson.

Brown hopes the pile of rubble that was left can eventually be transformed into something enjoyable for everyone who calls this city home.

“We love to come down to the Riverwalk and we used to love to run on the other side and with everything that was going on there was nothing to do there,” Brown said.

It was a celebration for those who live in Berkman I next door. They clinked champagne glasses and said good riddance.

“You know what, almost anything is an improvement,” said resident Dean Nix. “If it’s a tall condo apartment building park anything is an improvement and it’s for the best interest of Jacksonville.”

Sunday’s $1.2 million demolition came after years of back and forth. Jacksonville officials said this process has been frustrating with all the delays.

The implosion was already delayed once this year. The Jan. 8 date was said to be “too optimistic.”

The partially completed building has been sitting since the construction stopped in 2007.

Last year, there was a permit to demolish the building from the top-down. But then contractors found problems with the structure and required an emergency stop to all demolition activities.

Now, a developer wants to replace the Berkman II with the city’s tallest skyscraper.

Bay Street was closed at 7 a.m. and reopened in the afternoon after debris was cleared from the road.

Now the question is how long is the rubble and debris going to sit at the site. The city already has plans to remove it but a timetable wasn’t immediately. clear.

Watch 30 minutes of News4JAX’s special coverage from Sunday morning by clicking the video link below

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.