Drones aid downtown construction project

Improvements for Barnett, Laura Street trio buildings include drone inspections

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Drones took to the sky Thursday to help perform inspections on the historic Barnett and Laura Street Trio buildings downtown.

The data collected will help contractors with renovations and construction as new looks and uses for the sites are moving forward after years of talks about changes.

To keep their workers safe, Danis, a design and construction company, is using a drone for the building inspections.

VIDEO:  Drone helps with inspections

"It gives a more efficient way, a safer way to perform inspections and gather information, which is a great asset to construction firms," Danis drone pilot Robert Mauro said.

The Southeast Group and Steve Atkins are making a huge investment, bringing the Barnett and the Laura Street Trio buildings back to life. They were constructed in the early 1900s, so much work will have to be put into their restoration. 

"What I'm looking at is a large crack coming down the building," Mauro said. "The brick is falling away and deteriorating at a point, so this gives us a good idea of the extent of the damage."

For about three days Danis has been flying a drone around the Barnett and Bisbee buildings, and the company has uncovered some historical architectural features.

The drone was able to fly up all 18 floors of the Barnett Bank building, capturing what used to be the home of several business headquarters. The footage also shows the unique architecture outside the Laura Street Trio, which includes the Florida Life Building, the Bisbee Building and the Old Florida National Bank.

"There will be apartments. Ten or 11 floors are the current plan, finalized over the next few months. Commercial retail space and retail banking center occupying the first floor," Danis Vice President Tony Suttles said. "On the trio side will be Courtyard by Marriott, along with a couple restaurant spaces and a retail banking center."

The data collected by the drones will not only be used to spot damage but also to document history. The images will be sent to the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Society.

"Seeing how a lot of those details were accomplished and constructed because we have to recreate that, a lot of the terracotta details," Suttles said.

Danis is one of only a handful of construction companies with a commercial drone-use license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Suttles said the improving economy has helped move these projects along and residents can expect to see more revitalization downtown.

"I think there is momentum building downtown and these are going to be a huge catalyst to continue moving forward for other projects downtown," Suttles said.

Construction could begin as early December.

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