Hart Expressway project moving forward without federal funds

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The city of Jacksonville is forging ahead with a plan to tear down part of the Hart Expressway near TIAA Bank Field despite a lack of federal funding for the demolition project.

The financial setback won’t deter the city from moving forward with the first phase of the project, which will pave the way for development of the waterfront near the stadium, a city spokesperson said.

"The status of the Talleyrand Connector project is unchanged," said spokeswoman Tia Ford.

Ford said the first phase can begin using $25 million, half of which will come from the city and the rest from the state. It’s unclear where city leaders would get the rest of the funding needed for additional phases of the project.

The goal of the project, which has the backing of Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Mayor Lenny Curry, is to open up the undeveloped Shipyards property and transform it, along with Lot J at the stadium, into what has been billed as a vibrant downtown entertainment district.

But even though the project promises to bring more foot traffic and business to the area in sore need of both, not everyone is on board with the plan. Some residents, like Bill Mason, fear the project could come at the cost of the Metro Park, a concert venue and popular fishing spot.

"They’re trying to give the park away to the owners of the Jaguars so he can do something with the property, but this is the last place for the guy who works for a living to come down to the part with his family and friends," said Mason.

So what’s next? The mayor is expected to include the project in his Capital Improvement Plan, which is used to set aside funding for major construction. The CIP will be unveiled before the City Council when Curry presents his budget in July.

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