City’s bicentennial inspires look to future of Jacksonville’s riverfront

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Jacksonville celebrates 200 years -- including lots of changes to the look of the riverfront -- we look ahead to more changes coming along the city’s iconic St. Johns River.

The former site of The Jacksonville Landing is an empty field currently, but a $166 million Riverfront Plaza high rise may be on the way.

More new housing is coming where the old Duval County Courthouse once stood. The area will be known as “The Hardwick,” named after Jacksonville architect Taylor Hardwick. The plan calls for 330 apartments and a pair of restaurants for $140 million.

The spot where the former Florida Times-Union building stood for 55 years is clearing space for 300 multifamily homes and a riverfront restaurant.

The price tag for that redevelopment is $250 million.

This all sounds good to Lottie Linder, who has called Jacksonville home for 67 years.

“I like to see the streets more alive,” Linder said. “I like Jacksonville the way it was. I am used to the stores that they had, JCPenney and all that. I know things change.”

The Berkman II imploded in March. Taking its place is Jacksonville’s new naval museum, featuring the USS Orleck as the centerpiece. It opens to the public in July.

The Jacksonville Fire Museum will share that space after it moved from near TIAA Bank Field because that area is set for a nearly $400 million facelift.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan is planning to bring in a Four Seasons Hotel, which is expected to have 174 luxurious rooms and 25 residential units. The project could break ground as soon as the end of this year.

Carnell Oliver is optimistic.

“It provides a lot of opportunity for Jacksonville to grow and to build something better for this community,” said Oliver, who has lived in the city for six years.

Jacksonville’s Museum of Science & History is moving from the Southbank, where it was for more than 50 years, to the other side of the river.

A new, bigger building will accommodate 469,000 visitors a year.

The Historic Laura Street Trio Restoration is underway.

A $27 million rehabilitation is turning a group of vacant buildings into a 145-room Marriott Hotel, bringing a restaurant and bodega grocery store with it.

Nearby is the Jones on Hogan Development with 103 apartments and two big storefronts planned for that area.

There is even talk that the Duval County Public Schools headquarters might find a new home. The school district is considering leaving the Southbank for a smaller, consolidated space. Sixteen bidders are ready to pounce on the property if it goes up for sale.

These changes leave room for concern for Oliver.

“The price of everything keeps going up and it is pricing a lot of people out of their homes,” he said. “It may be nice to see these nice projects happening, but if it is not benefiting everybody, then it is a problem.”

Only time will tell.

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