Budget calls for Northbank development

$20M in mayor's budget would be spent on Landing, Metro Park, old courthouse

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Jacksonville's downtown riverfront could see big changes if Mayor Alvin Brown gets his way.

His new budget calls for spending more than $20 million toward massive improvements on the stretch from the Jacksonville Landing to Metropolitan Park.

The mayor says downtown improvements hinge on what happens at the Landing and the entire Northbank area.

"Look at this valuable waterfront property. It's been sitting here for years and nothing is happening," said Toney Sleiman, of Sleiman Enterprises.

IMAGES: Proposal would remake Jacksonville Landing

The Landing would again become a showcase. The plan is to spend $11.8 million and change the public areas, opening it up to the streets and making an amphitheater in the stage area.

"You know, we live in a great city and we don't show it off," Sleiman said.

He said he is still on board with changing the concept of the Landing from a marketplace to a residential and business center.

But it doesn't stop there. The old courthouse has been sitting empty, and now the mayor's budget calls for $4.2 million to tear it down and rework the property.

"We have to do environmental remediation," said Dave DeCamp, of the Mayor's Office. "We know of an asbestos issue there, and then demolition, and then you have turning that in the short term to a green space."

The shipyard property still has environmental issues as well. There is $1.25 million dollars in the budget for that.

Metro Park is looking at changes with $250,000 to begin design work. What will happen there is not yet known, but the tent over the stage is nearing its end.

And the city is looking at $3 million for the Northbank Riverwalk to tie all of it together. For those who use the waterfront, it's good news.

"I am really excited about it," resident Chuck Sumner said. "Every city is trying to develop the downtown. And they have tried everything and there is so much opportunity here in Jacksonville with resources. Why not spend the money and get people coming downtown."

The council will ultimately approve the budget in a few months.

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