Should City Council make improving Jacksonville's waterfront a priority?

City Council member pitches focusing on demolition, development along river

By Jim Piggott - Reporter, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the City Council works to set priorities for the coming year, one council member is hoping to focus attention on Jacksonville's floundering waterfront.

Incoming City Council President Aaron Bowman began listening to pitches this week from members on where the city's government should focus its efforts.

City Councilwoman Lori Boyer, a former council president, drew on her role as the council's liaison for the Downtown Investment Authority in her pitch, which focused partly on the planned District community on the Southbank and the redevelopment of the old courthouse across the river on the Northbank.

The old courthouse and City Hall are expected to be torn down within the next year, Boyer said. That will open up possibilities for much-needed new development downtown.

But one hang-up in that process could be the asbestos used in the construction of both buildings. Crews will have to clean that up before they can bring the buildings down.

Suggestions have been tossed out for how the sites could be used, including a convention center and hotel, but no plan has been approved yet. Regardless of which shape the area takes, the makeover will change the look of the city's waterfront for good. 

So will a planned pedestrian and bicycle path that will connect San Marco and Riverside along the Fuller Warren Bridge.

“I certainly think parts  of it will be accomplished in a year.  Whether we'll have major elements finished that look like they're 100 percent complete (by next year) -- no,” Boyer said.

On the Southbank, Jacksonville's iconic Friendship Fountain has seen better days, but Boyer has high hopes that repairs and reinvestment will return the fountain to its former glory. The fountain was back flowing a bit Monday after being shut off completely last week.

Major work is also underway for the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Baptist Health, which will tie in riverfront improvements. 

The City Council will lay out all of its strategies and initiatives in an upcoming meeting after Bowman meets with other council members this week.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.